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REPORTING · 20th September 2013
Walter McFarlane
Councillor Edwin Empinado made a motion to amend Kitimat Housing Committee Terms of Reference in regards to the Committee for Affordable Housing and Housing for Person’s with Disabilities at a Special Meeting of Council on September 9th. Empinado left the motion vague but things were about to get heated.

Immediately, Councillor Mary Murphy made a motion to table this. She wanted to meet with the Housing Committee. She said there were two options before Council, create a new committee or amend the terms of reference with the current committee.

Empinado stated the Housing Committee suggested forming another committee to look at affordable housing will divide the people between the two committees and this would be a shame. He expressed he was concerned with this and would sooner see the committee oversee the development of a housing project than see it investigate and report on housing.

Murphy stated she did not wish to see the work duplicated but the housing issue is one which has been before Council for a long time. She wanted to know where the town was in finding the housing solutions.

Councillor Corinne Scott stated they already had feedback from the Housing Committee in a report to Council. She stated Kitimat was always short of people who are willing to sit on boards. She pointed out the committee had taken a broad approach. “To be able to develop any type of affordable supportive or social housing, and the committee doesn’t want to close their doors to any of the funding opportunities or limit a project to only seniors or those with physical disabilities,” said Scott.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff did not want to table this. “Right now, we seem to be proposing option one, that the existing committee move forward. My concern is that the existing committee has not met their current mandate and scope of work, investigate and report,” said Feldhoff. He stated he did not remember receiving a report.

He stated the committee was not getting anything built or done and if they wanted to see something getting built, a different make up of people might be best for them to move forward. He suggested merging the new committee with Councillor Eminado’s motion for a social plan which was brought up at the previous Council Meeting.

Councillor Rob Goffinet asked if Council knew the implications of both options. He did not want to split committees but knew the terms of reference for the committee were substantial. He wanted to know if the committee would investigate, report and advocate or spearhead acquisition of land and the development of property and buildings. He expressed he wanted more information before he could decide.

Scott stated the staff are recommending that Council amend the terms of reference for the housing committee and the committee is seeking partners to support construction for the community’s needs. “To me, the committee realizes they are going to have to augment their membership to be able to accommodate all of this and they are still saying please don’t split the committee, we are going to augment what we already have and that is why I am going to vote against tabling,” said Scott.

“I set up the committee, three and a half to four years ago, and I can say, that at that point in time, I have seen very little happening. They say they are going to do it but nothing ever happens, that is one of the reasons I put this motion forward, to say that we are going to need people who understand the building and that aspect. There are other areas that have gone ahead because people understand it. There are very few people who understand the building. They don’t understand that we need certain individuals with expertise that know how to do the building, how to get it done, how to get all of those things happening. How to get the people involved. We need someone who focuses totally on affordable housing and nothing else. That’s what we need. Now it’s so frightening, we have affordable housing, we have people with disaiblties, we have this, we have that and they all come together and we talk about it every month, every couple of weeks but nothing ever gets done because they havn’t really focused. We need a focused group and the people we need, the expertise we need are not on the committee that we have now. We need to start a new committee to get that expertise,” said Monaghan.

Councillor Phil Germuth suggested amending the terms of reference to allow people to join who have the terms of reference to augment what is already there.

Monaghan replied the housing committee is mired down by other things and needs to focus on housing. She said this is her opinion after having watched the Housing committee for three and a half years.

Empinado stated the investigation and reporting have been done, Council has a housing study. He hears the concerns of the Mayor but the committee is only mandated to investigate and study. They are not mandated to develop something. This is why he made the motion and is opposed to the tabling motion.

Feldhoff wanted to know if there was a report. Monaghan said there was supposed to be a report according to the mandate. City Planner, Gwen Sewell told Council the goal was accomplished with a Housing Needs Assessment which was released last March. The report was given to Council, presented to Council and available to the public on the District of Kitimat website. She added there is a new planner with the expertise on the District of Kitimat website.

“If all we have after three and a half years of meeting every month is a study, it’s not exactly what I wanted,” said Monaghan.

Goffinet wanted to know if Council could expand the committee. He was told they could appoint people to the committee. Monaghan expressed she thought having too many people on the committee would make it cumbersome.

She said they needed 6-7 more people to cover all the avenues. Scott pointed out the committee could have a subcommittee and add the professionals. It would be like any committee. Monaghan said it would be a steering committee. Scott added it should be up to the committee to decide how they operate.

“Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t,” muttered Monaghan.

Murphy did not want to see committees doing double the work. She did not see a plan to move forward and address issues. She stated the hospital has a lot of advocacy committees who meet. She stated she wants to know if the committee is moving and does not get the answers from the committee.

The tabling motion was called and was defeated.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff, still opposed to the motion, stated he could remember the make-up of the group but apparently, the wrong people in town for moving projects forward were on it. He stated they were at the stage when the committee should be clear on what they were building.

Scott stated they should look at the terms of reference which does not say they were supposed to come forward with a plan. This is why she thinks each Councillor should give a report on the committees which they are a part of. She pointed out the Mayor gives a report and the Councillors should give a report on the Committees.

“When the Council members are feeling uneasy it is when we haven’t received any reports. That’s a perfect example of why we should be setting aside time in our regular Council Meetings for us to report on any committees which we attended between meetings,” said Scott.

Administration pointed out there were six appointed members and all were listed in Council’s report. “It’s not an especially large committee but there are a lot there that vote,” said Monaghan.

Empinado reminded Council the committee had specific terms of reference. He was urging the committee to come to Council. He expressed the committee knew their mandate and this held them back from things such as grants or move on. He wanted the committee to have more responsibility and they can do this if they change the terms of reference.

He said there are people who are coming to the meetings who have the expertise but cannot join due to the terms of reference. Monaghan asked him to repeat his motion.

Sewell added the committee has been successful in achieving some grants. They achieved the grant for the assement which they did, and a grant for a worker who is working with the child development centre out of the College Office who deals with people who have housing issues.

Germuth stated they should amend the terms of reference to have a building committee work with them. Feldhoff added an amendment to have a subcommittee formed with the mandate to build housing and Council have input on the membership of the subcommittee.

Goffinet wanted to see the committee as it is currently structured with added responsibility to oversee a building project and give them added expertise.

Scott expressed the committee should be responsible for forming their own sub committee rather than have the subcommittee dictated by Council. Scott wanted to let the organization do their job as: “They are volunteers for heaven’s sake. We’re dictating to them.”

Goffinet agreed with Scott about not wanting to dictate to a committee. He wanted the group to have the power to do what they want.

Monaghan wanted to know why the committee did not do any of the things they want to do now in the three and a half years they were spinning their wheels. “They need someone in the committee, like a committee, to get going and do it, not sitting there and spinning their wheels because right now, they don’t have that,” said Monaghan.

Feldhoff stated they were changing the mandate and Council should appoint new members to the committee and not leave it in the hands of the committee. The amendment was voted on and the motion was amended successfully.

Council would then have the motion and the amendment read and re-read as they tried to determine what they were voting on. It was suggested they vote down the motion and start over from scratch. Sewell offered to bring back a mandate for Council, but Monaghan pointed out that was the motion which was made several weeks ago.

At the end of the discussion, Monaghan confirmed everyone was happy. Feldhoff replied, with obvious sarcasm, that he was ecstatic. Monaghan asked for the motion to be read one final time. “Please don’t make me read it again,” joked Warren Waycheshen.

The motion to amend the terms of reference for the housing committee with a mandate to form a subcommittee to oversee the establishment of a housing project was called and carried.

Sewell stated they will bring back terms of reference to Council for them to vote on and discuss things with the housing committee. It will return to Council. “You could scrap the whole thing and start over from the beginning, I don’t know. It seems that might be easiest” said Monaghan.
Comment by Lynda on 24th September 2013
All committees are ruled by their terms of reference which guide them in their responsibilities on that particular committee. What is being asked is if the terms of reference can be adjusted so that the group can expand their responsibilities in turn giving them more power to get things done. Councilor Empinado was trying to do just that. Having sat on numerous committees I understand their limitations and at the same time also recognize that at some point you out-grow your mandate and it is time to move forward with new terms of reference or allow someone else to fill the void.
Comment by Samantha on 23rd September 2013
I can not believe how ungrateful the city is to VOLUNTEERS, TRYING to help their community. No wonder nothing gets done. How RUDE.
No suprise
Comment by Rory Brown on 23rd September 2013
After reading this, who would want to volunteer. Empinado should be kissing the volunteers butts for giving their time to help the community, not complaining about them. Heres an idea. Ask if they need some help. Empinado apparently has enough time to bitch about community volunteers. This is a new low for our city councel, and that is saying alot.
Spinning wheels
Comment by CEM on 20th September 2013
Sounds like Mayor and council are the ones that are 'spinning their wheels"