Coldstream politician defends expenses

Next to the mayor, Coldstream Coun. Maria Besso pocketed  the most pay in 2010.

Mayor Jim Garlick earned a total of $26,563 ($24,461 remuneration and $2,102 in expenses), while Besso followed close behind earning $19,355 ($15,996 remuneration and $3,359 in expenses).

Compare that to the lowest-paid politician, Coun. Pat Cochrane, who made $8,885 (he had no expenses).

Besso says she attends more meetings and conferences than other politicians.

“I’m probably the one who puts in for the most meeting pays,” said Besso, who frequents North Okanagan Regional District and Greater Vernon Advisory Committee meetings even though she is not on those boards.

“I go and watch because that way I know what’s going on.”

Politicians can claim $139 for each meeting attended which they are not already paid for.

Besso also had expenses from driving to conferences in Whistler and Sun Peaks.

The top staff earner for 2010 was Michael Stamhuis, chief administrative officer, with $131,137 ($124,914 remuneration and $6,223 in expenses).

Council awards contract

Even though taxpayer approval hasn’t been granted, Coldstream is spending $78,500 on a proposed public works yard upgrade.

An estimated $1.05 million borrowing referendum coincides with the November municipal election for construction of a new mechanics shop, restructuring of the Quonset and site grading of the works yard.

Prior to the referendum, Coldstream is going ahead and spending $78,500 (before HST) for 30 per cent design and construction estimate of the project. Wilf Lunde Architects Ltd. was the only company to submit a bid so it was awarded the contract.

The spending is defended as a necessary investment to give the public a better idea of what they are voting to borrow funds for.

“This will give us the tools to then present it to the public,” said Coun. Maria Besso, as the investment will provide a better cost estimate and an architectural drawing showing the different aspects.

“Then you really have an idea of what it’s going to look like.”

But she is cautious that the money could be spent for nothing.

“There is a risk that you do this 30 per cent work and the populations says no.”

There is also a possibility that Coldstream will go ahead with the project, despite what the public says. But the district would have to find alternative ways to fund it than borrowing the funds, and Besso notes that there isn’t much in the reserves to do so.



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