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Monday, 26 June 2017 08:00

Unknown when Warner municipal review could take place

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The timeline is unknown for a provincial inspection of the operations of the Village of Warner, since the Request For Proposals (RFP) for that work has closed with no tender submissions.

Earlier this spring, it was announced the Minister of Municipal Affairs had ordered an inspection of the Village of just over 390 people in southern Alberta.
The inspection was triggered by a petition that was circulated in the community signed by 98 residents. Some of those were deemed to be insufficient for various reasons, so the final number of signatories was 89. About 20 per cent of the population of a community is needed to satisfy the requirements of a petition, so based on the Village of Warner’s population, 78 signatures were required.
The RFP for the Village of Warner inspection closed May 16 with no tenders. Melinda Steenbergen, press secretary for Municipal Affairs, says the government has different options available in this instance, so investigation of those options is underway. This makes it difficult to know the timeline for when the investigation may be completed, or even started.
“Once an inspector has been appointed, the approximate time to complete an inspection is six months,” says Steenbergen.
The petition representative was Warner resident Lyle Taylor who felt there were issues that needed to be addressed, and says he saw this as his only option to ask Municipal Affairs to investigate the various happenings and concerns. Some of those concerns stem around decisions regarding hiring, land-use practices, contracting services and treatment of some citizens.
“On September 14, 2016, the Minister received a petition from the residents of the Village of Warner requesting an inquiry be conducted into the affairs of the municipality,” explains Steenbergen. “On October 21, 2016, the Minister notified the Village and the petition representative that the petition was sufficient and that a preliminary review would be conducted to determine the merits of the request.”
That preliminary review took place late last year with interviews with Village officials and the petition representative. On March 2, the Minister notified the Village and petitioner the inspection would be ordered.
“It is sufficient to say, a preliminary review suggested more information would be helpful (for the Minister),” added Steenbergen, about why an inspection would be ordered.
An independent consultant is selected to conduct the inspection, through an RFP process.
The scope of an inspection can be quite broad, investigating the management, administration or operation of a municipality. It normally includes reviewing bylaws and key policies for adequacy, relevancy, consistency and conformity with legislation; the structure of council committees; the organizational structure of the municipal administration; the process and procedures used to prepare for council meetings; attendance and evaluation of the conduct of a council meeting; the process for preparation and approval of council meeting minutes and a review of recent minutes; the financial status of the municipality; interviews with councillors and the CAO and interviews with staff and residents.
“After the inspection is completed, the inspector is required to make a report to the Minister,” says Steenbergen.
Depending on the outcomes of that report, the Minister can direct council, a CAO or a designated officer of a municipality to “take any action that the Minister considers proper in the circumstances if the Minister considers, based on the inspection report, that the municipality is managed in an irregular, improper or improvident manner.”
Results of the report also will be presented to the residents and the council of the Village of Warner.
Taylor says he pursued his right to petition Municipal Affairs for a review because he felt there was no other options. He claims there have been issues with the council and administration for a number of years. Taylor says he informed each councillor and the mayor individually and independently about his plan to create the petition and gave them three weeks to respond or make changes before moving forward with his plans.
“If people elected the five councillors and if they feel they are not representing the Village fairly, something has to be different,” he adds. “This was building long before I started the petition.”
Taylor says recently there have been claims made that people were pressured into signing the petition. He states that is not the case and adds once he received the letter stating an inspection would take place, he made a copy of it for every person who signed the petition and hand delivered them to each one.
“Not one of them spoke bad about me or said anything to me,” he adds.
He believes the fact almost 100 individuals signed a petition asking for a municipal inquiry is a strong gathering of people and does show there are legitimate concerns that need to be addressed.
Village of Warner Mayor Tyler Lindsay is not concerned about the municipal inspection.
“We feel we’ve done nothing wrong,” he adds, about the actions of council and administration.
Lindsay agrees that Taylor did contact the councillors individually to tell them his intentions around a petition, but Lindsay says he believed the list of reasons for doing a petition to be inaccurate. He told Taylor he could come to a council meeting to speak to the council as a group about his concerns, but since Lindsay felt the reasons behind the petition were not valid, no further action was required to address it.
“I would have liked to have seen that group (of people behind the petition) come forward to a meeting as a group.”
Lindsay adds at public meetings residents have been asked if they have any concerns and there appeared to be no concerns about the direction the Village has been heading. He says, like many municipalities, getting residents out to meetings is always a challenge so attendance is never very high.
“We have no concerns about Municipal Affairs coming,” he adds. “We follow the Municipal Government Act, we run our meetings (as to policy and procedure), we apply for (funding). We don’t believe we’ve done anything wrong.
“We’re a small town and we’re doing the best we can with what we have.”

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor