photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/treenaks/3304518306/
I sat in the gallery at the first Kamloops city council meeting of 2011 today. As usual, lots of interesting issues discussed, debated, and decided.
One decision that concerned me a bit was the decision by council to rescind a donation of a tractor to the Thompson Agriplex Society. From time to time, council donates surplus equipment to various community groups. The value of these pieces of equipment is typically in the $5000 range. In early 2010, city staff determined the value of a the tractor to question to be in the same range and asked city council to approve this donation to the Thompson Agriplex Society. In April 2010, council gave this approval.
The society, I understand, undertakes to promote agriculture in our region and has started to hold events and activities at the old correctional camp site in Raleigh. After they got news of the donation, society president Bernie Jensen writes:
The tractor and the loader attachment were both key to several activities that we had planned for this past year at the former Raleigh Corrections property. (letter to council from the society)
Unfortunately, after council approved the donation, city staff was offered a trade-in-value of $22 000 for the tractor. And, because of the $17 000 difference from the previously estimated value, city staff felt they should not donate the tractor and, today, city council agreed.
The Thompson Agriplex Society seems to have no fault in this situation. This seems to be a matter of city staff getting new information. City staff might have even made an error in the sense that the trade-in-value was not examined at the time of the original donation recommendation. Mistakes happen. And I understand, I think, city staff's hesitation to move forward with the donation.
I wonder, though, where this leaves the Agriplex Society. They thought they had a firm deal. They have made plans around the tractor and now do not have it available. It is certainly important for the city to be financially prudent but there is also this niggling feeling that a community group has been left high and dry. I wonder how this will impact the perception of city hall's trustiworthiness and fairness with community groups. Councillors Nancy Bepple and Marg Spina seemed to be concerned about this as well - and both Nancy voted against rescinding the donation I believe.
(Updated Jan 16th 2010: after reading media reports and watching the Council recording from the meeting, I have corrected the above: Nancy Bepple was the only council member to vote agains rescinding the donation.)
I would have also like to have seen city staff talk how about they may be able to avoid such a situation in the future - or at least talked about how situations like this are sometimes unavoidable.