Posted April 26, 2013
Two months ago council approved a 2013 budget item of $170,000 to renovate the popular Farmer’s Market this summer. That figure has suddenly zoomed to $500,000.
Now it is revealed the this “life cycle” project will be paid for from the budgets of other, unspecified, “life cycle” projects. All this was accomplished by the staff who ambushed council with a lowball figure to get the Farmer’s Market renovations moving.
Top question being asked is why the sudden increase cost of renovating a building whose days may be numbered, as the Secondary Downtown Plan requires the Market relocated and rebuilt.
More important, why does the staff have authority to make such a decision without council’s approval? There is ample evidence that staff has made other financial decisions without council’s knowledge or approval.
It may lie in the grey area between the Mayor’s and Chief Administration Officer Ann Pappert’s offices in which decisions are fashioned to conform to policies never considered or approved by the electorate. Having a clear majority of Farbridge cohorts on council, allows wide latitude the decisions are made without exposure to the full council.
It is willful to conduct city business this way. The staff did not recommend spending $500,000 on the Farmer’s Market renovations when the 2013 budget was struck. Instead they came up with this cockamamie scheme to take the money from other “life cycle” projects whose budgets had been approved.
It is impossible to believe that the Mayor did not know that the staff increased the Farmer’s Market renovation cost to $500,000. If she claims she was unaware of the increase, she faces a major problem with a staff that feels it can do anything it wants at any time.
And where was Chief Financial Officer Al Horsman when this was going on? When did he know and what did he do about it? Is he not the keeper of the gate in budget matters? If not, what’s the use of even having a budget where there is so much staff freelancing with money happening?
Debate is a thing of the past. Electronic voting has denied taxpayers the voting record of councillors. Sure they can ask the city clerk to breakout the council vote records. But why should they have to do that?
This and other decisions continue to steadily drip eroding any confidence that the taxpayers have in their elected councillors and city staff.