Agenda Uncharacteristically Long
The agenda was released late the day before the meeting and was uncharacteristically long for an agenda. It included all permits which would not typically be presented to the council in a long list under New Business. The agenda went through the alphabet from A through Z, then starting over at AA through to JJ. That’s 36. Interspersed throughout the non-essential items were items that the council did have to review. Still, the way it was listed could make it potentially confusing, increasing the risk that errors could be made.
Council discussed the length of the agenda and how to manage it when the CAO, Rodney Audette, said the items were on the agenda so that council could acknowledge they know what’s going on. Audette admitted the items were not required as only those required were discretionary use applications and applications requiring public notice.
The list of correspondence on the agenda was also long, going through the alphabet A to Z, then again, AA through to JJ.
Councillor Bob Bennett noted the length of time it would take to go through all of the listed items and made suggestions on how to improve the agenda, potentially separating items into different categories so he could prioritize the information. Reeve Kirzinger suggested the items also be split into items that need action taken vs F.Y.I. items.
Audette responded that if the council sees on the agenda, an item noted as “development permit X,” that council could be rest assured the Development Officer had approved it. The development officer is Rodney Audette.
Audette also said that if an item says, “discretionary use permit application,” that means the application has to go to council for review.
Reeve Kirzinger asked the CAO that items be prioritized in chronological order of importance. Audette said he would.
Review of 2020 Audited Financial Statement
John Kryzak from Dudley and Co attended the meeting at the request of the council to answer questions concerning the audited 2020 financial statement. Kryzak mentioned that he had a phone discussion with the Reeve and one of the councillors, though all had been invited to participate in the call. Mr. Kryzak said that the council had the financial statement for a few months to review and was open to questions.
Kryzak noted that there should be safeguards in place depending on the category. For inventory, there should be counts done at the end of every year, including measurements of gravel pits which should be monitored, fenced and locked. He noted there had been incidences where a municipality had lost a million dollars worth of gravel because there had been no monitoring safeguard in place and only noticed it was gone when they went to use the gravel and found none.
Other safeguards would be around credit cards. Kryzak said that all purchases on credit cards should be authorized. He further noted that any time a person makes a purchase on a credit that hasn’t been authorized, it’s technically fraud. He recommended that all bills come to the council for approval every month for scrutinization. He said that if the council doesn’t see precisely what is going in and out of the credit cards, they may never know.
Additional safeguards are banking reconciliations that need to be completed monthly. Both the reconciliation and statement should be provided to the council to verify the information and scrutinize them.
Kryzak noted that because it is a council that sets policy, they are ultimately responsible. He encouraged the council to be actively involved, to know that while they are on the council, it is a role they have accepted and been appointed to and that they should take it to heart. He said they are there for the good of all of the people in the municipality and that while no one wants to look at all the little things, he noted that “it is the little things that can lead to big things.”
Kryzak also said that any time the RM is adjusting reserves up or down, there needs to be a motion approving the transfers to and from reserves. He said the only time there doesn’t need to be a motion is when it is part of the budget. He added that they prefer to see the council either complete motions as they go or make a motion ratifying all of the transfers to and from reserves at the end of the year. He said that all municipalities utilize their reserves differently. Some will use them extensively, heavily budgeting through the reserves.
Kryzak noted he couldn’t find a specific motion for the transfer of $8,000.
Council’s Motions not being Acted On
K + S Potash’s annual subsidence notification was on the agenda. Councillor Fishely brought it to the council’s attention that twice council had passed a motion directing the CAO to contact the mine requesting information in 2019 and 2020 and the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Energy and Resources in 2020 for information related to the mine. Fishley noted there had not been any follow-through on the motions. Fishley made a motion that the previous two motions be followed up on.
All of the council continues to ask questions to understand the RM’s financial situation. Councillors Bennett and Fishley consistently ask clarifying questions. Bennett asked why the RM needs to purchase additional traffic counters. The question led to a discussion about why the RM isn’t moving the counters they have to different locations.
Council Considers All-Net
CAO Audette brought forward an application that would streamline some administration tasks, making agendas and minutes more user-friendly and distributable to the council. Other RM’s utilize the platform. Council will be reviewing the information before further consideration.
Not Such a Good Deal
Councillor Fishley brought it to the council’s attention that the decision to go to the Davidson paper for their RM’s notification didn’t turn out to be cheaper as the council reviewed the accounts to be paid. CAO Audette had given the reason for abruptly switching publications was due to cost savings. However, in the end, it cost more. The RM was on the hook for the cost to deliver the subscription-based Davidson Leader to all the areas within the RM, while the regular local paper is delivered free of charge. The RM has since gone back to providing legally required notification through the local paper.
Sgt Chad Clark of the Lumsden detachment of the RCMP presented as a delegation to the council as part of the annual consultation with communities. He said he was there to find out if there were areas where the council would like to see the RCMP focus on in the year ahead.
Reeve Kirzinger asked about laws around ATV use in beach communities. Sgt Clark responded that there is a lot of confusion around ATV’s. He said that for some reason, people think there is a requirement that ATV’s be registered through SGI. However, ATV’s do not need to be registered. There is a legal requirement to ensure an ATV if it is on public property.
He indicated they are not targeting responsible users noting the RCMP’s concern is safety, helmets, kids driving ATV’s and dangerous speeds.
Highwood Beach Watergroup Delegation
Troy Riche, representing some Highwood Beach residents, presented as a delegation to the council. The group has been trying to find a place for a pumphouse that would supply water to 14 properties from the lake; he noted that nine would be permanent residents from those properties. The group proposed purchasing a 20 x 30 plot of municipal reserve land for their pumphouse. After concluding the delegation, the council discussed the proposal and decided they would not sell any municipal reserve land.
The next meeting of the council is on June 9th at 8 am.
Jennifer Argue, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Last Mountain Times