Cobalt council adopts new procedural bylaw

COBALT - The outgoing Cobalt council has passed an updated procedural bylaw to guide the new incoming council and staff.

Councillor Doug Wilcox voted against the new updated bylaw at the regular meeting of council October 18.

At the town's committee-of-the-whole meeting October 12, Wilcox expressed his view on a number of points on the proposed bylaw where he disagreed with its direction, and stated it should be changed.

Wilcox spoke at length to a proposal that town staff would file any correspondence received from the public addressed to the mayor and council if it only contained a postal address, but did not contain a phone number or email contact. The correspondence would not reach the mayor and council under the proposal that Wilcox opposed.

"In Cobalt we should be reaching out every way we can to make sure the resident gets a chance to have their message heard," he said.

Wilcox pressed the point, and council finally agreed to drop it from the proposed bylaw, but at the regular meeting of council, Wilcox asked for clarification about what would be done with such correspondence. Mayor George Othmer suggested that the town would make a reasonable effort to reach out to the ratepayer.

At the committee-of-the-whole meeting, Wilcox also spoke out against a proposal which would see administrative staff handle mail differently if it were directed to the mayor or if it were directed to a specific councillor. Under the initial proposal, mail directed to the mayor would be forwarded to the mayor without being opened by staff. However, mail directed to a specific councillor would be opened by staff, recorded, and then forwarded to the councillor. Wilcox questioned why a councillor's mail would be opened while the mayor's would not. Other council members agreed with Wilcox that the practice would have been intrusive, and the proposal has been dropped from the procedural bylaw.

Wilcox did not fully support the need for an updated procedural bylaw to be passed before the new council is sworn in after the municipal election October 24.

However, other members of council were supportive of the step.

"It's only fair the incoming councillors get a proper procedural bylaw right away," said Councillor Pat Anderson.

While Wilcox was successful in getting two points dropped from the procedural bylaw (allowing staff to file correspondence to mayor and council if it did not have a phone number or email address; and allowing staff to open mail addressed to a specific councillor), other points he questioned went through as initially presented.

Councillor Gary Hughes said amendments to the procedural bylaw could be made in the future if it was deemed that they were needed.

Darlene Wroe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker