Letters to the Editor
An on-line petition with over 1,231 participants, many with lengthy and thoughtful comments, a protest complete with signs in front of the Township Hall on a cold late afternoon on Jan 10th, 2024, has had little impact on Tiny Township’s Council and administration who are intent to proceed full speed with the construction of a new Administrative Complex at the 9th Concession and Baseline Road. Widespread public concern about the lack of information and public involvement in considering all options to the construction of a new building have fallen on deaf political and bureaucratic ears. These options could include renovation and/or expansion of the existing Town Hall or construct an additional small building at the current location. And the option of having hybrid workplace policy; allowing staff to work from home….an alternative resulting post Covid.
In fact, there was a somewhat heroic effort by Councilor Steffen Walma, the Chair of this Committee. In a, closed to the public, meeting of the New Township Hall Building Committee (NTHBC) on December 18th, he attempted to add another member to the committee, hopefully a citizen, which was rejected by the other members. I quote; “the current membership should remain as in its current form, and additional external input will continue to be gathered through public consultation process.”
For those who are not aware, this Committee consists of seven members, only two of which are elected officials and five senior management staff members who are employees of the municipality. An eighth member, Janet Stewart is representing the consulting firm Lett Consulting. A review of all past and current meetings of this Committee and its earlier “ Building Needs Assessment Committee (BNAC)” will show that never more than two Council members are present. If more than two Council members had participated in this Committee, it would have become an “official meeting of Council” and would have been required to be open to the public.
For those who attended any one of the three “engagement” sessions on December 11, 2023, you probably won’t be surprised that in the same December 18th meeting referred to above, the Committee “agreed that the next public engagement session will be held virtually, with advance attendance registration required.” Not all citizens within the Township are comfortable with this technology nor do all citizens in the Township have access to high-speed internet.
This attempt to limit or restrict Township residents from being involved is not simply limited to the issue of a New Administration Building. At the same time Township staff are bringing forward a new Procedural By-law which deals with how a resident or group of residents can make their views known to Council. In simple terms, the new by-law would reduce both the opportunity and the time available to citizens by approximately half of what is available now. This will be brought up at the Jan. 31, 2024 Council meeting where Nicholas Leblovic will be doing a scheduled deputation.
Municipal employees should be treated properly, compensated fairly and be provided with a safe and appropriate working environment. However, unless the world is completely upside down, they are civil servants answerable to us; the tax paying residents through our duly elected officials. Unless you are happy having decisions made or directions given in closed meetings by a Committee composed mostly of municipal employees, with only token ‘engagement’ available to you, that could result in substantially higher taxes, become involved!
If 1,231 signatures on a petition isn’t enough, maybe 2,000 or 3,000 will be. Maybe if virtual engagement is what they want, more and larger protests at the current Town Hall is what is needed, until municipal staff realize who they work for and Council realizes who they represent.
Spearheading the Petition to stop the construction of a new administration building at a new site.
By Karen Zulynik, Tiny