Mayor Leo Facio and Councillor Michie Vidal appear on camera during Harrison Hot Springs' first village council meeting via Zoom. The meeting largely went without glitch until a power outage disrupted the meeting for approximately 10 minutes. (Screenshot/YouTube)

Harrison Council nixes proposed tech reimbursement

The reimbursement would have used grant funding to compensate for business use of personal devices

Harrison’s village council said no to using grant funding to cover personal electronic device use.

During the most recent meeting on Monday, the council nixed a proposal from village staff to use $1,000 per councillor per four-year term from the COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant funding meant to compensate council members for using their own personal devices in the course of their work as elected officials.

As of January of 2019, one third of remuneration for councillors is no longer tax-exempt; this exemption was meant to reimburse municipal officials for office consumables like printer ink and other office supplies. In the proposal from staff, $1,000 would be available to councillors on request to recoup supply and data costs. There was a second recommendation to draft a policy for council technology grants on a per-term basis starting in 2021.

However, the recommendations were turned down. While Coun. Gerry Palmer could see the merit in what staff was trying to accomplish, he couldn’t support the recommendations.

RELATED: Harrison Council to consider moving meetings to Zoom

“I think it’s totally appropriate not to support it,” said Coun. Palmer. “At this particular point, having a computer, iPads, phones, it’s just part of being a citizen. I really don’t expect the village to pay for my electronic equipment. I think the message in a tough year is not to go ahead with things like this.”

Coun. Vidal concurred.

“Although I understand the intent of the proposed policy, my view is that the restart grant funds should be allocated in a way that benefits the community as a whole,” she said.

Monday’s meeting marked the first official council meeting broadcast live online via Zoom. Attendance peaked at 14 people, including council members and village staff. By and large, everything proceeded without glitch for the first hour until the broadcast was interrupted and resumed nine minutes later. The village stated a power outage caused the meeting’s disruption.

The video is archived on the village YouTube page; it’s split into two parts due to the interruption.

In other council business, John Allen appeared as a delegation before council, calling in via Zoom from his vehicle outside Memorial Hall, where Mayor Facio, Coun. Michie Vidal and members of village staff were meeting. In his presentation, he stressed the importance of creating a new community hall as the village continues to grow. For a variety of reasons, Allen said, Memorial Hall would not be feasible as the population continues to increase.

Mayor Facio said there has been a strong local push for a cultural centre, but the lack of grant funding prompted the village to move on with other projects for the immediate future.

RELATED: Harrison Hot Springs lays down mask rules for village-owned spaces

The council voted 4-1 in favour of a tree replacement policy. Coun. Vidal was the sole opposing vote. Under this policy, for every tree the village removes, one replacement tree will be planted; the species and location of the tree will be at the village’s discretion. Coun. Vidal made a movement to plant two trees for every one removed, as discussed during the Nov. 2 meeting, but the motion received no second.

There were no questions from the public during the public questioning period.

The next regular village council meeting is scheduled for Jan. 18, 2021 via Zoom. For instructions on how to join the meeting, visit the village website at harrisonhotsprings.ca/agendas-and-minutes.

City CouncilHarrison Hot Springs