By Jensen, Randy on October 22, 2020.
Lethbridge Herald -COALDALE
Citizens for A Better Coaldale began the process of gathering the necessary petition signatures to force a Municipal Inspection of town administration and operations with the first of three open house events on Tuesday evening.
Expecting a pitched public relations fight to the very end of the 60-day window the group now has to gather the 1,900 signatures needed. Citizens for A Better Coaldale spokesperson and former town councillor, Jack Van Rijn, said early signs were positive their calls for greater accountability and transparency are being heard by Coaldale residents.
“We had our first of three open houses for signing a petition for a municipal inspection of the Town of Coaldale on Tuesday, and the numbers that came out far exceeded our expectations,” Van Rijn said. “And it definitely sends a message that the Town of Coaldale’s citizens want accountability and transparency.”
“From the time we get our first signature we have 60 days to complete it,” he confirmed. “Based on the turnout we had (Tuesday), I have no concern whatsoever we won’t be able to beat that threshold.”
Citizens for A Better Coaldale has asked town council at its two previous council meetings to voluntarily adopt a resolution to request a Municipal Inspection to help address ongoing controversies in the community surrounding the choice of “Site A” for a new school and rec centre and over council’s plans to construct a new Civic Square in downtown Coaldale.
However, town council has rejected voluntarily undertaking such a Municipal Inspection request, which Mayor Kim Craig said could cost the Town as much as $200,000 to complete.
In comments made to town council at the Oct. 13 public meeting, Craig expanded on his reasoning for rejecting such a request.
“With respect, the information provided continues to lack the specifics required for us to ask for an Inspection – a process that has the potential to cost us significantly more than what the proponents of the review estimate, perhaps upward of $200,000 when many factors are considered,” Craig said in a prepared statement. “It is highly unlikely a report will be complete and published this council term. To me, that is an imprudent use of tax dollars and lazy governance. We are a council that was elected by the community, and there is basically a year left in this council term.”
“If there are issues that need to be dealt with, we can do that now, starting tomorrow using the right tools and resources,” he added. “A Municipal Inspection is not going to provide this falsely advertised catch-all cure for community concerns.”
Van Rijn says this is a gross exaggeration on the mayor’s part, and in his own talks with Alberta Municipal Affairs they estimate the cost to the community, in their experience, to be something in the neighbourhood of $50,000-$75,000 with all other costs being borne by the provincial government.
In Van Rijn’s view, it is worth every penny if it provides the transparency and clarity which local citizens are demanding.
“We have well over 100 volunteers; so if each volunteer can get 25 signatures, it’s not that difficult,” he explained. “And even though we need just around 1,900 signatures, we are hoping to get close to 2,500 just because people may not have their postal code right or any things like that. Even if you can’t quite make out the printed name, they warned us they will void the petition signature. So we need to have some additional signatures just for our comfort zone.”
Citizens for A Better Coaldale is holding another meet-and-greet open house this evening for those interested in learning more about the petition at the Coaldale Community Centre, and another next Tuesday.
The group also has a website and Facebook page with more details.
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