Council debate ends with $10,000 for Vernon Secondary School

After nearly 30 minutes of debate, Vernon council voted to give Vernon Secondary School $10,000 to buy a composting machine

There were some red faces over a green project Monday at Vernon council.

The bottom line is, after nearly 30 minutes of sometimes heated and frustrating debate, council voted to give Vernon Secondary School $10,000 to buy a composting machine for its new Go Green project.

VSS culinary arts teacher Sandi Slizak and acting principal Tony Dolinar made a presentation to council about the project, saying the thing they wanted most was a composting machine.

What led to the debate was Coun. Mary-Jo O’Keefe’s assertion that a financial request from the school for the machine be deferred two weeks, as per council policy, because the VSS administrators presented as a delegation to council.

“I’m very much in support of the project, but speaking to the policy, I really think its inappropriate for us not to live up to the policy,” said O’Keefe.

“It gives people the expectation that every time we have a delegation we will immediately make a decision, and that when we don’t it’s a controversial decision. It demeans our policy. I say we stick to it and deal with it at the next meeting.”

However, Coun. Juliette Cunningham pointed out that a recommendation by the city’s finance committee to deny the request was already on the council agenda.

“The finance committee dealt with it, they brought forward a recommendation, and it’s on our agenda. It’s not the same as a regular delegation,” said Cunningham.

“They requested $10,000, it went to finance committee. That’s a totally different issue than a delegation coming with a fresh new idea.

“We have a recommendation here to deny it.”

After more debate and motions withdrawn and defeated, council voted by a margin of 4-2 to not support the finance committee’s recommendation of denying the $10,000 request.

Couns. Bob Spiers and Catherine Lord voted against the motion. Coun. Brian Quiring declared a conflict of interest and did not take part in the discussions.

Spiers and Lord also voted to oppose giving VSS the one-time capital grant of $10,000, which the finance committee must now come up with.

“This is a fantastic project, I just don’t think right now is the time for us to support the start of this project,” said Lord.

“We don’t have a lot of money to throw around.”

Spiers thought the request should be more regional.

“This should be referred for a possible grant function out of the regional district,” said Spiers. “Then we can move from there if they don’t go along with it.”

Council also voted to support a motion made by Coun. Patrick Nicol to have the school district match the $10,000 grant.

Slizak explained the Go Green project is to help create a culture of sustainability at the school, and want to involve the community.

The project, which has nothing to do with the new VSS being built, will bring together staff, students and community members to create a sustainable learning environment where current course curriculum is blended with outdoor learning activities and education, said Slizak.

The four-part project will cost $132,000. The school’s Parent Advisory Committee has already committed $8,000.