The staff-heavy Community Centre Fundraising Working Group drew the wrath of councillors at the Minden Hills committee-of-the-whole meeting Nov. 14.

Coun. Bob Carter raised the issue when the minutes of that working group were tabled. Carter wanted clarification as to who is actually on the committee.

CAO Lorrie Blanchard said that initially it was just her and director of community services, Mark Coleman. She said they were focused on preparing for the Nov. 26 open house at the arena construction site. She added they then brought on two additional senior staff.

Carter said he understood having senior staff involved with the arena project itself, but not what was supposed to be a community-led fundraising working group. He said he envisioned something such as the cultural centre foundation or the Haliburton Highlands Health Services Foundation.

He said other committees of council usually only have one staff member. “I don’t understand why we have four on this.”

By contrast, he said he sits on the housing task force and they only meet once a month with one designated staff person. “And now this takes precedence over housing … I don’t think we should have four staff involved in this group,” Carter said.

He added the township is already short of staff, causing committee delays, but “all of sudden, this comes along and you’re hauling staff into it.”

Coun. Jean Neville said she was concerned that a working group of four staff could influence the only three members of the general public, who should be making decisions on behalf of the community.

Deputy-mayor Lisa Schell agreed, saying “I want this fundraising working group to feel they’re doing something for the community.” She added more community input means more ideas for the $750,000 fundraising goal. She said she’d like a complete, stand-alone committee of community members. “I think council needs to step away from this.”

Blanchard said she didn’t disagree, but at the outset there was some difficulty getting community members together to meet and the Nov. 26 sneak-peek of the project was looming. She noted there had also been two resignations from the working group with the potential for a third.

This prompted Neville to ask, “Are we losing committee members because we look too top heavy here? We have to put out a call for new members. Decisions have to be made by the community.”

Coun. Jennifer Hughey agreed they should recruit more community members to make the initiative as it was first presented to council.

Carter brought it back to underlying financials. “If we’re using staff on this, it is part of the hidden costs [of the arena project]. This is real money. I know your decisions are affecting the housing task force and others. I strongly object. We’re using a valuable resource for some fundraising.

Coun. Pam Sayne said her climate change action committee is also chasing staff for support. She said the arena project “is sucking the rest of the life out of the community.”

Blanchard reiterated “there were no takers” in the community when they started planning next Tuesday’s sneak peek. She added there will be at least one more meeting involving staff and the actual event itself. “I’m open for any direction you have to give me now,” she said.

Councillors indicated the event should go ahead but be scaled back to ease the burden on staff time. They also said it would be a good opportunity to get the word out that more community members are needed.

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