Original Published on Oct 08, 2022 at 17:00
By Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The new Grey Highlands council will have the opportunity to bring back volunteer committees for local community and recreation centres.
Grey Highlands council, at its final meeting of the term, passed a resolution brought forward by Mayor Paul McQueen that directed staff to create terms of reference for committees for the arenas and community centres in Flesherton, Feversham, Markdale and Rocklyn. Council also passed a second resolution asking for terms of reference to form public committees for community centres/halls in Markdale, Kimberley, Priceville and in the future Eugenia. The full text of the mayor’s resolution can be found on the meeting agenda here.
The resolution passed in a 4-2 vote, with members of council who are running for reelection – McQueen and councillors Dane Nielson, Paul Allen and Danielle Valiquette – voting in favour and the councillors who are retiring, Deputy Mayor Aakash Desai and Coun. Cathy Little, voting against. Coun. Tom Allwood was absent.
McQueen said the committees had been in place for many years and since changes were made that de-emphasized the committees he felt there was a disconnect with the public and facility users in those communities.
“It seemed to be that those committees worked well, they worked hard, they fundraised. There was two-way communication having councillors there,” said the mayor. “Those centres are community hubs, they were established before we amalgamated. That’s what makes the fabric in Grey Highlands so unique. There is an opportunity to go back and have these committees of council. It’s solution building.”
Nielsen said he too had felt the “disconnect” and said the concept of local committees looking after the facilities could help address the concerns.
“The overall objective is better relationships. There will be more buy-in for what the municipality is trying to do,” said Nielsen. “Ultimately, what we’re doing with this motion is to make a recommendation to the new (council) for a better relationship between the municipality and stakeholders.”
Little questioned the need for re-establishing the committees as council has since established other larger committees and has developed a Recreation Master Plan.
“It is an overreach. I don’t think going back to a system that was used prior is the answer,” said Little. “I appreciate the sentiment. I appreciate the motivation and ambition of this, but it’s not to the full advantage of the municipality to take the decision out of the hands of the new council.”
Members of municipal staff also raised concerns.
“My concern is the openness and transparency getting lost here. We’ve made leaps and bounds on that and I’m concerned about going backwards,” said Clerk Raylene Martell.
CAO Karen Govan recommended that instead of individual committees, council consider an overall recreation committee for the entire municipality to offer “collaborative advice for all communities.”
The comments from staff agitated McQueen.
“I’m ready to take the gloves off right now,” he said.
Desai, who had assumed the chair to allow McQueen to introduce his motion, ruled the mayor’s comments out of order.
“Listen to the community. They’re not happy,” said McQueen. “This has worked. This has worked well in the past. Why is our community screaming that they would like to know more about what is going on? The process is not working. We need to empower our communities.”