Manning opposes $1.5 million town hall project

By Robert Frank

Baie d’Urfé’s town hall expansion could come forward again as soon as this spring, according to Councillor Brian Manning.

“Now that [it] is on the horizon, I would like to reassure citizens that I am against that size of project and I will work diligently to oppose it in any way that I can,” he told citizens during that last town council meeting.

Manning subsequently told The Suburban that it would be more economic instead to renovate space in the town’s public works building.

“The first and second floors have about 2,500 sq.ft. that could be used,” he said in an interview this week. “It needs renovation, but the space is there. The whole second floor could be finished 8-foot clear.”

“The [municipal] staff has been increasing rapidly,” Manning observed. “My suggestion was perhaps to move two or three staff members to that building.”

Mayor Maria Tutino said that it was too early to discuss the initiative.

“It’s not a project at the moment,” she told The Suburban. “We haven’t discussed it with council and it is something that we have not brought to the citizens yet.”

She added that the timeframe might stretch longer than Manning suggested.

“It might be in the summer,” Tutino indicated. “We’re not going to go forward with a half-baked idea.”

“I am the mayor of a small town and we work very hard to produce the positive results we have and we are well-respected among municipalities,” she underscored. “We are adored by our citizens for the quality of work that we have done for the last ten years.”

Manning said that the town hall renovation project has already been discussed openly during recent council meetings.

“It was clearly stated at public meetings that it would be coming up again this spring and that there will be public information sessions,” he reminded, “plus it remains in the town’s three-year capital spending program for $1.5 million.”

Transparency law

Mayor Tutino also discussed Baie d’Urfé’s recent request to be exempted under a loophole in the province’s access to information (ATI) law.

“In 2014, we had 21 ATI requests from three citizens,” she told The Suburban. “One citizen put in 19. None of those 19 were considered abusive.

“So the town of Baie d’Urfé says that a small town with very few staff members cannot monopolize the clerk’s department to answer one or two people’s ATI requests,” she continued, “but we are doing so unless the request is going to take an exorbitant amount of hours which does not seem reasonable.”

“It’s not because we don’t want to answer citizens’ questions,” she emphasized. “Ninety-nine percent of our citizens don’t feel that they have to go to ATI to ask for information. They are happy to get their information from the town.”

Tutino said that most of the $3.65 million in expenses accounted for as “autres” in Baie d’Urfé’s financial statements went to the Montreal Agglomeration Council.

“If these people want to know what you’re paying for, the budget from the City of Montreal is a couple of inches thick and they’re more than welcome to go through it themselves to see where those budget items are,” she suggested.

“What this particular request asked for is all the bills for even [Baie d’Urfé’s] portion of where an ‘other’ [expense] can be,” Tutino concluded. “It could be a dollar here and three dollars there. We would have to go through a whole year’s worth of bills—and the Town of Baie d’Urfé has a lot of bills.”
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