Wood chips are auto-fed into a new wood-fuelled heating system for the Port Clements Multiplex in April 2016. The Village of Port Clements’ chief administrative officer recently resigned over a series of problems with village councillors, including a recent purchase order for wood pellets that did not meet village policy on seeking competing quotes or assigning village purchases to the village CAO or superintendent of public works. Mayor Urs Thomas has since promised to clear up the way council does business, in part by recording council meetings and repeating council motions before they’re voted on. (File photo/Haida Gwaii Observer)

Port Clements mayor promises clearer council procedures

Port Clements Mayor Urs Thomas says his council will clear up the way it handles village affairs.

For a start, Thomas said all council meetings will now be recorded by village staff, and each motion will be repeated to avoid confusion over exactly what councillors are voting for.

Thomas made the comments following Kim Mushynsky’s resignation as the village’s chief administrative officer after six years in the role.

In her Sept. 19 resignation letter, Mushynsky cited three years of increasingly poor attitude from councillors, as well as concern that she could be made liable for some “unethical and inappropriate” council decisions.

“I was kind of surprised,” Thomas said. “I didn’t know the history of what happened in the last three years.”

“The whole pellet thing was probably just what brought it to a boil.”

On Sept. 5, Port Clements councillors voted in favour of getting a quote for a year’s supply of wood pellets from Home Supplies Ltd., a distributor in Prince Rupert. The pellets are used to fuel the new biomass boiler that heats the Port Multiplex.

Thomas suggested the purchase, knowing the $12,020 price was a better deal than the village got from another off-island pellet company the year before.

While the original motion spoken at the council meeting said nothing about finding competing bids, it is village policy to get at least three written quotes for any purchase between $5,000 and $15,000. Furthermore, the CAO or public works superintendent is tasked with purchasing.

Thomas said he was aware of the council policy, but was under the impression that the village already had competing quotes on hand from its last purchase, in February or March.

Also, while Thomas did help the owner of Home Supplies Ltd. to prepare a written quote for the village, he said he knew the owner, Vince Amante, would need a written order from the CAO before Amante could could go ahead and send the pellets to Haida Gwaii.

But Amante jumped the gun, he said. Complicating matters was the fact there was a two-week window to save on freight costs for the pellets by piggybacking with another shipment coming to Haida Gwaii.

“By the time she phoned him on Monday, he must have ordered the pellets from Vanderhoof,” Thomas said.

“By then, the chaos was perfect.”

The pellet order has since been cancelled.

Thomas said he and the village council will announce other steps besides recording meetings and repeating motions to make council business go more smoothly.

The mayor added that his intention was always just to make sure Port Clements got the best price.

“I was just acting in the best interest of the village,” he said.

“Before we went to the biomass heat, we spent $50,000 a year for propane. So if that’s a year supply, with $12,000 we save the village a lot of money.”

Ideally, Thomas said he would prefer to see the village get its fuel supply from Haida Gwaii Forest Products, the mill in Port Clements, but its briquette operation isn’t ready yet.

“That’s our big hope, that the plant gets up and running and we’re able to burn our own wood waste.”

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