Scugog Council and senior staff attended a Strategic Planning session at Nestleton Waters Inn on January 17th - 18th, 2019. Previously, such meetings had been held in the Fire Hall Training Room, or in Council Chambers, with light refreshments and a sandwich platter for lunch. Senior staff with administrative and/or human resources experience previously acted as session leads, rather than contracted professional facilitators, as was the case this time, thereby minimizing any costs to the taxpayer.
These sessions are meant to be a high-level overview where the new Council’s vision and goals are set for their term. It was clear the public had not been expected to attend, nor were the local press in attendance.
Nestleton Waters Inn is a successful wedding and meeting venue currently operating under a Temporary Use Zoning By-law, which will expire in 2020. The charge for rental of the main floor of the estate is $500 per day, plus meals.
Durham Region Council held a similar planning meeting at the Inn in 2015, when Bobbie Drew was on the Strategic Planning Steering Committee. The budget for that one-day meeting was reported as being $2000. Scugog’s costs have not yet been revealed.
The owner of the Inn is now the Scugog Ward 4 Councillor. When asked on January 17th who was funding the Scugog planning meetings, she replied that she didn’t know.
Councillors must disclose any pecuniary interests, and are expected to perform their duties in a manner that promotes public confidence and that will bear close public scrutiny.
Spending taxpayers’ dollars on a self-indulgent “retreat” for seven Council members and over a dozen senior staff cannot be justified. Strategic planning kits and even a “Dummies” book are available for about $30.
The cost and the chosen venue for January’s meetings represented poor judgement.
Ray Smith, Port Perry
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