Questions on the cost of vegetation clearing on the Marine Drive hillside were not allowed Monday.

White Rock chair challenged after clearing question nixed

Coun. Helen Fathers said she had 'no option' but to challenge the mayor.

Discussion regarding funding to replace the wooden retaining wall on White Rock’s Marine Drive hillside turned icy Monday, when one councillor was cut short by the mayor for asking a question he deemed irrelevant.

“I’m sorry, Coun. (Helen) Fathers, that’s not really got much to do with the retaining wall,” Mayor Wayne Baldwin said, when Fathers asked how much of $80,000 that had been budgeted for vegetation clearing in the area had been spent and if the work was complete.

“I’m not going to take that as a question.”

The funding at issue was the subject of a proposed amendment to the city’s financial plan – and among three discussed and ultimately approved during the special council meeting Monday – that would enable work initially budgeted for 2016-2017 to proceed this year.

It pulls $225,000 in funding for the work from general revenue ($50,000), a capital reserve ($125,000) and the capital contingency budget ($50,000).

Fathers disputed that her question was irrelevant, noting the vegetation management was done to enable access to the retaining wall.

Cut off by Baldwin a second time – to the audible disbelief of some in the gallery, which prompted Baldwin to caution former councillor Margaret Woods that if she couldn’t restrain herself, “she should leave” – Fathers said she had “no option” but to challenge the chair.

“… which I have never done, and I would like the answer to my question done.”

However, a motion by Coun. Lynne Sinclair to uphold the chair won out, with Fathers casting the sole opposing vote.

Baldwin later told Peace Arch News that the information Fathers was seeking was “off-topic and had no relationship to what was at task.”

As well, he said he suspected it was leading up to “re-discussing” the hillside-clearing issue – which has been a bone of contention among residents since early May – as a whole.

In response to earlier questions from the public, director of engineering Greg St. Louis told council that the retaining-wall project had initially been budgeted for 2016-2017, because “we didn’t believe we’d be able to get (property owner) Burlington’s approval.” That approval has since been received, he said.

St. Louis noted that a draft plan for the remaining hillside work has yet to be finalized, but will include the removal of some additional trees and brush to get to the retaining walls, “because they’re in a poor state and affecting the slope.”

Regarding an amendment to add a $1-million upgrade to Memorial Park/Spirit Square, Fathers and Coun. David Chesney were the only council members to oppose the expense.

Fathers said she couldn’t vote on something that council hasn’t even discussed.

“Council hasn’t even approved it in principle,” she said.

Told the situation was much like that with the Johnston Road improvement program – where funds were being allocated without a firm design in hand – Fathers disputed the comparison.

“The biggest difference is we’ve had conversations about the Johnston Road (project). I have no knowledge of the Spirit Square. That’s the problem.”

Chesney said he “doesn’t see the value” of an upgrade to Memorial Park, saying he would prefer to see Bayview Park in West Beach expanded.

Baldwin said the issue is not about approving the project itself.

“At this stage of the game, that project is approved. There’s no point in going back and talking about it,” he said.

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