War of words erupts at council over future of recreation board

Chris Clegg
South Peace News
High Prairie town council’s motion to dissolve the High Prairie and District Regional Recreation Board has been rescinded.

Despite a unanimous vote April 11 to scrap the rec board, council had second thoughts at its April 25 meeting.

After rescinding the motion to dissolve the board, council passed a similar motion to restructure the board, but without a deadline, and to bring back proposals to council for more debate.

The first motion called for a May 31 deadline.

Council was clearly divided during the heated debate.

“I think the motion was made in haste,” said Councillor Debbie Rose.

She added plans were already being discussed by the rec board to restructure.

Discussions were never disclosed to the public, however. In early April, the managers of the town, county and recreation board met to discuss the issue. More meetings are planned.

“We created problems because of it,” said Rose. “I felt we were put in a pressure situation [during the vote].”

Councillor Michael Long was one of two town members at the Inter-Municipal meeting April 21 when the rec board was discussed. Once again, the public was barred from attending. Choosing his words carefully so he did not disclose what was said behind closed doors, Long offered his comments.

“I fail to see the harmony from the county. They were obnoxious.
“Because I said something that offends someone doesn’t make them right,” he added.

Long reiterated his previous stand.

“The rec board has to go. It has been a thorn in our side since the election.”

Rose clearly did not agree as Long spoke.

“Don’t roll your eyes at me,” said Long. “We followed 68 recommendations [in the Harold Johnsrude Report]. Why is this one so hard?”

The possibility of Big Lakes County pulling their money from recreation did not concern Long, as it did Rose, Councillor Brian Panasiuk and Councillor Arlen Quartly.

“I will vote in favour of good governance. You can’t buy me,” Long said.

Councillor Brian Gilroy wanted the process moved along.

“I just want some action. I want to make sure no one loses their jobs.”

Later, Councillor Arlen Quartly, who chairs the rec board, promised no jobs would be lost.

“I wasn’t here for this motion [April 11]. I would have voted against it. I can’t fathom the whole idea of this.”

Quartly addressed the financial issue.

“If we try to do this on our own, we won’t have the service. It costs money. We lose money.
“I’m really afraid of what’s going down the line.”

Councillor Brian Panasiuk agreed.

“This was a huge mistake…to put this out. It’s already done some damage we won’t be able to repair.
“If we can’t maintain those relationships, we’re in big trouble,” he added.

Long was not swayed.

“I don’t apologize for creating this kerfuffle. We followed 68 of those recommendations. Why not 69?”

Mayor Linda Cox then spoke, saying it appeared the deadline for restructuring appeared to be the issue with council.

But she added another twist brought forward by the fired High Prairie Regional Aquatics Centre manager, Ginger Petersen.

“We have a legal liability that puts us in jeopardy. The liability comes back to us. Now that we are aware of our legal responsibility…
“The Lifesaving Society has not done an audit in 10 years,” added Cox. “They are the gold standard.”

Cox asked if council should get a legal opinion.

Rose replied the pool audit has since been ordered.

Councillor Donna Deynaka said council was misinformed.

“I think we had some misinformation.
“Everyone supported the motion,” she added. “Now, because the county is upset with us, you’re coming back and saying, ‘Let’s rescue this.’”

Rose said she voted for the April 11 motion citing it was “less damaging” that others proposed. However, because the discussion was in-camera, the public will not know what the other options were.

“I don’t even want to be part of this if we can’t work as a team,” said Rose.

Moving forward, council was reassured the restructuring would be completed before municipal elections on Oct. 16.

What they said. . .On dissolution, relations and more

Linda Cox

Mayor Linda Cox
On the process of dissolution: “The rec board should have asked it to be on the agenda for the town and county. No letter has still come from the rec board.”







Donna Deynaka

Councillor Donna Deynaka
On Big Lakes County and some town councillor’s attitudes: “I’m hearing that the county is the be-all and the end-all. I think we have to look at them as the county and us as the town. Just because we question how they do things…we have our citizens of the town we have to think of.”
On Big Lakes County funding the rec board: “We pissed them off so they might pull their money. That’s a stretch.”






Brian Gilroy

Councillor Brian Gilroy
On rec board operations: “If the county wants to take over the recreation board and run it themselves, so be it.”
On the future: “We’ll find a way to work together. They’d be silly to punish their own taxpayers.”







Michael Long

Councillor Michael Long
On rec board dissolution: “It was needing to be done. It has to be pushed forward. It needed to be done.”
On the Harold Johnsrude Report: “We need to follow our own government’s direction.”
On Big Lakes County: “All because Michael Long said something they didn’t agree with. They’ve got to grow up.”
On the future of the rec board: “At the end of the day, we still have to look at the dissolution of the rec board. I’ve been consistent saying the rec board has to go.”




Brian Panasiuk

Councillor Brian Panasiuk
On discussions to restructure the rec board: “The whole issue was being dealt with. It was already being started. Let the CAOs deal with it.”








Arlen Quartly

Councillor Arlen Quartly
On Big Lakes County relations: “We’ve set our relationship with the county back 30-40 years.”
On rec board restructuring: “This has to happen quickly. It will happen quicker now. In the end, it will be positive.”







Debbie Rose

Councillor Debbie Rose
On the Johnsrude Report: “The Johnsrude Report was out before we got elected. That [restructuring] could have happened anytime. The reps on the rec board were starting that conversation.”
On moving forward: “I’m very much afraid we’re going to take some steps backward. We need to work together. Allow the process to work out.”

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