Not seeing the light

By Mark Squibb/November 4, 2022

Councillor Patrick Martin noted that with council approval, the Public Works Department had budgeted to install extra lighting at the town depot yard this year.

“Over the past couple of weeks, the Public Works Department has reached out to numerous contractors to provide a quote to supply and install new depot yard lighting,” said Martin. “We were successful in obtaining two separate supply and install quotes from certified electrical contractors.”

Sonic Electric provided the lower quote, coming in at $21,275, HST included, while the other quote came in at around $33,000. Martin moved that Sonic Electric be approved for the work, which Deputy Mayor Kimberley Street seconded.

Councillor Glen Carew took exception to the information provided — or the lack therefore.

“I don’t see any information in this memo about what exactly is being purchased and installed, only that it costs $21,275,” said Carew. “Your Worship, I had gone back to look at the Public Works committee agenda to see if it was there, and although the committee memo said ‘quotation summary attached,’ there was nothing attached.”

He noted that on the next agenda item, the purchase of vehicle parts, there was a detailed cost breakdown.

Carew said he had a number of questions, the first (other than if the agenda was missing anything) being the reason for the extra lighting.

Martin said the extra lighting was to provide improved safety and extra security, as outlined in the memo.

“There could be multiple different reasons,” said Martin. “It is a bit dark and in certain areas of the yard, so I think having extra lighting goes a long way.”

He added the work had been planned some years back, and was only now being undertaken.

As to the list of parts, Martin said he did not have the exact list, but he could provide it to council in the near future if need be.

Mayor Dan Bobbett said the list would likely include poles, wiring, and lights.

Carew asked how it was determined how much extra light is needed.

“Because again, we don’t have a memo here to see what’s ordered and what’s on the memo, what we’re actually paying for,” said Carew.

Martin said he didn’t know exactly how staff determined the amount of light needed but speculated that lighting would be calculated by square footage covered.

“There must be dark areas there, or else we wouldn’t need extra lighting,” said Martin, who again said he could get that information from the committee.

Chief Administration Officer Lisa Niblock asked whether Carew would be motioning to delay the work, pending more information.

That proved to be Carew’s next move.

“Based on the lack of information on this particular memo, I move that we defer this vote to get clarification on the details,” said Carew. “Without this information, for me, it’s going to be a ‘No.’”

Martin was not in favour of postponing the motion.

“Our council package comes out on Friday,” said Martin. “We have three days in which councillor Carew could have reached out to me or reached out to staff to get clarification on the motion that was there. He could have sent me an e-mail or given me a call, and I could have provided it, or if I didn’t have it, I could have reached out to staff before the meeting tonight, so I think three days was sufficient time to get your information to vote on this item here.”

Carew said he had spent quite a bit of time going through committee minutes and memos prior to the meeting, and added that as per the terms of reference, councillors are not allowed to partake in committee meetings of which they are not a member.

“In this particular case, we’re voting on a memo where we have no back up on what exactly we’re voting on,” said Carew. “We have a number we’re supposed to pay, but we don’t have a back up of what we’re getting, so this, realistically, is an exercise in transparency. What are we actually buying? What are we paying for? So, I can’t support it.”

Niblock noted the best practise is, if there is not enough information contained in committee memos, to reach out and request additional information.

“The point of the public council meeting is to discuss the information that Town staff has provided, not to identify that there wasn’t enough information,” said Niblock, who allowed that some items need to go back to staff for further clarification. “We would prefer that council would let us know if there are items (that require more information) so that we don’t delay the process or award of tenders.”

The matter was put to a vote, and Carew alone voted in favour of delaying the motion.

The motion to award the tender passed, though Carew voted against it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *