County ‘can’t be trusted’ – Long

Councillors called ‘idiots’ and ‘economic wizards’

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

Big Lakes County can no longer be trusted with its funding promises, says Town of High Prairie Councillor Michael Long.

He made the statement at council’s meeting July 14 while discussing a proposal from Heart River Foundation to add 20 units onto Pleasantview Lodge in High Prairie. Heart River was asking the Town to sign a letter of understanding to support the project.

Long’s criticism also included sarcastically calling the BLC council “economic wizards” and, later, “idiots”.

Long is furious that the County pulled $400,000 in grant funding from 2019. The money was earmarked for water plant upgrades.

“It’s a slap in the face,” said Long. “I don’t cause financial hardship on anyone in the county.

“They can blow smoke all they want. They can’t be trusted.

“They already put the knife in our back and twisted it. They hurt this community [High Prairie] when they did this.”

Long directed his criticism toward those who voted against giving the Town the money.

“Because of the idiots on the other side of the lake.”

Voting against returning the money at a June 10 County meeting were Reeve Richard Simard, and councillors Ken Killeen, Robert Ny- gaard, Ann Stewart, and Fern Welch. All represent lakeside wards except for Stewart.

Big Lakes County first advised the Town by letter May 4 that the $400,000 grant [a carryover from 2019] would not be forwarded due to their own budget problems due to decreased property assessment and taxation revenue.

Also, the Town did not advise the County they were spending the money on the water treatment plant upgrade instead of a street improvement project. The County must approve all projects.

Long also alluded to what he charges is spite on behalf of some BLC councillors.

“We stood up for our taxpayers…a [tax] break, they won’t give us the $400,000…because we showed compassion for our ratepayers.

“I won’t do business with them! I’m sorry for going against this because it goes against everything I believe in.”

Councillor Arlen Quartly supports Heart River’s project.

“I understand where you’re coming from,” he told Long.

“These are two different issues. We have to stand by it [Heart River] 100 per cent.

“This is something we should be doing anyway,” added Quartly. “I think it’s something we have to stand behind.”

Mayor Brian Panasiuk agreed.

This is not the place to take that stand,” he said.

He promised the $400,000 issue would be discussed at the next Inter-Municipal meeting between the Town and County.

“We’ll deal with that [$400,000] later,” said Quartly.

“It baffles me you guys aren’t thinking of signing this,” he added.

“You guys” included Councillor Brian Gilroy, who said the three members from BLC who serve on the committee – Donald Charrois, David Marx and Ken Matthews – voted to give the Town the $400,000 where the others refused. Therefore, everyone attending the Inter-Municipal meeting already agrees and it’s the other councillors who need to be convinced to change their stand.

Gilroy was also concerned that a definite cost of the project was not cited to council.

“My concern is we can’t trust Big Lakes County with their funding promises,” said Long again.

“When you take $400,000 from a determined budget, why would they put the taxpayer under such duress?

“When things got tough, they took the money and ran. Now we’re stuck. High Prairie will get stung. Big Lakes County has very little heart.”

Simard did not respond to a request to comment on the story; however, an e-mail from Big Lakes County communications co-ordina- tor Victoria Zahacy said there would be no comment.

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