Attendees filled the Tiny Township council chambers once again to make their stance against a proposed administration centre known.

At the heart of the matter is a proposed multi-million dollar administrative centre, intended to replace the current facility built 57 years ago at 130 Balm Beach Road West. A 2024 asset management plan listed 97 per cent of non-core assets, including municipal buildings, as having an average weighted condition of very poor based on age.

Despite a call for civility at a previous protest against the municipality’s rationale for a new building, attendees frequently appear during council meetings with applause for those who speak on their behalf and verbal barbs against council, with the exception of Coun. Dave Brunelle who sides with their concerns in his words and votes.

At the recent meeting of council, audience members took jabs about the virtual attendance of Coun. Steffen Walma instead of his having an in-person appearance; Walma announced he was participating remotely as he was on-call for his firefighting occupation.

Open deputations for agenda items included some return appearances.

Protest organizer Karen Zulynik challenged council on an “out of whack” $25.7 million estimate that the proposed administration centre could cost, instead redoing calculations herself to reach a $49 million conclusion. Paul Bell reiterated ecology concerns, and Dave Wulff challenged that a 2022 organizational review regarding a hybrid workforce model – where staff could participate remotely – hadn’t been considered in the proposal.

New deputations included criticism regarding the perceived inconvenient timing of upcoming public information centres (July 16, 23, and 31), which was asked by the protesters to take place in Midland but which Tiny council and staff had countered was logistically improbable; and a praise for the courage of deputants to speak at council meetings for their passionate concerns.

Preceding scheduled deputant Borys Kowalsky’s request for a referendum on the proposed facility, Walma raised a point of order and explained he was defending staff, adding he would do so “and I don’t care what the next individual’s deputation is about” which was taken poorly by the crowd.

Nearly every time a member of council attempted to defend their stance, the attendees would cast jeers and barbed comments; the only member who escaped unscathed was Brunelle who “thanked everyone for their civility” and whose words would cause the crowd to hush one another so he could be heard.

Many times, what council had to say was overspoken by the murmur of attendees talking among one another. Nowhere was this more evident than during a comment by Coun. Kelly Helowka who was taken out of context when he countered “we’re going to do it”… which was in response to the preceding discussion regarding the project’s continued deferral that the audience had talked over and through, to only catch his heightened response.

“In 2016, council approved a new building,” said Helowka, “and it was supported by Paul Cowley and FoTTSA. That’s eight years ago. So nobody has yet told me when you would like to see a renovation or a new building. Everybody wants to kick… the can down the road like we have for the last eight years. Something needs to be done for the sake of our employees.”

The regular council meeting continued with other matters involving the administration centre, but with the deputation portion concluded many of the attendees filed out vocally. Walma also left the meeting as announced. The composition of an ad hoc committee for the administration centre was approved in a 3-1 vote to consist of seven community residents, staff resources, a council representative and recording secretary.

Zulnyik was one of the last remaining attendees, providing live commentary on her Tiny Township: Community Discussion All Things Council social media page. 

When a public works report regarding phase 1 of the administrative centre and its next steps was addressed, with council looking to enter into a contract with continued designer Unity Design Studio at a rate of 6.63% for a net-zero energy net-zero carbon, and post-disaster building design, Brunelle requested a recorded vote.

While Mayor Dave Evans, Deputy Mayor Sean Miskimins, and Coun. Helowka voted ‘yay’ noting it “would easily be paid back in the future by the virtue of being net-zero” (Evans), Brunelle abstained.

Brunelle was informed that within the township’s procedure bylaw under recorded votes, “a failure to vote by a member, including the mayor, who is not disqualified by statute, shall be deemed to be a negative vote and will be recorded as such”; the clarification made council’s approval 3-1 with Brunelle’s sole ‘nay’ vote.

Zulynik exclaimed “unbelievable” as she promptly vacated the meeting, leaving the council an hour before its full conclusion.

Recently, Brunelle was revealed to share municipal questions from MidlandToday to an external political platform that responded on his behalf, and who had paid for an unendorsed ‘town hall’ event in which he appeared, and whom Zulynik promoted on her site.

The proposed administration centre phase 1 report, ad hoc committee report, and scheduled deputation submission can be viewed on the agenda page on the Township of Tiny website.

Archives of council meetings are available to view on the township’s YouTube channel.

By Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 02, 2024 at 06:40

This item reprinted with permission from   MidlandToday.ca   Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
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