Tensions were high at the March 2 McMurrich/Monteith council meeting as Coun. Alfred Bielke attempted to block the Township of Armour’s reeve from giving his presentation to provide information about the regional fire services committee.
According to Bielke, Armor Reeve Bob MacPhail’s form for delegation to council was not the correct form listed in the bylaw and stated that it was in violation of section 15.1 of the 02-2019 procedural bylaw.
“… By placing on the agenda, a delegation that does not use the bylaw requested for delegation form being Schedule D to the bylaw …,” said Bielke.
According to Bielke, the form in the agenda package was missing “Schedule D” at the top and that the correct delegation form found in the bylaws must have “Schedule D” atop it.
McMurrich/Monteith’s reeve Angela Friesen stated that the form in the agenda package was the delegation form found on the township’s website and that the delegation should still be allowed as it was the township’s error in having the wrong form online.
However, Bielke stated that it wasn’t just the form he held issue with.
“Further to that, the form clearly states and the bylaw states no additional material will be accepted from the delegate on council night …,” he said.
What new information Bielke was referring to is unclear at the time of publication as McMurrich/Monteith agenda packages are not available for public access.
Despite pressure from Bielke to halt the delegation, Friesen told him that council would not waste MacPhail’s time.
“We don’t have a right to turn anyone down who wishes to speak to council,” said Friesen, a decision Bielke said he was appealing.
There was some uncertainty from staff as to what the councillor was objecting to but Bielke emphasized that the delegation was inappropriate.
“It’s not on the appropriate form. It’s a violation of the procedural bylaw,” he said, adding that he was "appealing" the delegation form and the material.
Friesen called a vote on both allowing the delegation to proceed as it was the township’s error in form on the website and allowing the new material.
Friesen, Coun. Dan O’Halloran and Lynn Zeminicky voted for allowing the delegation while Bielke and Coun. Dennis Banka voted no.
The Township of Armour’s reeve was there on behalf of the five fire chiefs in South Almaguin to provide information to McMurrich/Monteith to absolve any misconceptions held.
“I’m going to skip the intro. This is a perilously long document and it’s very important that you get as much information as you can from the next 15 minutes,” said MacPhail before being interrupted.
“Our delegate form says 10 minutes,” said Bielke, who has been vocal in his opposition towards the regional fire training funding model.
However, MacPhail went on to explain that there is no regional fire department and that the five fire halls were looking to standardize operations.
“The new model they want you to consider is five independent fire stations protecting 1,883 square kilometres working together through standardization,” said MacPhail, who kept his presentation within the allotted 10 minutes.
After which, only Friesen and O’Halloran thanked the reeve for coming.
“I found it very informative – it cleared up a lot of the misinformation that has been floating around that we’ve gotten from other sources, so I think it was a good presentation,” said O’Halloran.
After MacPhail’s presentation, council almost immediately went into closed session after Coun. Dennis Banka disputed the legitimacy of the March 2 agenda.
Members of the public were told to phone back in after 20 minutes and were not let back in until one and a half hours later.
Sarah Cooke is a Local Journalism Reporter with the Parry Sound North Star, and Almaguin News. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada
Sarah Cooke , Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com