By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Oct. 17, 2013
With 10.2 per cent tax increase, this wasn’t the best year to be a taxpayer in Squamish.
But it’s a different story if you were a consultant or a lawyer working for the district.
District of Squamish made out cheques over $600,000 to an array of consultants in 2012, the Statement of Financial Information (SOFI) reveals.
Add another $300,000 for payments made to lawyers and you are looking at a bill inching closer to the $1 million mark.
An analysis of district payouts for 2012 reveals the district paid $669,414 to consultants, seeking their advice and expertise on management, policy and engineering issues.
It’s important to note that this figure ($669,414) is gleaned from SOFI documents which provide the breakdown for only payments made over $25,000.
E. Lees & Associates Consulting Ltd from Vancouver walked away with $76,050 of taxpayers’ money for helping the district draft its Parks and Recreation Master Plan.
Taxpayers wrote a cheque worth $37, 419 to Cityspaces Consulting to prepare the Upper Mamquam Blind Channel land use study.
Gary Moser, a labour relations consultant, was paid $37,116 for his services, while Avantage Consulting walked away with $25,183 of taxpayers’ money for conducting a core service review for the district.
Another consultant, Vanessa Carrington of Wit + Sense Consulting was paid $32, 460 for her services. She helped the district with its building development application tools.
A redesign of the district website cost the taxpayers $67,200. The contract was awarded to Pound & Grain, a digital design studio based in Vancouver.
Meanwhile, Murdy & McAllister, a Vancouver-based law firm was paid $173,267 for its legal services, with another $71,860 went to Lidstone & Company Law Corporation.
With no credible information available, it’s only left to conjecture on what the SODC has spent on consultants all these years.
This much is known: More than 120 consultants were engaged by SODC for the Oceanfront.
Last April, in response to a FOI request by the Squamish Reporter, SODC demanded $4514.39 to provide answers for questions related to pay-outs for its 120 consultants.
Political commentator Helmut Manzl said the upsurge in consultant hiring implies that district staff are not competent enough to do their own research.
“It’s too easy to throw tax dollars at consultant reports,” he said.
“Unfortunately, too many reports start as flashes in the pan and end up collecting dust on shelves at muni hall.”
Coun. Patricia Heintzman said merely looking at the cost of consultants can’t provide a true understanding of the issue.
“For specific expertise we usually need to go beyond our staff, finding the balance is key,” she said.
She said the council evaluates how much it spends on consultants every year.
E. lees & Associates $76,050
Gary Moser consulting $37,116
Wit + Sense Consulting $32,460
Cityspaces Consulting $37, 419
CPMJ Consulting $27, 516