Secretive spending at Events Centre smells

Langley Township council has spent $7.25 million behind closed doors on a project that is not in its budget or five-year financial plan.

Editor: On July 23, Langley Township council made a surprise and secret decision to spend a whopping $7.25 million of Township taxpayers’ money.

No Township taxpayer knew that Langley Township council made this multi-million dollar decision, nor did Langley Township taxpayers authorize it in any way, shape, or form. This financial decision was made outside of the approved Langley Township budget. It was never budgeted or planned for in either the 2012 budget bylaw or the five-year Township financial plan, and therein lies the problem.

On July 23, council decided to spend $7.25 million to expand the Langley Events Center (LEC) by adding a Phase I expansion, to be completed by March 2013. This decision was not included in the Township 2012 budget nor in the 2012-2016 long-term Township financial plan, as required by provincial legislation. In fact, this LEC expansion will be completed and the ribbon cut before the next Township budget is even approved.

The current council’s decision to spend this unbudgeted $7.25 million on expansion of the LEC is equivalent to a 10 per cent increase in local taxes. No one saw this coming, because it was not included in the budget or financial plan, both approved in May.

As a longtime councillor, even I was surprised to see this on the July 23 council “in camera” agenda, since the project had been tendered and council was asked to award the contract. Where did this new expansion priority suddenly come from?

Since then, the $7.25 million decision has been quietly and subtly marketed to the public without council authorization. I refer to The Times article “Events Centre set to expand,” (Sept. 4).

No council member was able to say anything about the expansion because the whole matter was behind closed doors until Monday, Sept. 10.

Expanding the LEC is not necessarily a bad idea, as development of our youth and sports tourism is very good for the future of Langley, but the process that Langley Township council used to reach this decision stinks.

The process stinks because:

1. There was no public input ever on this project or on spending this money.

2. Langley Township taxpayers are footing 100 per cent of this $7.25 million expense. There are no new “financial” partners, regardless of what was said in recent press releases.

3. The project was tendered without council approval. Council approval was only given after the tender was presented to council. So when did this LEC expansion become such a high priority, and why?

4. How can $7.25 million be spent in one year when it has not been included in the publicly approved budget and five-year strategic financial plan? How can the monies be spent before the next budget is even approved?

5. Why is council selling off so much of the Township’s land assets (like Glen Valley lands) while at the same time saying to local community groups in Glen Valley and Aldergrove that “you need to help us fundraise” to meet financial commitments for a new pool in Aldergrove. The majority of public land sales are probably going to end up financing the Willoughby LEC project, not the Aldergrove pool project.

6. Why does the Willoughby project get to queue-jump the Aldergrove project? The Aldergrove pool project has been on the books for over 10 years now while this Events Centre expansion came out of the blue. Where are the priorities? If we had all this extra money, why didn’t we fast-track the new pool in Aldergrove instead?

Something is very wrong here and needs to be fixed. What are the priorities? Who controls the priorities? As servants of the public, where is the ethical and transparent leadership? How did this happen? And who drove this secret agenda?

Such unbudgeted secret multi-million dollar expenditures should not be allowed to happen in any municipality without any public input or taxpayer scrutiny. Period.

In my opinion, what has happened here is highly unethical, if not illegal. It simply does not meet the “smell test.”

Councillor Kim Richter,

Township of Langley

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