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Ombudsman gives Dunnottar passing grade 0

Marc Zienkiewicz

The Village of Dunnottar may have taken a lot of heat from angry taxpayers in recent months, but as far as the Manitoba Ombudsman is concerned, they're doing just fine.

On Aug. 8, the Ombudsman released its report on the Village of Dunnottar's handling of the process surrounding the low pressure sewer proposal put forward by the Village council - a process that recently ended after taxpayers voted the plan down in a recent referendum.

According to Ombudsman investigator Sarah Hill, more than 20 taxpayers have contacted the Ombudsman's office with concerns about the process surrounding the proposed local improvement plan, by-law and referendum.

After four months of investigating, the report says the Village did not in any way act illegally or unfairly - accusations of which were hurled at the Village council numerous times over the past several months as controversy over the plan raged on.

The six-page report lists several concerns brought forward by taxpayers, including concerns about whether the village provided ratepayers with adequate information about the plan and questions about why Dillon Consulting's preliminary design study for the sewer proposal was not tendered.

In both instances, the Ombudsman found the Village acted within provincial law and according to process.

The Ombudsman found no issue with the Village's senior election official writing a letter to the editor back in January expressing support for the sewer proposal.

"As Council did not vote to hold a referendum on the sewer proposal until May 25, 2012, it appears that the Senior Election Official could not have known that there would be a referendum on the issue at the time he wrote his letter to the editor," Hill states.

"While the Senior Election Official's letter expressed his opinion as a potential taxpayer on the sewer proposal, after interviewing him, our office is satisfied that there is no evidence which would suggest that he did not act impartially in discharging his duties as Senior Election Official."

The report does note that the Village could have better handled the cancellation of a public hearing scheduled for June 2.

"(G)iven the high attendance at previous information meetings on the proposal and the number of potential taxpayers who reside outside of the Village, it would have been preferable for the Village to have had a representative on hand to greet the people who did show up and were undoubtedly frustrated to find that the public hearing had been postponed," Hill states.

The full report will be available soon at www.ombudsman.mb.ca and can also be obtained through the Village of Dunnottar office.

marc.zienkiewicz@sunmedia.ca


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