Tempers flared at a Williams Lake city council meeting Tuesday evening, with a motion resulting in dramatic back and forth on the “credibility of the council” and a defeat of a motion on a fee for service increase.
The Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce had put forward a request for an increase in the chamber’s fee for service from the city from $150,000 to $165,000 for the 2023 budget.
After discussion and a request for more information at a committee meeting, the motion was then voted to be brought forward at a regular meeting for a vote.
Coun. Scott Nelson moved to approve the motion for the increase.
Coun. Angie Delainey and Coun. Joan Flaspohler both expressed frustration at the motion being put forward ahead of the budget deliberation while also expressing appreciation for the chamber and their work, but emphasized a need for financial accountability and fairness.
Flaspohler pointed out 15 organizations in the community have applications in for fee for services, nine of those organizations have requested increases this year with the total requested increases adding up to $63,900.
“It is our responsibility to look at all of them with the dollars in front of us to make those decisions,” said Flaspohler.”
A heated discussion ensued, with Coun. Nelson then expressing frustration at what he characterized as politicking and asking Mayor Surinderpal Rathor to weigh in on the matter.
“I said it very clearly that day that I’d like to get it back to the table where we can see the bigger picture,” said Rathor, noting he agreed to bring the motion to council because only two councillors spoke against the motion at the committee of the whole and so he deferred to council.
“You rushed it against the staff recommendation,” he said.
Nelson then said the motion was brought forward as a response after a request for more information on the increase from the chamber, and he pushed back at council for not making decisions and setting priorities.
Nelson then mentioned a goal of a zero per cent tax increase for the city, which Rathor asserted was not yet voted in.
Rathor then expressed extreme frustration and told Nelson to “shut up” when Nelson attempted to interrupt him and accused Nelson of grandstanding and sharing misinformation with the community.
Nelson refuted Rathor’s statements and cautioned him: “before you stand up there and you start pumping your chest and get all excited.”
Coun. Sheila Boehm and Coun. Jazmyn Lyons spoke in favour of the motion to approve the increase immediately.
Both Nelson and Rathor again spoke at length, with Rathor requesting Nelson not make announcements on behalf of council and Nelson accusing Rathor of “flip-flopping.”
Delainey spoke in defence of councillors having the freedom to change their minds after consideration or further research.
“That’s your right as a councillor, I don’t believe that’s playing politics,” said Delainey.
The motion for approval of the motion to increase the chamber’s fee for service was defeated 3-4.
Couns. Lyons, Nelson and Boehm voted in favour of immediate approval of the increase, while Delainey, Flaspohler, Moses and Rathor voted against.
The increase was then voted in favour of being brought to the budget meeting with the rest of the fee for service approvals still to be decided on Feb. 7, 2023.