What Happened at Council – March 22, 2005

Published on: Mar 29, 2005

The Council meeting of March 22, 2005 opened with regrets from Mayor Morrison and Councillor Jim Aquino. Councillor Helen Lamon explained that Mayor Morrison was at the Branding meeting, and Councillor Aquino was at the Rural Advisory Committee meeting in Ottawa.

Under Announcements & Giving of Notice: Councillor Whent informed Council and attendees that there is a possibility of a budget revision (ADSAB) and that he will update Council. Councillor Lamon also let Council know that there had been an amount of monies from the Ontario Government awarded $50,000 to the Michipicoten Volunteer Fire Department for training and equipment. The Katimavik Group also extended an invitation to Council to attend their Farewell Dinner (for the first group) on Thursday, March 31, at 7:30 at the Michipicoten Memorial Community Centre.

Under Strategic Community Services: There are two awards seeking nominations; the 2005 Senior of the Year Award & Ontario Volunteer Recognition Programs 2005. If anyone in the community is interested in nominating a person, forms are available at the Town Hall. Councillor Whent suggest that someone attend the Algoma District Municipal Association Annual General Meeting to be held on April 16, 2005 in Richards Landing (Howard Whent and Helen Lamon). Councillor Whent did explain that Algoma Manor Redevelopment was on their agenda and that it would warrant interest from Council. The Gerald Nori Tribute Dinner will be held on April 8, 2005 in SSM. Gerald Nori had acted as one of the Township of Michipicoten’s leading corporate lawyers. It was resolved that one member of council attend that dinner.

Annual Expenses: In a report prepared by Councillor Whent, the question of how we spend and how it is reported was brought forth. He recommended that a standard form be developed in order to make comparisons between municipalities easier. He also asked that this motion be sent to both AMO and FONOM for considertion and support.

Councillor Whent also brought forth a motion that policy be amended to reflect the following:

  1. that the per diem payment be renamed “per diem meal allowance.”
  2. that any charges for meals by a member on a municipal credit card be deducted from the per diem meal allowance and reconciled in accordance with the policy.
  3. Members be required to file with the Clerk a statement indicating the purpose of requesting a payment in lieu of wages, with appropriate documentation, and be subject to the approval of Council in accordance with section 283 (2) (b) of the Municipal Act, 2001.

Councillor Whent’s rational was that their appears to be some misunderstanding of the purposes of a per diem payment, which is meant to cover estimated meal costs, and payment in lieu of wages, which is meant to compensate members for actual monetary loss. Howard explained for Council and the public that “I think that people have to understand what the role of Council and the role of Administration is. Council sets policy as a requirement of law, once that policy is set, it is an Administration duty to carry out that policy; it is our (Council) duty to ensure that the practices are there, to ensure that they carried out. If our policies are not well worded, not good, not whatever; it sometimes can create problems for Administration. It is clear from this past year, that we have to rewrite policy in terms of expenses for a number of reasons.”

He went on to detail a meeting that occurred on November 30, 2004: “(four members of council) attended a meeting with Dennis Turcott. Four of us went, and there was one cost of $12.64 for a meal, a claim for $75.00, which I assume is a per diem meal cost being claimed, $178.37 by a third person, and a claim $243.76 plus another $66.50 gas for a fourth person. So, we left at 9:00, all ate at the same table, came back at the same time. So, to me, there is something wrong with the policy, that sees four very different numbers for four people attending the same event.” He goes on, “I think we need to be very clear of what we mean by per deim meal allowance, and so on. We are accountable to the public as a Council.”

In closing Councillor Whent said, “I can only speak for myself. I’m not out to do anything other than do the duty required of this office. I don’t believe we should be out of pocket during council business, but I do take a good look in the mirror, and say ‘okay, can I save money on this trip somehow, and if I can find a way to do it cheaper, I do it, very simple’, but that is a personal comment.”

Councillor Rody commented that he would like to see this referred to the Policy Committee for further discussion would be worthwhile. Councillor Lamon advised Council that there are a number of other changes to the travel policy will be put forth at the April 4th meeting (7:00 p.m.) of the Policy Committee.

Councillor Rody brought forth the idea of a trial period of two meetings for the month of May, June and  September; and one each in the months of July and August. He detailed the problems of attendance at weekly meetings, and the requirements of Township staff.

The Treasurer of the Corporation of the Township of Michipicoten has prepared the Statement of Renumeration and Expenses and for Council and board Members for the year 2004. This was accepted as it is a statement of expenses. Councillor Whent detailed the totals of the costs reminding Council and the public that some of these increased costs reflect the increased lobbying of the government in the past year, Mr. Aquino as part of the Rural Advisory Committee Task Force and other involvements, and other meetings with provincial government officials to strengthen our municipal position:

Council 2003 2004 increase percentage
Head of Council $18,792.55 $29,371.24 $10,578.69 +56%
Council Members $33,068. 83 $42,167.39 $9,078.56 +28%
Total increase +42%
Police Services Board $9,967.58 $15,180.35 $5,212.77 +52%

Councillor Whent explained there are items that do not appear or do appear in these reports due to Council Policy. For example, in 1997 & 98 there used to be a car allowance paid to Council members – this no longer appears, disappearing in 1999.  Last week’s Council meeting passed a policy regarding promotional items regarding an expense of $773.08, an item which hadn’t appeared before. Counciller Whent detailed “the other one I know it has occurred in the past, there were five instances last year where people were unable for what ever reason not to travel. And there is about $3,500 costs, in unused airline tickets.” He explained that some of this may be explained due to road closures prior to arriving at the airport. The problem is that when you purchase a ticket is in your name only, and cannot be transferred. Councillor Whent stressed that one must be certain that they are going to travel to that event, and not cancel unnecessarily.

Councillor Rody explained that they (Council) had increased the travel expense budget line in order to allow Council “to bring the needs of our community out there into the province, to meet the ministers, to attend the conferences that would put us on the map, in a sense of addressing some of our issues. You can look at the change in numbers, but in that area it was planned.”

Under Community Services: Council received a number of letters that Karin Grundt had written to a number of Ministers in order to garner a solution to the problem of littering in our community. Councillor Whent suggested that perhaps the Council refer this for further discussion in order to deal with this issue.

In other Council matters:

Council accepted the recommendation of the Community Development Committee that funds in the amount of $3,333.00 be provided to the Wawa Cross Country Ski Club to improve the trail system in the Wawa area.

Council was informed by Lori Johnson, Director of Leisure Services and Tourism, that the Fitness Centre will be open at 7:00 a.m. weekday mornings for a trial period from Monday, April 4th to Friday, June 3rd.

Brenda Stockton
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