North Saanich consultant wants more

Council to consider paying more for a report they voted to shelve

North Saanich council will consider paying a consultant nearly double the original price for work on their housing strategy and at the same time essentially shelved the consultant’s report until further notice.

A majority of councillors voted Feb. 3 to ratify an earlier decision to consider paying Ed Grifone of CTQ Consltants Ltd. an estimated $68,595 for the District’s housing strategy implementation plan. That’s $29,595 more than an earlier agreed-upon price of $39,000 — and well above the original contract of only $19,000 set in late 2012.

Council had agreed on the jump from $19,000 to $39,000 following Grifone’s first meeting in early 2013 with staff and council and the realization the project would be more involved than initially thought.

Grifone, in a Dec. 13 letter to council, said the complexity of the assignment pushed his costs to more than $68,000.

Council has decided to consider this increase as long as Grifone supplies an itemized and detailed account of additional services over and above the original terms of reference. Council also voted to only do so if Grifone turns over his raw data from the housing plan. This was approved Feb. 3 in a 4-3 vote.

Council has also asked Grifone to return to give a presentation to council on either Feb. 24 or April 14, and pay him an hourly rate of $170, plus expenses. The consultant had been to council to speak to his work in August, 2013 but that meeting was cut short when Councillors Dunstan Browne and Conny McBride walked out in protest of questions levelled at Grifone from Mayor Alice Finall, Coun. Elsie McMurphy and various citizens.

“It was very unfortunate that your meeting of Aug. 19, 2013 ended so abruptly when I was prepared to address all matters related to the project,” Grifone stated in his Dec. 13 letter.

“We cannot begin to understand the politics of your community. However, we are professionals and we have no reservations about returning to North Saanich to explain our findings…”

Some residents are blaming the council for not hearing out Grifone when he was in the community and are now faced with even more costs association to this project.

“CTQ did come to address council and councillors walked out,” said Lorrene Soellner, a resident and outspoken critic of the council majority. “No debate was even allowed then.”

Coun. Ted Daly noted during the debate that if he was Mr. Grifone, he wouldn’t come back to North Saanich.

Consultant’s report approved, but shelved

North Saanich’s council majority seems to think it got what it wanted out of the CTQ Consultants report on housing in the district for now and have voted to take no further action on it.

On Feb. 3, Coun. Dunstan Browne amended a motion to approve the report in principle subject to changes council may wish to make — adding that staff is not required to take any further action.

Mayor Alice Finall and Coun. Elsie McMurphy called the motion irrational and beyond understanding.

“I am against this,” said McMurphy. “There has been no wide consultation on (the report) in the community. And council has already adopted some things contrary to what’s in the report. It’s a contradiction.”

She also wondered about council stating it can change the consultant’s work.

“I’m worried council would adopt this without consultation or a clear understanding of the issues within it,” added Finall, repeating her call for an affordable housing strategy and even a full review of North Saanich’s official community plan in the wake of the consultant’s findings.

North Saanich chief administrative officer Rob Buchan said council already accepted the consultant’s report in the fall of 2013 and at the same time, accepted two recommended areas for housing growth — the McTavish Road area and land along McDonald Park Road. Buchan said council at that time directed staff to proceed with developing policy on those areas.

“What we don’t know,” he continued, “is what council wants staff to do with (the rest) of the report.”

“What this means,” Browne said, “is we’ll tell (staff) what to do. Right now, there’s nothing more to do.”

The motion passed, 4-3.

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