A letter from a resident that both congratulates and criticizes City of Powell River Council drew comment from councillors.
At the July 2 city council meeting, a letter from Lesley Armstrong was reviewed. The letter gave council a “plus one” for its stance on bottling of water, which rejects the bottling of groundwater and surface water in city limits.
Armstrong, however, gave councillors a “minus one” in its dealings with resident Pat Martin, who made a presentation at the June 18 council meeting regarding PRSC Limited Partnership, which was the corporation the city used in the acquisition of former Catalyst Paper Corporation lands. In the letter, Armstrong took exception to what she considered a lack of transparency.
At the council meeting, councillor Rob Southcott said in the five or so years he has been a city councillor, he knows one of the things that is most important is transparency. He said from his own experience, before he was a council member, he had all sorts of questions and he discovered answers by asking questions, and also by doing research. There was so much information available, he said.
Southcott said in the past couple of years the city has spent good money on communication. He said council has bent over backward to be transparent.
“When I read that letter it made me feel sad, but I don’t have a good reason to feel sad because I feel very good about the good work done around this table in the years I have been watching and participating,” said Southcott. “I’m very grateful to the people who take interest to engage themselves. I’m proud of what we do and I think this is a wonderful community that has a lot of good things going for it.”
Councillor George Doubt said the reason he moved to receive this letter and other letters is not to necessarily say he agrees with the content, but he appreciates that people are interested in what council is doing by sending correspondence and expressing opinions.
“I’m not going to argue with the opinions in this letter,” said Doubt. “I’m going to simply accept it as one person’s opinion and their views of what council is doing. I don’t see much to be gained from having an argument. The proper thing to do is receive this as the opinion of the writer and move on and try to do the best we can with the issues that are in front of us.”
Councillor Cindy Elliott said she wanted to speak to the portion of the letter pertaining to Martin. Elliott said she has been approached by Martin wondering where council is at with the discussion on her points of view.
“I have let her know that I plan on putting forward a discussion item for the next committee of the whole meeting that we have discussion on the points brought forward,” said Elliott. “What I want to do about that is propose a Union of British Columbia Municipalities resolution to discuss and have some of her recommendations maybe addressed that way. We could have a fulsome discussion about that.”
Councillor Jim Palm said he was not going to speak directly to the letter but from where he sits, and when he first became involved with council, PRSC was just starting out. He said one of the great things that resulted was Millennium Park, which is Powell River’s Stanley Park. He said somebody had the vision to take control of the land in this community and a lot of that land is now under the city’s control.
“That’s a good thing for the City of Powell River,” said Palm. “What we are doing is holding that property for the future of this community. Sometimes you have to look at the positive aspects of what has come out of that instead of the negative.”
Mayor Dave Formosa said the city opened its books for Martin on a number of occasions. He said the chief administrative officer and chief financial officer answered all of the questions, as did the chair of the finance committee.
“After all of the big set of questions were answered, there was no rebuttal on them,” said Formosa. “And then another set of questions were given and those were answered. And then there was access to our auditors and more questions were asked and answers given.
“As councillor Palm said, Millennium Park, upper and lower, was purchased. We own that outright. The land from the waste transfer station to Brooks Secondary School, we own all that property.”
The land from the mill, basically to the haul road on the waterfront is owned by the city, said Formosa.
“The value of all of that real estate is incredible,” he said. “Somebody can say we paid too much or we did this wrong but I will be happy to let history be the judge.”
Formosa said he knows the lands are tremendous and they did not go to private interests that were trying to purchase Millennium Park, wanting to put housing in that location.
Councillor Maggie Hathaway said PRSC was the result of legal advice council received to create a corporation, and that the city, by law, would have to be at arm’s-length.
“We weren’t there making any of those day-to-day decisions,” she said. “That was legal advice and if you hire a lawyer, you take their advice or you are not a very good customer.”