Wainfleet politicians are getting thumbs up for awarding $40,000 in taxpayer money to a private company to fight its legal battles against another private company.
But for that decision in the ongoing war on turbines, aldermen Tuesday night were also told to get some lessons in ethics and resign from office.
“We do realize it’s a really divisive issue,” Mayor April Jeffs said of council’s 3-1 decision on Dec. 10 to pay Skydive Burnaby $40,000 in its legal fight against Wainfleet Wind Energy, which plans to erect two turbines near the parachuting club.
That decision sparked Wainfleet Wind Energy to launch its second lawsuit against the municipality.
Jeffs Tuesday night said council believes it is “protecting the municipality” by aiding the skydiving club.
“We’re using every tool in the toolbox to do so,” she said.
Aldermen at the start of their 6 p.m. meeting went behind closed doors with the township lawyer, who Jeffs later said will continue to look into the matter of the political contribution to Skydive Burnaby and ensuing lawsuit.
“Nothing has been given to anybody at this point,” Jeffs said.
Whether council proceeds with its Dec. 10 decision will be discussed at its next meeting, Jan. 28.
Joan Anderson wants politicians to either rescind the decision, or establish terms of repayment for the $40,000.
“This is purely a fiscal concern about the use of taxpayer moneys,” she said in her address to council, explaining she’s not taking sides in the turbine debate.
“Enough taxpayer money has been directed at this single issue,” Anderson said. “This is not where some of us expect you to spend our money.”
Figures presented by municipal treasurer Robyn Madere showed from 2012 to Sept. 13, 2013, the township had spent $193,600 fighting turbines, including on legal fees and $66,645 awarded to Wainfleet Wind Energy, which successfully sued to strike down a township bylaw that called for a 2-km residential setback for wind turbines, rather than the 500-metre setback required as part of the Green Energy Act.
Andrew Watts told his elected officials he’d prefer the $40,000 awarded to Skydive Burnaby not be spent, but he said he views it as “a continuation of the fight” launched by council and that there is no other option.
“You have tried to protect all Wainfleet residents,” said the staunch turbine opponent as he warned ill health effects and diminished property values will accompany the erection of wind turbines.
Still, while Watts had supporters cheering him on, Dan Augustine, too, received applause.
He said “outrage, total disgust and despair” is what he felt after learning of council’s move to help fund Skydive Burnaby’s legal battles.
He questioned why a hasty decision was made at the Dec. 10 meeting, how politicians came up with a $40,000 figure and why no written terms of the arrangement were provided.
“I find this bizarre, outrageous, unethical and a continuous waste of taxpayers’ money,” Augustine said.
“Whoever voted for this donation should resign immediately.”
Ald. David Wyatt countered by suggesting money being spent on the turbine war this one time will pale in comparison to years of lost tax revenues as a result of decreased property values caused by turbines.
Council’s Jan. 28 meeting starts at 6 p.m. with preliminary discussion on the 2014 budget, followed by a regular session at 7 p.m.
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