If council is the voice of the people, then do Town of Ponoka residents have any desire to see a regional fire plan with Ponoka County?
It’s no secret that town council is split. Clear lines have been drawn in the sand over several important factors, one being an agreement with Ponoka County over a regional fire service. The disagreements may be causing council to become ineffective.
One can only hope that council has seen the dysfunction and is putting some plan in place to rebuild trust because a divided council can be easily manipulated into falling down the rabbit hole. If they cannot work as a team, then the last two years of work will have been for nothing and the next two will be a bitter struggle, leaving residents to pick up the pieces.
The issue with regional fire services is becoming a bizarre power struggle that has nothing to do with providing a service to the community anymore, but more to do with who has the biggest toys in the sandbox.
During the council meeting Monday, Sept. 21, administration, with support of four councillors, precluded any discussion with the county over a capital investment of $90,000 for new light duty fire trucks. Three councillors tried, to no avail, to convince the others that a conversation must be had with the county if they are to work together.
The response was “if” an agreement were made, the town would ask for financial assistance from the county regarding the trucks. There’s an assumption there. Saying “if” rather than “when” on a potential agreement creates doubt and uncertainty whether council does actually want to work as equal partners.
With that split of four against the three, a majority decision was made and council directed administration to go ahead with the capital purchase.
Regardless of whether the vote was unanimous or 4-3, it is ultimately the council’s decision, and it is meant to reflect the will of Ponoka residents. Does it?
Another area of ineffectiveness falls on a motion that was made in June, 2014. Imagine being the Ponoka Gymnastics and Trampoline Club that still does not have the title to the property where the club’s building sits on transferred to its ownership.
At the time of this writing, Barry Groves, president of the gym club said they were in jeopardy of losing a $200,000 loan by the end of September because of delays caused by the administration. This despite two motions instructing administration make it happen; first in June 2014 and again in July 2015. Administration did confirm the anticipated closing date for the transfer is Oct. 15.
Even more recently was town administration’s snub of the Rising Sun Clubhouse, a group that has been doing curbside blue box recycling for the last 18 years, by being excluded from the town’s proposed waste management plan. The plan sees curbside recycling of household products with another company. Council’s only saving grace was that the plan was accepted with the provision that an agreement of some kind be made with the club.
The only time I saw town and county councils change their tune was when residents spoke up in protest of two separate fire departments at the recent public meeting; the same meeting where an inordinate amount of town staff had nothing better to do on a Monday morning but to sit in on the discussions.
Residents’ concerns were heard loud and clear — they want the two municipalities to work together. Their worries were over increased infrastructure and taxes to town and county residents. Despite that direction, town council, and administration, appear even more inclined to discount any relationship with the county — unless it comes to asking for money for future recreation in Ponoka. (The county did receive an invitation to attend the recreation open house on Tuesday, Sept. 29, presumably to include them in the conversation.)
If residents want the two councils to come to an agreement, then they need to speak loud and clear so that all councillors and both administrations can hear and act accordingly.