Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Letter: Perceived conflict of interest in the MD of Pincher Creek

Cornell Van Ryk - I have been asked many times why I have not used the conflict of interest “issue” in my campaign against the sewage lagoons planned for Mill Creek. A Councillor has a son that is the lead engineer on the project. The fact is, I have seen no evidence to support any allegations.

What I have seen is a total messed up chain of command that, among other things, has people concerned about things like conflict of interest. Let me put it this way, if a Councillor’s son was contracted to drive a gravel truck for the M.D., would we expect the Councillor to abstain from any discussion regarding road maintenance? I think not. Why is an engineer any different?

Engineering firms build stuff and supply the technical expertise the M.D. Administration does not have on staff. Their input to Council should be solely facts, information. In the case of the Beaver Mines project feasibility study they should have delivered the following… we can build this and that, each option will cost this much, they will all work, one may work better than the other, these are the risks to each project, this is how long it’s going to take and operating costs. Instead they got into the decision making process, introducing options, deleting options without authority and making recommendations that were rubber stamped by Council. This is like my earlier example of the gravel truck driver, who now, in addition to dumping gravel is making decisions around which roads to work on and how much to budget.

The clearest example of what I’m talking about is this. A 2014 study identified a mechanical wastewater treatment plant as an option. In August of 2016, Council passed a motion “that a study be initiated to determine the feasibility of options, of a wastewater lagoon or mechanical treatment plant”. When the study was delivered in November of 2016, the mechanical treatment plant option had been dropped because “it was not viable due to high capital cost and operator demand.” There is no mention of any discussion regarding BM wastewater by Council or any report from the Director of Operations on the minutes of any Council meeting between the time the study was initiated and the time it was received by Council. The engineers’ recommendations were accepted 5 days after the study report was published.

Think about this. A contract engineering firm decided that an option was too expensive and took it off the table. They are not in position to determine how much premium the community is prepared to pay for an option that may be more environmentally friendly and acceptable to residents. The decision to not pursue this option should rest with Council. This is exactly why it is so important that there is discipline in these processes.

Finally, in a perfect world a Councillor would only see facts and figures and make the decisions on our behalf. There would be absolutely no conflict of interest with the people supplying the facts and figures. When the line between the information providers and the decision makers is so muddied, it becomes difficult to judge if there is conflict. The Councillor in question has been very good at staying away from discussion regarding this project but that is the real problem. We elect our representatives to look after our interests and to make decisions on our behalf. When they remove themselves from the discussion they are not doing the job we elected them to do.

1 comment:

  1. Update. Just got the minutes of the Sept. 26 Council Meeting. At that meeting it was "Moved that Council authorize MPE to prepare a detailed design for a lagoon site
    located at SE 19-6-1 W5M, for the Wastewater portion of the Beaver Mines
    Water and Wastewater Project."It gets worse and worse. COUNCIL is deciding who to hire. Now that Council has directed that MPE does the work, the Councillor in question is ABSOLUTELY in a conflict situation, in my opinion, and must continue to recuse himself from all discussion and voting on this project. Voters might consider that in the next 4 years, this project, if it continues to move forward as it has, will continue to be a hot topic for Council. There is much local resistance which is likely to escalate.


Thanks for taking the time to comment. Comments are moderated before being published. Please be civil.

Infinite Scroll