PICTOU – A final report on MOU expenses prompted more questions about the process at a recent meeting of Pictou County Municipal Council.
Copies of the report on what was spent by the steering committee that considered the memorandum of understanding were distributed at council’s monthly meeting on August 2.
Coun. Robert Parker said the amount that was spent surprised him.
“Any comments I have are not meant to be accusatory,” he said. “I feel the costs were higher than I thought they would be.”
Total expenses were more than $600,000. Revenues included $100,000 from the province and $200,000 in municipal funds; the remainder was covered by equal sums of $75,737 each by the county and the towns of New Glasgow, Pictou and Stellarton.
More than one third of the expenses were legal costs – $227,428. Other costly items were $92,011 for financial modelling, $61,283 for mailing and information, $50,057 for HR consulting and $47,324 for a geographic information system.
Parker asked how the legal firms were chosen.
Warden Ronald Baillie said that, according to provincial policy, solicitor services do not have to be tendered for the work.
“We divided up the legal work to firms that represented the participating units,” he said.
Parker wondered why more local firms were not sought for both the printing and mailing of materials.
Baillie said very few firms could do both.
Among other figures shared, the county spent $106,416.25 out of the $189,446.05 in MOU plebiscite costs.
Coun. David Parker asked if the province could claw back its $100,000 share.
“To me, when they put up the $100,000 there were no stipulations,” Baillie said.
He said the steering committee dissolved after its last meeting on July 7 and there would be no further accounting of expenses.
Coun. Randy Palmer repeated his contention that the matter is closed and does not merit further discussion.
“Let’s put it to rest,” he said. “We won’t have to hear about this for 25 or 30 years.