Discussion concerning possible changes to the Indemnity By-Law dominated a light agenda for the Town of Virden Council’s first regular meeting of 2023 on Jan. 10. The by-law spells out compensation for Virden’s elected officials and provides for an increase of 2.5% or the consumer price index, whichever is greater. According to Mayor Tina Williams, the aim of the by-law is to deal with the matter consistently and not have finances be a disincentive to serving on council.
“Every year, we were coming back and starting the discussion from scratch on what councillor pay should be,” she said. “It’s always a discussion between ‘You don’t want people being a councillor for the money, but you don’t want someone who wants to be a councillor and can’t because they can’t afford the time, the babysitters and all that kind of stuff.’”
As it stands now, unless the current by-law is repealed council’s pay would be bumped up by 6.9%, which was the consumer price index at the time of the civic election last October.
While several councillors thought a cost of living increase in general was warranted, they stopped short of accepting one of that magnitude in the current economic climate.
“There should be a cost of living (increase),” said Coun. Bruce Dunning. “My preference is cost of living regardless of what other people are getting. Some people are getting way more and others way less. That’s just a consistent figure.”
“I can’t justify to the ratepayers a raise of 6.9% when most people are getting one, two, two and a half (percent),” said Deputy Mayor Marc Savy.
Coun. Jessie Cruickshank, meanwhile, supported a cost of living increase, but based on an average over the twelve months of 2022 rather than a lump sum percentage.
“I wouldn’t feel right about taking 6.9 (percent), but the average over 2022 was 4. That would maybe be a good balance, instead of the October (amount),” she said.
Williams noted that Council decided not to increase their remuneration at all during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A motion to table a decision on the matter was passed, which will allow time for Chief Administrative Officer Rhonda Stewart to investigate what other similar sized municipalities are paying their elected officials.
Sgt. Helen Goodman, who transferred to Virden from Northern Manitoba in late 2022, presented the policing report for October and November. In staffing matters, she advised Council that the newly hired Detachment Services Assistant, a municipally funded position, has completed the security clearance process and will be commencing work on Jan. 23. Cpl. Kevin Bruce, who compiles the RCMP Report for the Virden Empire-Advance, is in the process of transferring out. His replacement is Cpl. Ed Giannico, who has previously been stationed in Virden. Also in her report, Sgt. Goodman highlighted the Family Violence Initiative Fund and Criminal Property Forfeiture Fund, for which applications are accepted and submitted by the RCMP on a municipality’s behalf.
Councillors and Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Rhonda Stewart will be attending the Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) Spring Conference in Winnipeg on April 4 and 5. On April 3, CAO Stewart and Mayor Tina Williams will also be taking part in the annual Mayors, Reeves and CAOs meeting.
Council will send representation to the Community Builder Mixer being hosted by the Border Regional Library, Virden Legion Branch No. 8, the Town of Virden and the R.M. of Wallace-Woodworth at the Virden Legion on Jan. 13.
A motion was passed authorizing Councillors to attend the Oak Lake Mutual Aid District Firefighter Cancer Awareness Presentation at the Virden Aud Theatre on Feb. 2. The presentation is geared toward municipal officials, members of the fire service and their families.
The Town of Virden will host a meeting of the Western Caucus, chaired by Boissevain-Morton Head of Council Judy Swanson, at Tundra Oil & Gas Place on Feb. 3.
During the committee reports, Coun. Lynette Grumpelt, who represents Council on the Virden Auditorium Theatre Board, reported that the board is investigating whether there would be any historical issues involved in their current project to repair or replace the theatre’s seating. Grumpelt commented that the board is eager to obtain more feedback from the community regarding the plan, and urged people to complete the online survey and share it with their network. She and Coun. Tara Cowan thought it was important for the survey to be representative of the users of the theatre and where they come from.
“It’s a Virden landmark and a Virden building, but it is used by a large population,” she said.