RDCK debates local purchasing

A Regional District of Central Kootenay director is asking for a breakdown of monthly or annual spending by area.

A Regional District of Central Kootenay director is asking for a breakdown of monthly or annual spending by area.

In the wake of the controversy over the awarding of a furniture contract to an out-of-town company, rural Castlegar director Andy Davidoff (pictured below) wondered if it was possible for accounting staff to list how much is spent in each municipality or electoral area.

“I’ve never received more calls on any issue than this in my whole tenure as director,” Davidoff said. “When I go to my fire department, the first thing they ask me about is how much are we spending in our area? I think our constituents deserve to know.”

He was told that providing the information monthly would be difficult, but it could possibly be compiled annually. Other directors suggested in the meantime they or their constituents could go through the monthly accounts payable and pick out local businesses.

“I understand it’s not as neat and tidy, but in the interim it would allow people to find that information,” said Slocan director Hillary Elliott.

Chair John Kettle said “all of us have had calls after the situation with the newspaper in Nelson with regard to how much we don’t spend in certain areas. It might be an overreaction, but it’s something people now really want to know. Unfortunately, this whole thing got blown out of proportion and now it’s an issue in a lot of areas.”

Kettle said they may have to review their policy for items under $25,000, which are now purchased directly from the closest supplier rather than going to tender. “That means we don’t drive to Castlegar to buy something. We buy it here [in Nelson].” He said the Castlegar Chamber of Commerce called him to ask how much money they spent in that city.

However, Nakusp mayor Karen Hamling thought the issue was overblown. “We need to get a grip on this,” she said. “People who aren’t in Nelson or Castlegar aren’t going to complain because nobody’s coming to our community to buy things. You have to buy it where it’s closest and most available without adding a lot of extra freight. I think this is getting a little bit silly.”

East Shore director Garry Jackman said he didn’t think it was meaningful to break down spending by electoral areas, noting his area only has a few retail businesses. “If you ask residents what they buy within their own rural area, I’d be amazed if it was more than a couple per cent. Meaningful might be what do we buy within the RDCK or within the Kootenays versus outside of that. To me, that’s shopping local.”

Rural Salmo director Hans Cunningham also said not much money might be spent directly in his area, but neither do many of his constituents work there: “They work in Nelson, Trail, and Castlegar for those businesses we actually put money into.”

In May, the regional district’s accounts payable totaled $2.09 million.

This story can be seen in a coming edition of the West Kootenay Advertiser.

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