By Stephen Vance, Editor
There are times when I sit in the Meaford council chamber that all I can do is bite my tongue and shake my head. It is either that or draw the conclusion that there must be some secret initiation process for councillors, during which special logic distorting microchips are implanted into the brains of the newly elected.
Last Tuesday (May 25) was a perfect example.
The very council that without batting an eyelash (with the exception of two councillors) and with the refusal to debate the issue approved more payments of legal bills for the Georgian Beach lawsuit bringing the total spent to $500,000 thus far, essentially rake a senior staff member over the coals for requesting an exemption to purchasing policies in order to save the municipality in excess of $10,000.
Mind boggling isn’t it?
Director of Operations Stephen Vokes submitted a last minute report to council requesting permission to pursue the purchase of a demo version of a snowplow. The purchase of a new plow has already been approved by council in the 2010 budget, and what Vokes was hoping to do was jump at an opportunity to purchase a plow that is identical to the one purchased by the municipality last year and save some money both on the purchase, and on repairs that would be required to an existing plow should his department have to wait to purchase a fresh off the assembly line model.
According to Vokes, the amount of money that could potentially be saved amounts to some $45,000.
Seems like a ‘no-brainer’ right?
Not with this council. In fact some of the comments from members of council were astounding.
“I don’t like being rushed into such decisions. I’d prefer we follow policy and procedure and get a plow in January or February,” Offered Deputy Mayor Michael Traynor.
I could be wrong, but aren’t we almost done with the need for snowplows by the time February rolls around? Would it be so silly to have the new plow on the municipal lot ready to be put into service before the first flake of snow hits the ground?
There was also a suggestion that for the $10,000 that would be saved, it might be better to buy a brand new truck rather than a “used” one?
Wow, this is the very council that little more than a year ago was so reluctant to allow Vokes to buy a brand new plow that they insisted he attempt to find a used model. A used plow was never found, and the municipality ended up begging to it’s municipal neighbours to borrow one of their aged plows.
Councillor Jim McPherson objected to receiving the report at the last minute, and not having time to properly review. This is a valid point, though we all know that in all areas of life, there are times when one must act quickly in order to benefit from circumstance. This is why the operation of our municipality is entrusted to experienced, educated managers.
I respect policy and procedure as much as the next guy, but there was no attempt to violate any municipal purchasing policy in this instance. Vokes was quite open about what he wanted to do, and he sought the approval of council before he proceeded.
It is a shame that a senior manager in this municipality, who is supposed to use his knowledge and experience to advise council of the best course of action is treated like a child who is trying to steal a treat from the cookie jar.
As a council, you either trust the senior management staff or you don’t. If you don’t then tell your CAO to find replacements that you do trust. If you aren’t willing to do that, then let senior management do what they are paid to do- manage the affairs of the Corporation of the Municipality of Meaford.