COLUMN: Municipal foolishness cost taxpayers money

MORRISBURG — Recent antics by municipal councillors in Cornwall and in South Dundas will cost the taxpayers money. It is money ill-afforded and shows a lack of focus by those elected to office.

In Cornwall, Monday night’s vote against the pharmaceutical contract for Glen-Stor-Dun Lodge has opened a can-of-worms for the city. Citing a lack of a local bidder that was able to win the five-year contract for supplying the long-term care facility, a majority of council turned down the lowest-bidder, which is based in Nepean.

“We have to stop the bleeding…we need to support the local businesses in our community,” stated Councillor Andre Rivette. Yes, local government should support local businesses in the community, when it is cost effective and compliant with the bidding process to do so. Unfortunately for Cornwall city council this action opens the city to possible litigation. Cornwall’s Chief Financial Officer Maureen Adams stated so Monday night.

Municipalities are not allowed to include preferential scoring into Request For Proposals to favour local bidders. A municipality is not mandated that they must always go with the lowest bid either, if it can show cause why the lowest bidder is not in the best interest. Glen-Stor-Dun Lodge’s administrator Norm Quenneville stated that they had spent a lot of time preparing the terms of reference for the RFP. If the process was above-board, and the lowest-bidder rejected by council, the only thing accomplished is a bungle.

Seeing local councillors look out for ways to support city businesses is a positive thing, but trying to sidestep proper procurement is not the way to do it. The city put out a well-prepared RFP, it was answered, the lowest bidder was not local, too bad. Council’s primary obligation is to the residents of the community to get the best value for their tax money. It is not government’s job to help local companies compete at the expense of taxpayers. Local companies couldn’t compete this time, perhaps they will next time. Right now, council has put Cornwall, and the counties which also fund Glen-Stor-Dun Lodge, at the risk of a much higher cost. It was a foolish decision.

Fishing Tournament needs review

It remains to be seen if South Dundas council’s decision to support the Renegade Bass Tournament was a foolish decision, or if council just got fooled. The Bass Tournament was held on September 12-13. Council agreed to give the tournament money for prizes, and waive the boat launch fees for the tournament boats. The deal, reported by Cornwall Newswatch in August, was negotiated between the not-for-profit organizers, the South Dundas Chamber of Commerce, municipal council and municipal administration representatives. A last-minute addition to the council agenda saw this deal pushed through with no chance for public comment or even a second look by those not in on the negotiations.

Now that the deal has been done, and the event is over, there needs to be a review by municipal staff and council on the issues that have arisen from this deal. How the deal was negotiated, why councillors acted without sanction from their fellow members, and why a subsidy for launch fees were needed when the organization had already collected them when entrants had registered months prior.

There needs to be cost benefit analysis of the prize money and other sponsorship given by the municipality, and by extension the taxpayers. Was there was a net benefit to the taxpayer for sponsoring the event?

More concerning in the deal is sponsorship. The South Dundas Chamber of Commerce was to put in $2,000 of their own funds. After the deal was approved the chamber then sold sponsorships to their members at a price of $200 for “Gold” and $100 for “Silver”. That is not the chamber sponsoring the event, it is passing on the bill to others. It also was not stated that this would be done.

Having some experience over the last 25 years in dealing with corporate sponsorship, it is rare that an event will allow a sponsor to co-opt or sell a sponsorship package within a sponsorship, to others. The municipality spent a larger sum of money on the tournament and it should have been more prominently displayed than the sponsorships sold by the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber sold sponsorship packages stating that sponsors would be prominently displayed at the event. This needs to be reported on as well. How much money did the Chamber of Commerce raise from their sponsorships? How did they promote it in relation to how the municipality was promoted. This is important, as the taxpayer was the biggest local sponsor; therefore the benefit should have been to the municipal brand. The Chamber as an organization should have been second as they provided less financial support to the deal to bring the tournament to Morrisburg.

Should it be found that the Chamber of Commerce as an organization made a profit of more than what their contribution was to be, and that they did so by selling sponsorships that undermined the sponsorship of the municipality, then the Chamber should reimburse the municipality for every dollar over the $2,000 the Chamber was suppose to contribute. The municipality should not sponsor any other Chamber initiative until this happens.

The deal was a foolish one to make by South Dundas council. It was hastily put together and did a disservice to the taxpayers council was elected to represent. A full report on the event is the only way for the public to know just how foolish this decision was.

 

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