The City of Fernie has appointed local firm GPI Chartered Professional Accountants as auditor for the 2018 to 2022 fiscal years. File photo

Financial audit contract divides Fernie council

Council sticks with local accounting firm; plus other City of Fernie news

A Fernie accounting firm has won a City contract despite being out-scored by a Cranbrook company.

At the December 10 regular meeting, council was asked to appoint BDO Canada (Cranbrook) City of Fernie auditors for the 2018 to 2022 fiscal years.

The City received two proposals for municipal auditor, from BDO and Fernie firm GPI Chartered Professional Accountants.

The proposals were evaluated based on predefined criteria, which looked at factors including cost, the firm’s experience and knowledge of local governments, and proposal quality and clarity.

BDO scored 92/100 while GPI received 69/100.

GPI’s proposal was $29,000 lower than BDO’s, but City staff recommended awarding the auditing contract to the Cranbrook company based on the proposal evaluation, additional services it would provide and endorsement from other government bodies, such as the Regional District of East Kootenay.

“Although this proposal was not least expensive of the proponents, the BDO proposal scored significantly higher in all other respects making it the recommended choice,” said Director of Finance Shirley McMahon in her Request for Decision.

“Staff is confident that the audit team as proposed by BDO will be a valuable resource to assist with the ongoing implementation and monitoring of our internal financial controls.”

However, councillors were not satisfied with staff’s recommendation.

GPI previously audited the City’s finances and Councillors Phil Iddon and Morgan Pulsifer questioned why the City would award the contract to a Cranbrook company when GPI’s performance has been satisfactory.

“I don’t know why you’d repay loyalty by exporting it out of the community,” said Iddon.

When asked, Chief Administrative Officer Norm McInnis explained that council was not obligated to award the contract based on the scoring.

There was more discussion about the scoring system and whether being a local firm should carry more weight when considering proposals.

Mayor Ange Qualizza cautioned councillors against overriding staff’s recommendation.

She said she trusted staff and the Request for Proposal process, and therefore supported BDO’s appointment.

Qualizza was overruled however, with the vote going 4-2 in GPI’s favour.

Councillors Iddon, Pulsifer, Kevin McIsaac and Yvonne Prest voted for GPI, while Councillor Kyle Hamilton sided with Qualizza.

Other City of Fernie news

Windrow snow removal

The City of Fernie has amended its snow removal policy to clarify windrow clearing limitations and prevent snow being moved from one property to another.

A windrow is the pile of snow that is left at the bottom of a driveway after the snow plow has cleared the road.

In Fernie, residents who are 65 years or over and persons with disabilities are eligible for windrow removal assistance. According to City documents, 300 residents benefit from this policy.

Under the changes adopted at the December 10 regular meeting, the width of the windrow cleared will be limited to two vehicle widths. Typical vehicle width is two metres therefore maximum windrow cleared will be four metres (13 feet) long. If the property has multiple driveways, only one will be cleared.

The City will also avoid dumping cleared windrow snow from one property to another. The width of the windrow cleared may be reduced to accommodate this.

For more information, visit Fernie.ca.

Church redevelopment

The Trinity Lutheran Church has been awarded heritage protection amid plans to transform it into a family home.

At the December 10 regular meeting, a public hearing was held for bylaw amendments relating to the redevelopment of the 4th Ave property into a single-family unit. These included changes to the Official Community Plan and a Heritage Revitalization Agreement.

The City’s Manager of Planning Patrick Sorfleet described the HRA as a “one stop shop” that will preserve the heritage values of the previously unprotected building, while allowing changes such as land use. He said the HRA currently protects the building’s exterior and could be as prescriptive as the deciding authority wants it to be.

The applicant attended the public hearing with his family, reading from a letter he had written to a concerned resident.

It explained the applicant and his wife have a background in construction, and jumped at the chance to buy and renovate the church after falling in love with the neighbourhood.

The applicant expressed his eagerness to breathe new life into the church, while retaining its heritage values.

The project has the support of the Trinity Lutheran Church and received the stamp of approval from council.

New meeting schedule adopted

The Committee of the Whole (COTW) will only meet once a month in 2019 to ease the burden on City staff and make meetings more accessible to the public.

Previously, COTW meetings have been held on the second and fourth Monday of the month at 10 a.m.

At the December 10 regular meeting, council agreed to reduce meetings to once a month and move them to the third Monday of each month at 1 p.m. City staff told councillors this would make the COTW more efficient and meetings less onerous on staff, and more accessible to the public.

Council also agreed to cancel regular meetings on July 22 and September 23 to accommodate the summer break and 2019 Union of British Columbia Municipalities Conference and Annual General Meeting.

The December 23 meeting was also cancelled as council historically only meets once during December.

The first regular meeting of 2019 will be held on January 14 at 7 p.m.

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