Saturday, April 1, 2017

Letter to the Editor regarding recent Town of Pincher Creek Town Hall meeting

D. Gray - As a tax, paying resident of the Town of Pincher Creek, I was disheartened by the recent Town Hall Meeting on March 30th, 2017. Upon questions from the audience, the answers from the Mayor, Council and administration were far from adequate, reliable or consistent. There was a filtered agenda on topics that were presented with little to no substance.

Example: The Housing Study and Assessment that was done in 2010 and again in 2016 for a double-digit payout. So, after 6+ years of assessments, there are still no concrete plans. Then it was identified in the audience by an Affordable Housing professional that the information gathered was not appropriate or conducive to the Town of Pincher Creek’s specific needs or demographics. The information that was gathered did not mention any previous studies done on the Town of Pincher Creek and area by the Alberta Government, AHS Community Profile, Housing professionals in Lethbridge or the studies done by professionals on Youth Homelessness in Southern Alberta. The Mayor did agree that the Housing Assessment they had paid for “was not good”. He stated that he didn’t know about other research that had been done. I find this interesting as he has attended and met several of the housing researchers at Housing Conferences the Town has paid for. What concerned me the most was that even though he acknowledged that the Housing Studies were not good, that he wasn’t liking them, that they were still going to use them. How will poor, inadequate, not applicable, expensive information going to help people and families in the Town of Pincher Creek? Isn’t that garbage in and garbage out? Don’t we deserve better?

The Mayor was also asked why the Town website’s posted financials, the 2016 Finance Director’s report and now the Town Hall’s financials on the wall have many discrepancies and are different from each other? He said he was told by administration that they were working with government’s changes for financial reporting methods. That the Audit for 2016 had not been done yet and that is why all the Financial Reports were different. Really?

The Mayor was asked if the financials have discrepancies, then how does the Town Council and administration determine how much money to allocate to programs using the Mill Rate/Taxes and town money received from the government? He stated he didn’t understand or know the answer. How does the Council and administration know where our money needs to be going and how it is being spent if there are inconsistencies in the numbers?

Many reports from Town Committees were not available as to what their plans are moving forward. To date there are no Committee reports available on the Town’s website. Other rural towns have this available for their residents. Why not Pincher Creek?

Additionally, council committee terms of reference are poorly defined and council decisions for communication and contributions to community groups appear to be very inconsistent.

Since this is Canada 150 with free Park passes, the Mayor was asked what the town was planning to do to enhance Pincher Creek’s economic development during this particular summer tourist season, in order to support the local businesses and create robust tourist attractions.

The Mayor stated that there is no money from their budget and there is nothing planned to date. That the Economic Development Committee was working on things which were discussed at a recent meeting. I attended that meeting. The only real decision made was that they had to try and communicate better. Therefore, there are no economic development plans during this peak time?

I asked the Mayor if he knew about the Alberta Main Street Preservation Program Funding. He stated no. I gave him a copy of the program. The Alberta program could have paid for a part time coordinator, refurbishing of local business fronts and embellish Main Street’s façade.

The Mayor was asked, does this Town’s administration/ council have Pecuniary Interests (Conflict of Interests) and other associations. (*Editor's note: a portion of this letter that appeared here has been removed).  He said he didn’t know the answer. That the CAO may be able to help later with an answer.

To address this question, as of February 22, 2017 the Alberta Government has a document which municipal public service employees must abide by.

Code of Conduct and Ethics for the Public Service of Alberta

“The people of Alberta have a right to a public service which is conducted with impartiality and integrity. It is this special obligation to Albertans that demands that there not be, nor seem to be, any conflict between the private interests of employees and their duty to the public.”

Furthering Private Interests

(1) Employees are in conflict of interest and in violation of this Code if they:
(a) take part in a decision in the course of carrying out their duties, knowing that the decision might further a private interest of the employee, their spouse or minor child, or
(b) use their public role to influence or seek to influence a Government decision which could further a private interest of the employee, their spouse or minor child, or
(c) use or communicate information not available to the general public that was gained by the employee in the course of carrying out their duties, to further or seek to further a private interest of the employee, their spouse or minor child.

Outside Employment

(1) Employees may take supplementary employment including self employment unless such employment:
(a) causes an actual or apparent conflict of interest, or
(b) is performed in such a way as to appear to be an official act, or to represent a Government opinion or policy, or
(c) interferes through telephone calls, or otherwise, with regular duties, or
(d) involves the use of Government premises, equipment or supplies, unless such use is otherwise authorized.

The lack of good communication, transparency, concise financial information and accuracy is truly concerning. The Town Council and administration have promised for years to address the lack of Main Street businesses, affordable housing, food security, economic development and to provide their strategic plans. Why are we still waiting?

Does the Town have improvident management as local basic needs, economic issues and project priorities suffer from the council, administration, FCSS, Marketing, Events, Economic Development’s lack of transparent deliverable outcomes, measurable goals, communication and capacity to work together with Committees- the voice of the people -for the overall good of our community?

How many more assessments does this Town need to pay for to get objectives accomplished? Wouldn’t some the answers already be in the other assessments?

To date the Town is paying for 6 studies/assessments within a 12-month period –
a) Housing,
b) Transportation, 
c) Day Care, 
d) Shell Plant leaving in maybe 5 years,
e) Overall Assessment on Services Needed in Town with the Food Bank (Town Council is unaware? - FCSS driven behind the scenes to become the fiscal manager of grant $)
f) Satisfaction Survey of residents (in Council minutes)

Town staff appear to lack appropriate direction from administration/council in many areas, such as financial reporting, effective family and community support services, human resource management and economic development. Why are we paying $3,320,998,00 million dollars in staff salaries/benefits in a population a little over 3612 if our Town’s needs are not being met? Our town needs more meat and potatoes on the bones of what the Town administration, staff and council have said they have done.

The residents of Pincher Creek deserve nothing less than full transparency, good communication, accountability for service delivery, strong economic initiatives and cohesive plans, especially when it comes to our children and our community’s sustainable future.

D. Gray
Resident of Pincher Creek

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