The awarding of a contract to Family Tree Gardening to provide daily maintenance for the Millennium Ponds proved to be a contentious issue with Castlegar city councillor Bruno Tassone, who voted against the motion Tuesday.
Tassone provided questions to council and staff just before the meeting regarding the percentage of like work city workers do to the contract work and the hours spent on similar work. He wanted to make a point that city workers do more work of this nature and asked if the city is happy with the work of their employees. Many of his questions could not be immediately answered as they required research and calculation by staff.
After the meeting Tassone stated: “What I am trying to ask is … why are we willing to spend a lot more money on contracting work and not using the same amount of money for the same work by [city workers]?”
During the meeting city manager John Malcolm stated that all city workers are presently employed to capacity and it is not the city’s policy to hire seasonal workers who would then need to be laid off.
Also among Tassone’s concerns was the purchase of a sand rake that the contractor would be using. Councillor Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff explained: “We did purchase the sand rake for $1,000 because we need it for the volleyball courts going in at Millennium. It is a flow through cost. They [the contractors] would have charged us for it, but we need it for other things in our city.”
Civic works director Chris Barlow explained that the charges for the rake have been removed from all of the contractor’s charges.
Last year the original contract was put out to public tender and awarded to Family Tree. This year the decision was to extend the contract for another year due to the excellent and responsive service the city felt the contractor provided. The contracting out of the services was a line item in the annual budget, so the motion was not a decision to contract out, but rather a decision as to the awarding of the contract.
In a post-meeting interview councillor Deb McIntosh stated: “This was clearly identified and talked about in the budget, so it was going to be contracted out. We all voted unanimously in favour of the budget. This isn’t a big surprise. To bring those questions up ten minutes before the meeting, and ask for percentages and stuff was unfair. There was a lot of time between then [the budget] and now to get those questions answered.
“We are not just handing out contracts. We value each and every employee of the City of Castlegar 100 per cent. They are what makes the city run and operate smoothly. But we must also be responsible to the taxpayer. We did our due diligence and contracting out was proven on this particular thing to be a money saver for us.”
The $44,302 contract is for service during the months the ponds are open.
City donates truck, pays for defibrillator and advertising
Council decided to spend some of its economic development budget on purchasing a $3,350 ad in the 2016 edition of Invest in BC Magazine. They also decided to spend $1,030 for an ad in the summer 2015 edition of the Route 3 Magazine from the advertising budget.
Further approved was a motion to partner with RDCK Area I and J to co-sponsor the purchase of an automated external defibrillator for a school in School District 20. The district is looking for sponsors with a goal on installing defibrillators in all district schools.
Another school related initiative was the decision to donate a 1990 Sonoma truck to Stanley Humphries secondary school’s mechanical program. The truck has been out of service for two years. Heaton-Sherstibitoff said: “This is a great idea. It will allow more kids to get some hands-on experience.”
Youth council ‘full of brilliant minds’
Castlegar Youth Council member Deziree Weiss presented council with a challenge and invitation to attend and participate in future youth council events and meetings.
She stated: “The youth council is full of brilliant minds. Young adults who are reaching the age where they are about to breach out into the world. We have no borders, no boundaries, we are strictly imagination coming to life … We are ready to take our first steps towards being leaders in this world.”
The youth council has a big event planned for May 30. The Youth Arts and Talents Show will be held from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Kinsmen Park. It will include the unveiling of a youth-painted mural on the Castlegar Community Services building, as well as booths and activities for youth of all ages.