On July 23, Langley Township council made a surprise and secret decision to spend a whopping $7.25 million of Township taxpayers' money to expand the Langley Events Centre (LEC).
The decision was made outside of the approved Langley Township budget. It was never budgeted or planned in either the 2012 Budget Bylaw or the five-year Township financial plan as required by provincial legislation.
Council's decision to spend this unbudgeted $7.25 million is equivalent to a 10 per cent increase in local taxes.
No Township taxpayer knew that council made this multi-million dollar decision, nor did the taxpayers authorize it in any way. Even I was surprised to see this on the July 23, 2012, council "in camera" agenda, since the project had been tendered and Council was asked then 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 [Events centre gets bigger, Sept. 4, Langley Advance].
No Council member was able to say anything about the expansion, because the whole matter was behind closed doors until now.
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 council used to reach this decision stinks.
There was no public input ever on this project, or on spending this money. Township taxpayers are footing 100 per cent of this $7.25 million. There are no new financial partners, regardless of what was said in recent press releases.
The project was tendered without council approval. Approval was only given after the tender was presented to council. So when did this LEC expansion become such a high priority of this council, and why?
How can $7.25 million be spent in one year when it has not been included in the publicly approved budget and 5-year strategic financial plan? How can the monies be spent before the next budget is even approved?
Why is Council selling off so much of 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, when the majority of public land sales are probably going to end up financing the Willoughby LEC project, not the Aldergrove pool project?
Why does the Willoughby project get to queue-jump the Aldergrove project? The Aldergrove pool project has been on the books for more than 10 years, while this LEC 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 simply does not meet the "smell test."
Kim Richter, Township councillor