‘Friends’ bring recommendations to council
COLLINGWOOD — An effort by a citizen’s group to draw attention to what they see as governance issues for Collingwood council drew barbs from councillors who felt their integrity assailed.
While the oral presentation by Mike Lewin of Friends of Central Park focused on some of the concerns of the group with the process council followed when it went ahead with purchasing a structure to cover Centennial Pool, and a second structure for a new arena at Central Park, several councillors jumped on a single comment within the written presentation published as part of Monday’s agenda.
Specifically, it was a quote — attributed to a person who spoke at the public meeting hosted by Friends of Central Park at the legion last month — suggesting the community needed to elect an “honest council” that raised the hackles of councillors.
“I continue to be honest in everything that I do, and I made a decision that I thought was best for the community - and I stand by it,” said Councillor Dale West.
Councillor Mike Edwards also demanded a clarification, as it appeared the written presentation questioned the credibility of council, while those comments didn’t make Lewin’s presentation at the lectern.
“My credibility, and that of council, has been compromised by this document,” he said.
Councillor Sandy Cunningham also asked for the statements within the Friends’ document to be publicly addressed by the town.
“There are innuendos and accusations that are not warranted within a public document,” said Cunningham. “It behooves me to wonder as to why they would do that.
“It is inappropriate and very disrespectful to council... we acted in good faith and the majority of council though long and hard about this, and considered the public’s point of view, and it came down to a financial decision,” he said. “I did what I thought best for the majority of people in town, based on feedback and what we could afford.”
Lewin said it was not the intent of the Friends group to insinuate that councillors had done anything dishonest.
Deputy-mayor Rick Lloyd also leapt to the defence of municipal staff, noting staff have drawn unwarranted criticism for the decision.
“I appreciate the concerns (of Friends), but enough is enough,” he said. “There is an election coming in a couple of years, and I feel we made the right decision at the time... and in time it will be proven to be the right decision.
The recommendations presented by Friends included calling on councili to embrace good governance and share the municipality’s values with the public; revise the procurement policy to reflect more stringent guidelines; develop a strategic plan; develop a long-range master plan for the recreation infrastruture; improve the town’s processes for consultation and communication with residents; implement an independent ombudsman office; and initiate a lobbyist registry.
“Our goal is not to be hostile or divisive,” Lewin told councillors. “We are not a small group of petty-minded citizens.”
Lewin said many of the group’s recommendations were focused on improving municipal governance, motivated by the perceived speed at which council approved the structures for the pool and new arena.
He also pointed out the group’s concern has been the decision to sole-source the purchase — at a cost of more than $12 million, and that it has “not been a challenge to the quality of (supplier) Sprung.”
Lewin also noted that in Sprung’s eagerness to work on the project as a showcase of the company’s product, the goal of providing recreational facilities for residents seems to be secondary.
“This appears to be be about facilitating a company’s desires rather than meeting a need in the community,” he said.