By Mark Squibb | Aug. 20, 2020
A discussion about the Town’s involvement in charitable work caused a stir in the Bay Roberts council chambers Tuesday, Aug. 14.
Councillor Silas Badcock raised concerns about some work that had been done on the Veteran’s Quay Marina. Town employees had used fill to prevent erosion along the quay near a community boardwalk.
Badcock began by highlighting that Mayor Phillip Wood is a member of the Royal Canadian Legion, although not on the executive, and that he, Badcock, has a boat docked at the quay.
“We got our Town equipment doing work in that area, and it was a full day,” said Badcock. “And certainty, I’m not opposed to helping the Legion, I want to be clear, or any other non-profit organization, but I think that we should bring it to council (first). Again, with Mayor Wood being a part of the Legion, and myself as a customer. My boat is right in front of where this happened.”
Councillor Dean Franey said he had no problem with the Town doing work for the Legion, especially since the quay was such an asset to the town. He suggested the Town and the Legion could sign an agreement of sorts.
There was a brief discussion on whether the Legion or the Town legally owned the land. To clear things up, Mayor Wood gave council a brief history.
“In 1995, the Town and the Legion worked on an economic development project, long before any of us were here,” he began.
Wood explained the Town did much of the original work, but that the Legion takes care of the daily maintenance of both the quay and portions of the town’s boardwalk.
“Since then, two or three times probably in the past 25 years, if there was any erosion, that’s all the Town has ever done,” said Wood. “The Legion looks after it, even though the Town and the Legion entered into a partnership. The Legion fulfills the full responsibility of the boardwalk, as it relates to boards, as it relates to painting, as it relates to the electricity bill. The Town doesn’t pay for anything on their section.”
Wood said in the early days, the Legion had access to grants that the Town did not, and that helped get a portion of the boardwalk built to begin with.
One time, the mayor added, the Legion asked for use of an excavator to remove a sidewalk, which was brought to council and approved by council (although the Legion chose not to go ahead with the work.)
Wood used that request as an example that anything “out of the ordinary” would come to council. He also noted that in turn, the Town gets to use the Legion facilities, for events such as Klondyke Days and the Seafood Festival, for free.
Furthermore, he explained the Legion and the Town had partnered in other ways around the community, such as the Town’s History Board near the quay and the cenotaph.
“The Legion is a charitable organization. It is dedicated to serving and doing what they can for veterans and their families,” said Mayor Wood. “It’s a community organization with profits being donated back to the community. And, of course, most importantly, the Legion is there to remember the sacrifices of those who made the supreme sacrifice.”
Councillor Geoff Seymour took the floor next.
“I think we’re getting bogged down, and looking at the wrong aspect of this,” he said. “This is not about the Legion. To me it’s not. And before I say anything else, I’ll go on the record to say I’m a big supporter of the Legion. The last time I spoke about the Legion in council I got slammed on social media, and I don’t want to go down that road again, in any way, shape, or form… The issue is not the Legion. It’s communication.”
Seymour said that as a first time councillor, he had no idea of any kind of agreement between the Town and the Legion. “It was never communicated to me, I had no way of knowing,” he said.
Seymour said in the past he has felt that an issue wasn’t communicated clearly as well.
“Personally, we’ve got to be better. Things like that have got to be communicated,” said Seymour. “The Legion, I’m a supporter and always have been. But, like any service organization, if there’s help that’s required, it needs to come to the table. That’s just my thoughts. That way the procedure is clear.”
Councillor Badcock put forward a motion that if any charitable organization makes a request that it come to council. Mayor Wood noted that generally that’s already what happens.
Councillor Franey said he had no problem with such a motion, except in the case where work needs to be done immediately.
“The only thing I would be worried about, was say, if there was erosion, and we were waiting for four councillors to say ‘Yes’, and we’re waiting three or four days on that, someone could get hurt,” said Franey.
Badcock countered by reminding council that, since he himself used the quay, he, more than anybody, would want the problem fixed.
Councillor Frank Deering noted that he had no idea work was going to be done until he drove by and saw the work being done.
Town CAO Nigel Black said that, as a general rule, the Town maintains the entirety of the boardwalk.
“In terms of communication, I didn’t know myself that was going on that morning,” Black said. “And I wouldn’t expect to. To me that’s a public works issue, or a tourism issue, whoever identified it has a concern, and they did the work that was necessary. Like I said, I didn’t know about it. And I can understand, someone might not know about the specifics of an agreement that we might have with the Legion – I didn’t even know all about what the mayor spoke about this evening. But the reality is, we have to get work done. I can’t send out an information notice every time they need to fix a piece of boardwalk, that doesn’t make any sense. I can understand, sure, you want to know about it, but you can’t know about everything. I didn’t know about it, and I’m the CAO.”
Seymour argued the point again, that should any organization wish to do work involving council land or equipment that it ought to come to council.
Deputy Mayor Walter Yetman noted that he saw the work underway, and didn’t think much of it.
“I didn’t think twice,” he said. “I didn’t think anything of it. I knew it was probably minor repairs. If it was a major repair, or something serious, major cribbing say… well, that’s a project.”
Wood called for the motion before discussion could ramp up again, and Babcock put forward the motion again that any charitable organization wishing to do work, including work on the boardwalk, bring it to council first.
A number of councillors asked for clarification as they considered the motion vague, and Frany asked for the boardwalk to be removed entirely.
Badcock again noted that, depending on the severity of work that needed to be done, the boardwalk should be included in the motion, and Franey said he would support the motion only if the boardwalk clause was dropped.
Mayor Wood then stepped out of the mayor’s chair so as to speak to the motion.
“I think we are tying the hands of public works and economic development,” he said. “We are talking about charitable organizations that have served these communities for many, many years. And if we can’t go and assist them sometimes without coming to a vote of council, I think that we are doing a grave injustice to charitable organizations.”
Wood reiterated that anything out of the ordinary would come before council.
“But what we’re talking about here is a load of rocks to take care of the erosion issue that happened on the boardwalk,” he pointed out. “And yes, I am a very proud member of the Royal Canadian Legion. I have been for 30 years. The Legion name has been brought into this today, I feel, unnecessarily.”
Wood then asked Babcock if the Legion had approached him some weeks back to say they would be requesting a load of rock. Babcock admitted they had.
“So, you knew,” said Wood.
“But it wasn’t just a load of rock. It was three men and an entire day,” said Badcock. “I’m not disputing doing good things for the Legion, or anybody else. I just think it should come back to a discussion.”
Next, Wood said he wanted to explain his own connection to the Legion, which he said he felt was important
“My father was a World War II veteran,” said the mayor. “I served briefly. My son is a serving member of the army. And this (debate) all happened, because a load of rock was dropped off at the Legion, not because it was dropped off at a charitable organization.”
Wood pounded the table for emphasis as he made those last points.
Yetman said the motion was still vague, as it could include clauses about whether or not to include the boardwalk, or the cost of the work, or who would make decisions on if the work was to come to council.
‘Those little things have to be decided,” argued Yetman.
“If everything a director does or a department does has to come to council, why do we have directors? Then we get into micromanaging,” said Franey, who then made a reference to the recent decision to hire security guards at the Wilbur Sparkes Recreation Complex, which was brought to council in an e-mail vote.
“We have a million-dollar facility up there, and our director was afraid to get security to protect our assets for $2,000. Like, seriously?”
The motion finally voted upon was that any charitable organization requesting work must come to council for discussion.
The motion was put forward, and was voted down. Councillors Badcock and Seymour voted in favour, while the remainder of council voted against it.