Squamish's new committee system got its first real test this week, as a battery of recommendations came forward causing confusion and consternation, and very little consensus.
With six new committees covering core municipal functions and economic development, the system was designed to streamline debate and lighten council's workload. The idea was for a handful of councillors to explore issues with the confidence of council and put forth clear recommendations to the larger group.
Though the finance committee recently tabled a successful recommendation some weeks ago, the economic development and parks and rec committees caused drawn out controversy with their proposals.
First up was parks and rec, which is chaired by Councillor Patricia Heintzman. The group recommended staff not look into renovations for a fitness centre at Brennan Park, but that they bring forward a proposal for expressions of interest for funding, design and costs of a facility.
That appeared on the agenda as one motion, though Heintzman wound up separating the two items. Though the first section passed, Councillors Paul Lalli and Corinne Lonsdale took issue with the second section, claiming it failed to look at the centre outside the needs of the fitness community. Ice and other considerations were absent, they said, and staff had neither the time nor resources to draw up a proposal. Further, said Chief Administrative Officer Kim Anema, the recommendation was muddled.
"I'm not clear on the intent of the what the committee is recommending," he said.
The idea will be revisited with the budget process.
The real test came with the economic development committee's recommendation that the Squamish Sustainability Corporation (SSC) in principle be relieved of management over the Adventure Centre and focus on Tourism Squamish. A second item called for staff to look into advising on the move.
"I have a problem with how far this goes," said Heintzman. "In my mind, there wasn't a whole lot of discussion about options, or necessity or any of that."
Heintzman said she had sat in on the committee meeting, which was chaired by Lalli. Committee member Gardner said there was ample discussion before he arrived. Lalli said the SSC board supported his recommendation, when, in fact, the SSC board simply said it would support council in its decision.
Councillor Bryan Raiser said he didn't have the information or understand the implications enough for a sound vote. Lonsdale said she trusted the committee had done its research before writing the recommendation.
Meanwhile, the Accessibility Advisory Committee, also chaired by Lalli, produced a recommendation favoured by all of council. Apparently, it's not clear if commercial developments are required to stick to accessibility infrastructure after projects are approved. Staff will look into it.
At the end of the meeting, Gardner declined an evaluation of the committee system's function, the quality and clarity of recommendations and the process that led to them, including posting of meetings, which was not done on line.
"We're at the early stages of a committee structure that hasn't been used in a while," he said.