As Cobourg resident Ken Strauss pointed out in his critical “Letter to the Editor”, at the Committee of the Whole Council COW) Meeting on November 16, Fire Chief Mike Vilneff asked for budget pre-approval of $240K for renovations to Cobourg’s Firehall. He said that this was required because these renovations were needed to accommodate a female firefighter who had been hired earlier in the year. Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin said that early approval was not needed since regular budget sessions were imminent. When asked, the chief was not able to provide a detailed breakdown as to what exactly was needed to accommodate the female firefighter versus other included items. So after considerable discussion, the original motion to approve the full amount was passed with Suzanne and Mayor Henderson voting against. They agreed with the requirement but wanted it considered at budget deliberations.
But, this was a COW motion so, as required, it came up for final approval at the regular meeting on November 23 – and was the subject of further considerable discussion.
Councillor Emily Chorley once again asked for a breakdown of the project. And this time Chief Vilneff was ready. He divided the project into 6 parts and agreed that “altering the workshop” could wait. Mike asked a contractor to provide realistic quotes for the other 5 sub-projects. Of these, 2 could be decided at the 2021 capital budget deliberations leaving 3 sub-projects that Mike really wanted to start as soon as possible and therefore needed immediate approval. Further, the contractor’s prices were about half the estimates provided by the architect. Note that some of the reduction was because the original estimate included premium costs of material since it was at the early stage of the Covid-19 pandemic. So in response to a request he received after the previous meeting (he didn’t say who from) Mike reduced his request for pre-approval from $240K to $35K.
In the end, Council pre-approved $40,000 (including $5,000 contingency) instead of $240,000. This was to be spent on:
- New Sleep Quarters Construction $15,000
- New Altered Office Construction $5,000
- Gross Decontamination Showers $15,000
The remaining projects of the PPE Construction Room and Washroom/Locker Room will now be considered in the 2021 Capital Budget Deliberations.
We have to thank Suzanne Séguin, Emily Chorley and Chief Vilneff for this sensible result. There was no mention of Ken Strauss’s letter but maybe that had some effect.
Budget Process turned upside down – Letter to the Editor – 17 November 2020 – re budget pre-approval for Fire-Hall renovations