By Mike Williscraft
It had been a while since the carnival was in town for a regular council meeting, a month in fact, since several special meetings were set up since their last regular meeting March 2, but Monday night’s festivities did not disappoint…or did they?
Simply, council (and when I say council I mean the five councillors who stick together even when logic and world forces would indicate otherwise) again showed an incredible disconnect with reality and their taxpayers.
There were many chances to do something, anything, almost as a show of good faith but not only did the Grimsby 5 decline that opportunity, Coun. Randy Vaine declared that councillors whose views opposed his were simply “grandstanding”.
In a 5-4 vote, council voted to ignore pleas to not only freeze hiring and reduce spending by approving the immediate hiring of an economic development officer which, at budget time, CAO Harry Schlange said came with a $150,000 price tag all in. The hire was approved in the budget for a September hire, so moving it up four months will be about a $35,000 hit.
Now, clerk Sarah Kim declared the move did not constitute a financial impact on the Town because staff found efficiencies in the budget to offset the cost of the immediate hire.
Of course, this was not broken out and it was not explained – when the budget debate was hot – why the minority four members of council who implored restraint and fiscal responsibility were told on all fronts every possible savings option had been considered.
I guess that was not true.
Then they had an opportunity to get reconsideration of new hires – not including the EDO position – and potential cost savings on the table Monday night, but this required a two-thirds majority to waive council protocol. Of course The Five would have none of that, so no discussion of tightening the Town’s belt to improve its cash flow and overall financial position ensued.
Finally, the spectre of council voting to maintain a raise in the face of world-wide economic devastation popped up. Remember when Vaine asked for a report on council’s remuneration package and council was informed their pay was on the high side of average already. That didn’t stop the Grimsby 5, heck no. It takes a ton more than logic to stop those boys.
Council had an opportunity to take one for the team and show the community they “get it”. They don’t.
In a 5-4 vote, council voted to maintain a two per cent pay hike which was installed as part of a long-ago agreed to wage negotiation with Town employees which came into effect Jan. 2, 2020.
While many are losing their jobs, businesses teeter on the edge of bankruptcy and everyone is looking for any level of financial relief on any front council had an opportunity to extend a small token of understanding.
So, I had this column written already, after council. Then, after midnight, I got the following note from Coun. Dave Sharpe, who I am guessing was attempting to shame the four members of council who dared oppose handing themselves an unneeded and unwarranted raise.
“Did you catch the end of the meeting tonight when Coun Bothwell, Freake, Vardy, and Mayor Jordan proceeded to vote against approval of ALL bylaws including:
(In the interest of space, I will note there was a list of 10 items from the meeting, including the pay raise).
I had to ask the clerk what would happen if we defeated the confirming bylaw. She told me we would essentially close the meeting, tear up the minutes, and it would be like the meeting never happened. She went on to say that she has never heard of it actually happening. But the vote tonight was 5:4, 4 in favour of scrapping the whole meeting.
It’s not right in my opinion, to vote down the whole meeting because you disagree with one vote.
And it’s actually the second time it’s happened. At the Mar. 25 special council meeting, some of the same councillors voted against the confirming bylaw at the end of the meeting. A vote that would effectively scrap the whole meeting.
My response sent to all of council at 12:35 p.m.
I thought it was a brilliant strategy to build the council pay hike directly into a bylaw to force any opposition to the increase into voting against the whole set of bylaws.
That Harry, he he (sic) sure knows what he’s doing! What would we do without him?
I mean besides saving the $150K on an unneeded (at this point in time) EDO.
As for that meeting, it goes on the pile of other meetings which should have been scrapped. If you don’t mind, please ask Coun. Ritchie and Coun. Vaine for the name of one Grimsby business (just one) owner of the many they claimed emailed/contacted them in favour of hiring an EDO right away.
I would love to speak with them about how this expenditure will benefit the Town.”