Editorial — Events Centre expansion did not demonstrate good governance

Awarding a contract and keeping it secret for six more weeks, while the project is already underway, is no way to conduct public business.

Langley Township council may have good reason to expand Langley Events Centre. It is a popular destination and attracts a lot of people from outside the community. It is most definitely an important economic generator for Langley.

However, the method by which council chose to expand the centre demonstrated a lack of transparency and accountability to taxpayers. Keeping the project secret for six weeks after a contract was awarded, with work already underway, is completely unacceptable and flies in the face of good municipal  governance.

A detailed explanation from Mayor Jack Froese about how the project came about, and a letter from Councillor Grant Ward (The Times, Sept. 18), adding other details, has provided additional information. It is hard to believe that of nine members of council, no one pushed to have the project made public as soon as the contract was awarded on July 23.

What is particularly galling is that a number of people tried to find out why the back parking lot at the Events Centre was torn up and construction was underway. This was particularly noticeable during the International Festival in late August, which coincided with a large Volkswagen show on the north parking lot. Attendees had to park as far as a mile away from the centre, as there was little parking available — yet no one could explain what work was underway.

Letter writer Patricia O’Grady (page 9) tried to find out what was going on, and was denied any information.

Township council is elected to manage taxpayers’ money, and to let taxpayers know in a transparent fashion how that money is spent. The fact that this expansion was not included in neither the 2012 budget, nor the five-year financial plan, is also disturbing.

This type of ad hoc spending, while it will happen on occasion, should be exceptionally rare. It is much different from the initial Events Centre spending which Ward referred to, because in that case, provincial money was on the table. Thus far, no partners have indicated they are contributing anything to this $7.725 million project.

While there is no indication that this decision was made inappropriately,  and there is a budget category in 2013 (even though the money is being spent this year) that can be drawn on, this is not the proper way to manage Township business.

This should not happen again.