One of the White Rock councillors who voted for new lights and arches for the seaside city’s famous pier last year has defended the decision, saying the mayor was wrong to describe it as a “last-minute panic attack.”
Al Campbell did not immediately respond when the mayor made his remarks during the Monday, Jan. 23 meeting of council, but afterwards said Baldwin was “misinformed” about the situation.
“No panic here,” Campbell states in an email to Peace Arch News late Thursday afternoon.
“Staff acted quickly to address a serious safety issue and to ensure a continuation of the pier lighting with as little disruption as possible,” Campbell adds.
In his remarks Monday, Baldwin complained that the former council was hurried into a decision on Sept. 19 to replace the aging lights and should have been given more warning.
According to Campbell, waiting wouldn’t have made any difference.
“A delay would not have produced any more information, and it would only have served to ensure a dark, closed pier over the Christmas period,” Campbell writes.
“(That was) not an option. Council was well aware of the issues and wisely chose to ensure that our pier lighting was restored for our Christmas and winter season. This is important to our businesses and residents alike.”
Campbell notes the money approved for the project was money already set aside for pier maintenance.
The councillor adds the city had to move quickly in order to take advantage of federal grant money he estimates was more than $30,000, not the $20,000 cited by the mayor.
Baldwin, who was White Rock city manager for 23 years before he retired in 2006, was also critical of the way city staff handled the matter, warning that “in the future staff must bring forward reports dealing with contractual work in a more timely fashion.”
There should be “no more last-minute panic attacks,” he said.
Campbell also took issue with that.
“I was surprised that Mayor Baldwin criticized staff in public, especially given his staff experience,” Campbell writes.
“It is one thing to criticize council as part of the political fray because we can respond, staff cannot.”
Campbell also disagrees with Baldwin’s charge that council was, in the mayor’s words “disrespectfully denied the opportunity to even discuss whether it was in favour of replacing the temporary Christmas arches with permanent arches – which increased the project cost by at least $200,000.”
“To the best of my knowledge the arches were always part of the proposal and (cost) $100,000 not $200,000 as incorrectly stated,” Campbell writes.
The mayor made his remarks following receipt of a report explaining why the new lights and arches had not been installed by a Dec. 15 deadline.
The report, by director of engineering and municipal operations Rob Thompson, said while the 30 new lamp standards were installed by Dec. 11, “a delivery issue” will postpone installation of the 15 new arches until mid-February.