June 13th, 2024

Committee of the whole meeting Wednesday open to public

By Medicine Hat News on May 28, 2024.

A pair of committee of the whole meetings are going this week, though only Wednesday's is open to the public.--NEWS FILE PHOTO


A city council “committee of the whole” meeting tonight will be closed to the public as an “energy matter” is discussed, while a similar meeting Wednesday will feature a presentation on “local governance.”

Last week, council chair Andy McGrogan made a point to invite members of the public to take in or watch the rebroadcast of the May 29 session that will include municipal consultant George Cuff discussing local government.

City council has been bombarded with questions this spring about transparency and process after Mayor Linnsie Clark was sanctioned following a complaint about a verbal altercation with city manager Ann Mitchell last summer.

Clark has since applied for a judicial review of the finding and has said she was only questioning how changes to some city positions and reporting structure were handled.

Cuff, a former mayor of Spruce Grove, is a well-known consultant who works with municipalities on special projects and also conducts investigations on behalf of cities and the province.

He previously worked with Medicine Hat during the current council term in 2022, and more recently led a provincially mandated investigation into the City of Chestermere this year on behalf of the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

The meeting begins at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at city hall, and will be broadcast and archived on the city’s YouTube channel.

The material for today’s meeting is less obvious, and will be held entirely in camera.

A single item “energy matter” will be discussed, though further details are left off publicly available agendas, citing regulations to protect economic interests.

Last week council received a final draft of an Environmental Roadmap, which outlines actions the city can take to reduce environmental impact in its on operations as well as emissions.

It suggests considering the addition of zero-carbon power sources in the future to reduce emissions and the city power plant’s carbon compliance charges. The power plant paid more than $8 million in 2023 to the provincial TIER levies system for heavy emitters.

Separately, a business review of the city’s power generation company is underway and is scheduled to be completed by consultant KPMG in the last quarter of 2024.

Nothing can be formally adopted in closed meetings, or at committee of the whole meetings.

“Committee of the whole” meetings are a relatively new practice in Medicine Hat, thought the more loosely structured meetings can be common to allow council members to ask questions and debate issues more freely.

Council has half a dozen “committee of the whole” meetings scheduled this year to discuss priorities and assumptions in building the 2025-26 city budget later this year.

McGrogan, currently deputy mayor, will hold the position of chairing council meetings until June 4, at which time the position rotates as per a set schedule of 45-day terms to Coun. Ramona Robins.

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