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Pelham party bill: $85,000 or $0?

Pelham's new Meridian Community Centre nears completion. VOICE FILE PHOTO

This week’s Meridian Community Centre opening parties will either cost a small fortune, or they’ll cost “zero”

BY DAVE BURKET
The VOICE

In June it was an $85,000 idea. Last Tuesday it was a $70,000 plan. On Friday it was a $48,000 expense. By this Monday the Town seemed to say the actual cost is $0.

This would be the price for two “Grand Opening” gala parties planned for the new Meridian Community Centre this week—one for VIPs only on Friday, the second for everyone else on Saturday.

The party talk originated during the Pelham Community Centre Oversight Committee meeting held in June.

According to meeting minutes posted on the Town’s website, Councillor Gary Accursi spearheaded the concept, which included a marketing slogan for the parties, “Moments that Matter.”

According to the minutes, Town Treasurer Teresa Quinlin, present as acting CAO in Darren Ottaway’s absence, suggested there could be “some justification for utilizing funds from the contingency” for the event.

The apparent justification was that the “grand opening event will also serve to provide promotional opportunities” for the new arena.

A motion to recommend spending up to $85,000 was carried.

Then matters took an odd twist.

During the last week of August, a resident posted the $85,000 figure on social media, prompting the Voice to request comment from Mayor Augustyn on Monday, September 3. By Tuesday, September 4, the minutes had disappeared from the Town’s website.

When the Voice asked Town Clerk Nancy Bozzato why the minutes had vanished, she replied, “I have to make a notation on the minutes that a motion was rescinded by the Committee.”

Pressed to explain how a motion duly tabled, debated, and carried could retroactively be “rescinded,” Bozzato cited parliamentary rules allowing the maneuver.

Bozzato quoted a parliamentary authority by the name of James Lochrie: “It is a special case of the more general motion to amend a previous decision.  Procedurally and substantively there is no difference between the motions.  In effect, the motion to rescind is a motion to amend a previous decision by striking out the decision altogether.”

In short, the committee’s June minutes reappeared on the Town’s website last Friday with the $85,000 motion struck-through.

Asked whether other Town committees had ever employed such a move to rescind a previously carried motion, Bozzato replied, “I cannot comment on how common it is with other committees. There are instances where previous motions have been rescinded by a Pelham Council, however I cannot provide an immediate example.”

In the meantime, multiple numbers had multiplied.

Following mention of the $85,000 figure in last week’s edition, the Voice requested confirmation that the amount was correct from Town Public Relations and Marketing Specialist Marc McDonald.

Last Thursday, MacDonald replied that the events would cost $48,000. Yet two days earlier, at Town Council’s regularly scheduled meeting, Vickie vanRavenswaay, Director of Recreation, Culture, and Wellness, informed council that the event budget was $70,000.

By late Friday there was yet another number from MacDonald: $84,725. According to a breakdown, this total was derived from $11,500 in food and beverage costs, $27,000 in entertainment, and $46,225 in “rentals, logistics, video, promotion.”

Including revenue the Town says will be earned from the events, MacDonald asserted that the Town’s net cost would be $48,225.

Yet this amount was further offset by an identical figure—$48,225 in “special event savings & other revenue”—implying that the cost to throw the two parties was $0.

Asked to clarify the clarification, shortly before press time on Monday MacDonald reiterated, “The net cost of the event is expected to be $48,225.  This will be covered by cost savings and higher revenue from other special events…therefore the budget impact is expected to be $0.”

 

Related: Candidates react to community centre party cost

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