Sunday, February 22, 2009

What Shall We Do with the Money from the Province?

As you're probably aware, the provincial government announced at the SUMA meeting in early February that they were making funds immediately available to cities for infrastructure, both to bolster local economies and help with long-standing infrastructure concerns. This money, under the Municipal Economic Enhancement Program, is being given on a per capita basis, which means that Prince Albert's share is around $3.7 million.

This money is to be used for actual work, not to be used to pay down debt or buy land. There is also a fairly tight turnaround for applying for it - by the end of the month. Since we slipped off our regular meeting schedule, tomorrow's meeting is the first chance we will have to discuss and decide where this money should go. We will be discussing a report from administration on several possible projects. It's available in the council agenda, on the city web-site.

My preference will be for projects that address broad city concerns - upgrading the water treatment plant, for example, or paving some of the gravel streets that remain in areas of the city that have been overlooked for some time. I would prefer that the money not go to projects that benefit only special interest groups, such as paving the Art Hauser Centre parking lot or adding further upgrades to the soccer centre. As usual, I will be trying to focus on needs, rather than wants. We shall see where the discussion takes us.

For a meeting with this much potential for discussion and subsequent impact on the city, it's been remarkably poorly advertised. The traditional half page ad in the local paper on Saturday, which has upcoming meeting dates as well as other city information, had the next council meeting dates in March, which is no doubt an unintentional error, but unfortunately could deprive some members of the public with the opportunity to have input on how we should spend this money.

I don't think that we take full advantage of the city page, or of the city web-site, in getting the word out about not just council meetings, but also committee meetings. As I've said before, The Cities Act requires that all meetings of council and council committees be advertised, and open to the public. While in the past few months, some committee meetings have been listed on the city web-page (for the first time in over two years), we could certainly inform more people if they were also listed in the local paper, in space that we're already paying for.

Previous councils managed to make all meeting notices much more public. I have been informed by the city solicitor that, as long as notice of meetings is posted in city hall 24 hours in advance, we are meeting the requirements of The Cities Act. While we may be meeting the letter of the law, I would suggest that we are not acting in the spirit of the law, nor are we meeting our much-voiced goal of having an open and accessible council. But if you are interested in attending committee meetings, check the city web-site, and show up - it's your legal right.

"Laws control the lesser man...Right conduct controls the greater one." - Mark Twain


sanjay said...
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Donna said...

I find it hard to believe that there would even need to be a discussion, with the water treatment plant being in such dire need and the City not willing to revamp the preposterous practice of charging less for using more. Even if we use all the Provincial money for this project, tax payers like myself will still be paying for many years to come. I am hoping that for once, practicality from council will prevail.