Editorial - Council Administration rift appears to widen

It took a special meeting of Yorkton Council Friday, but the much debated and much needed City Operations Centre will finally move to the construction phase.

The project, long in the planning stages, with a budget approved as part of the City’s overall Capital Budget for 2020, had been kiboshed at the last minute at a regular meeting of Yorkton Council March 30, even though the tender being reviewed was well under budget.

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The March 30, decision was a bad one, one of the worst by a Yorkton Council frankly in decades. The project was planned over years. The need was obvious with City staff working at the current public works building doing so under conditions deemed dangerous by health and safety. The project was under budget. The cost was being managed without a tax increase. The money to be borrowed was at interest rates at their lowest in years. And, the city needed a positive project of this scale in the face of the impact of COVID-19 on business.

But, after Monday’s meeting the centre looked dead in the water.

Thankfully, Mayor Bob Maloney can be a stubborn sort. He was a proponent of the project Monday, and he wouldn’t let the opportunity be lost.

A conference call with Council opened the door to look at a modified proposal, and Maloney called Friday’s meeting. Yes it was a quick one, but tenders have a shelf life.

While most at the meeting Friday were well-entrenched in the viewpoints from Monday, Councillor Darcy Zarharia anchoring the Maginot Line against the project, one Councillor would change his mind.

Coun. Quinn Haider, was among a group of Councillors visiting the existing building between meeting, and with a $1 million reduction in costs hammered into the proposal Friday, he carried the vote to proceed.

The Centre debate is over, with the best decision ultimately achieved, but there remains an issue which needs to be addressed by Council.

Through two nights of debate on the Centre it became clear some on Council were not trusting the information presented by City Administration, or the processes they undertook over the course of the project development.

If this was a one-off situation it would be worrisome, but not to the extent it is, since this is not the first rift between some Councillors and Administration. One need only look back to the heated debate over a roundabout for the Mayhew and Darlington intersection. While Administration put forward that a roundabout was the safest option, some Councillors never bought into that position.

The situation March 30 had a toxic feel for anyone watching the meeting online. That simply is not workable long-term.

Council needs to mend fences and find a way to re-establish trust by all its members in the expertise Administration must provide, or those Councillors lacking trust best suggest an Administrative review that might mean changes.

The situation as it stands only seems to be getting worse, so change is needed, and needed now.

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