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Tensions boil over as 2 councillors nearly ejected from Harrison Council meeting

Mayor threatened physical removal of councillors from chambers following multiple interruptions
Harrison Hot Springs’ Memorial Hall was fuller than usual on Monday evening, a meeting riddled with out-of-order calls and interruptions, stopping just short of requiring police intervention. (File Photo)

Tensions were off the charts from the start of the most recent Harrison Hot Springs Council meeting.

At the start of Monday evening’s meeting, Mayor Ed Wood attempted to introduce late items to the agenda. However, Couns. Michie Vidal and Leo Facio interrupted Wood multiple times, requesting the approval of the agenda.

In terms of procedural order, Wood was correct; late items are introduced before the agenda for the meeting is approved. It is the first step following the call to order and land acknowledgement. However, Vidal and Facio were also correct in raising a point of order as Wood continued to discuss late items before the agenda was approved.

Wood ruled both councillors out of order multiple times. Coun. Allan Jackson also attempted to speak but was also ruled out of order. After a tense exchange, Wood gave Vidal and Facio an ultimatum – apologize or be removed from the meeting.

RELATED: Harrison council calls for no-confidence vote against Mayor Ed Wood

He went so far as to threaten to have Facio and Vidal physically removed from the council chambers. Neither councillor moved to leave and ultimately apologized for the disruptions – only for the sake of moving the meeting along.

The late item Wood attempted to introduce was an anonymous letter that has circulated throughout the village, penned by someone who identifies as “The Village Mole.” The letter writer claims to be a 30-year Harrison resident, accusing the mayor of discriminatory and retaliatory behaviour against members of village staff.

Wood said he normally wouldn’t comment on a letter like this, expecting “attacks” as an elected official. However, he added, he draws the line when staff members are accused or attacked.

“I would ask (the letter writer) how would you feel if these allegations were made against you?” Wood said. “(How) do you think these allegations affect the staff members’ family? What about the staff members’ friends? What (does) the community start to think about them when they hear comments which are absolutely inappropriate to be said?”

The mayor refused to read the letter upon Coun. John Buckley’s request.

“It is absolutely disrespectful,” Wood said. “If you wish, I can get you a copy.”

This Tuesday’s council meeting was among the best-attended – and longest – meeting of the new term since the inauguration in November.

The agenda was not approved until roughly 35 minutes into the meeting.

RELATED: Harrison Council quietly approves long-term parking fee hike, pay raise

In other council business:

- Wood asked for reconsideration for an item approved in the Committee of the Whole (CoW) meeting on Jan. 26 and 27. Council voted 3-2 (Wood and Buckley opposed) to replace Sanitary Lift Station 1 for $2.3 million, declining an option to retrofit the lift station for $1 million.

According to a report from operations manager Tyson Koch, Lift Station 1 is powered by outdated technology which is getting increasingly difficult to repair due to the scarcity of obsolete parts. Wood was primarily concerned that the spending was more than necessary, given the funding would come out of reserves; there is no grant funding designated for this project.

No councillor voted in favour of reconsideration. However, since none were opposed when asked, the reconsideration was unanimously passed.

- Wood recalled a vote on the update to the remuneration policy. The update, approved at the CoW meeting, would grant council a 30-per cent increase in pay in addition to a $10 increase per meal, a cell phone usage allowance as well as the option of being provided a village-issued laptop or an annual $1,000 allowance to conduct municipal business on personal computers. The vote, again, was 4-1 with Wood opposed.

- Agassiz RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Mike Sargent and Insp. Darron Pankrantz presented the 2022 annual policing report.

- One member of the community, who did not identify herself when she stood to speak during the question period, expressed their outrage at council’s approval of a pay raise.

“You chose to ignore the citizens Task Force recommendations for reasonable remuneration for a raise,” one resident said. “Instead you chose to give yourself a (significant raise) out of your greed. Forget about using the excuse of inflation, the pandemic or the cost of living because we’re all going through that. We’re all suffering with this.”

Buckley attempted to explain, but the resident shouted him down. Wood quickly moved on to the next question.

The next regular Harrison Hot Springs Village Council meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 6 at 7 p.m. at Memorial Hall (290 Esplanade Avenue). Online attendance is also available via Zoom; those interested can register through Video recordings of the meetings will be archived on the village’s YouTube page.


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