Dealing with the town shouldn’t be adversarial

Short of an apology and an admission that: yes, the Town of Ponoka screwed up royally on the 38th Street local improvement project

Short of an apology and an admission that: yes, the Town of Ponoka screwed up royally on the 38th Street local improvement project; overpaid for the engineering and construction and then tried to cover it up by redacting documents; overcharged property owners for services installed and some that weren’t; the $56,700 offered last week might be the best residents can hope for.

Nick Kohlman wants heads on pikes in front of Ponoka Town Hall but it’s unlikely identifiable staff or councillors will take the fall for what is — or hopefully was — a systemic problem. Clearly for these residents — and we’ve seen it with other groups — dealing with administration and council is often an adversarial adventure.

It shouldn’t be. Council and administration are there to help residents, businesspeople and community groups to achieve their goals to improve the quality of life in town and to enjoy their property. None of the 38th Street residents could have dreamed of the labyrinth they would be caught in nor the time wasted trying to convince town hall they were being fleeced.

Tens of thousands of tax dollars were spent unnecessarily by the town to defend its decisions to withhold public information from the public about the public works undertaken and then to obfuscate the facts and black out details of payments made. Honest interpretations of FOIP notwithstanding, town hall should take the position that everything it does is open to scrutiny and third parties have to prove to them information should be withheld. Descon Engineering and Nikiforuk Construction did not do themselves nor town hall any favours by hiding behind porous legislation. Kudos to Descon for attending the meeting to face the music; Nikiforuk’s absence spoke volumes.

Engineer Terry Kozmech was like a rag doll in a pit bull’s mouth; Kohlman ripped him apart on the issue of dust abatement material being stripped away and that 38th Street has not been rebuilt to at least its previous standard. He was Matlock and Kozmech was the pretty guest star whose alibi was unravelling.

At the outset of last week’s meeting between council and 38th Street residents, a package was made presented that spelled out the Town of Ponoka’s version of the background, issues for discussion and an offer to residents. This issue will drag on over the summer since residents did not receive the information before the meeting and must now meet to discuss the offers, determine if there are still unanswered questions and hold a straw vote on whether to accept the town’s resolution to a problem that has been before three councils.

Residents of 38th Street and others who care may never know why mistakes were made, engineering documents and invoices fudged, and citizens seen as enemies of the municipality. You could blame it on the boomtime and its inherent greed, incompetence and political haste. Residents at least have a half-baked apology and an offer at restitution.

The next step is to ensure a new mandate of openness, transparency and accountability is installed by administration and council in all its dealings on behalf of the people of Ponoka.

— Off the Record

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