Go Green committee members resign from duties

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KAGAWONG – Billings Township council has accepted the resignations of three members of the Billings Go Green committee (with a fourth having resigned since) at a meeting last week.

“It was always my intention to put the information that had been raised to the next agenda. Everyone has had the opportunity to review the letter from members of the Go Green committee,” said Billings Mayor Ian Anderson at a regular council meeting last week. 

He pointed out council would have to accept the resignation of Sandy Cook, Mike Coomes and Susie Dekuyper (with Chris Theijsmeijer having resigned after last week’s meeting).

In a letter to council from the four members of the Go Green committee they wrote, “in this time of climate crisis, we all joined the Go Green committee of council for Billings to try and do what we can to ensure the planet will remain our home for all time. Billings’ vision statement says that Billings Township ‘practices environmental responsibility.’ The Township of Billing Strategic Plan 2018-2021 states ‘environmental sustainability’ as one of four core priorities. Additionally, Billings has employed a climate change co-ordinator whom we included in the Go Green committee. With these positive statements and actions, we felt certain that the Go Green committee of council would have the support and backing of council. We thought we would be able to help bring ideas and possible solutions forward for council to consider, discuss and decide upon. Sadly, however, that has not been the case.”

“Our first priority set out in the Go Green committee’s terms of reference was ‘to advise council on environmentally responsible practices including greenhouse gas reduction and energy conservation best practices in asset management planning.’ Although we have access to the asset management committee meetings, we felt we needed more information and detail. All meeting minutes are bare-bones—resolutions only, with no pertinent information included. How were we supposed to advise council on relevant greenhouse gas and energy use reductions if we didn’t know what the focus on discussion was at the asset management meetings? Similarly, we wanted to inform asset management members of the Go Green committee activities and discussions.”

“In fulfillment of our terms of reference, we have tried to take several steps to open communication or dialogue between the Go Green committee and asset management committee. Earlier this year, Go Green committee members had requested a seat on the asset management committee. That request was denied. At the October 23, 2019 Go Green committee meeting, ideas were discussed and resolutions for council consideration were developed to facilitate effective communication between Go Green and asset management committees.”

“At the October 23 Go Green committee meeting, our chair participated in discussions and voted in favour of all of our resolutions,” the letter continued. “Consequently, we were quite shocked, disappointed and disheartened when at the subsequent council meeting on November 5, none of the resolutions were brought forward in any meaningful way and were not supported by our chair. Our chair was unable to answer the most basic of questions and offered no explanation for her about-face on the resolutions that she had previously supported. Similarly, other council members did not appear open to our resolutions.”

“We felt we had been hijacked. To have the chair not present the resolutions accurately to council defeats the purpose of a committee of council,” the letter continues. 

“Bottom line, we gave our time and energy to the committee and council meetings, but we were blocked in our efforts to fulfill our terms of reference as the Go Green committee of council. So, with heavy hearts, we have tendered our resignations. We remain committed to battling the climate crisis and will strive for a sustainable future in Billings by focusing our energies elsewhere,” the letter adds. 

“As mayor, I want to thank these people. They did a lot of work and put forward a sincere effort and recommendations,” stated Mayor Anderson. “In due time we could have more conversations on the points they raised. Nothing may have changed, but at least there would have been more discussion. However, I want to thank each one of these people for their efforts.”

As was reported by the Recorder from a council meeting earlier this month, council had considered a recommendation from its Go Green committee which states in part,  “whereas the Old Mill is a heritage building and should be preserved for the future; whereas the Old Mill is inefficient by having no green design or energy saving features; and whereas no solutions have been proposed to address mitigation of its carbon footprint. Therefore, be it resolved that the Go Green committee recommends that the township investigate planning and funding for an alternate building for municipal office space, taking into consideration comparison of life cycle costs over the next 30 years for the Old Mill and for a new multi-purpose facility that includes the municipal office.”

Deputy mayor Bryan Barker pointed out there is currently a federal government Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program; Green Stream which is a cost sharing program with the federal/provincial and municipal governments. 

“I totally agree with what the committee is saying in this (recommendation), but right now is not the time to do it,” said Councillor Sharon Alkenbrack. “I support the idea, but right now we are not ready to make this type of commitment because we are still looking at putting in place our asset management plan, and we already have commitments for other major projects as well, including work being done to make the Old Mill municipal office space safe and comfortable for our office staff. I don’t think this is the time for this and I don’t think it can be worked out financially as well right now.”

Councillor Michael Hunt noted the township is already started into the Old Mill office space mould abatement project, and this needs to be completed first. “The first thing we need to do is make sure the office space is safe and comfortable for our staff. Then we can look at making the building more green.” 

Councillor Sharon Jackson agreed that until the asset management plan is completed, looking at all buildings in the township, it would be premature to look at a new multi-purpose facility. 

It was suggested that the resolution from the Go Green committee be part of the asset management planning strategy. 

There was no forwarder or seconder for the Go Green motion.

“I agree, we already have two capital projects on the go,” said Councillor Barker. He pointed out funding has already been applied for by the township for the Main Street Hill drain project as well. 

“We need to have a better understanding of how much all these things will amount to for the municipality, before we go ahead with further projects,” said Councillor Barker. He added the asset management plan needs to be completed first, as well.