Penhold opens books to review

The Town of Penhold is opening its books to scrutiny as part of a provincial inspection.

The Town of Penhold is opening its books to scrutiny as part of a provincial inspection.

Council requested a review last fall after residents complained about a 4.75 per cent tax increase and hundreds signed a petition calling on the province to take a look at town operations.

Consultants have already been in to talk to town staff and council and will be meeting with local residents.

Mayor Dennis Cooper was interviewed last month by an inspector and welcomes the process.

“I’m looking forward to seeing this review come through because this is going to tell us things were doing right, tell us things we should improve on,” Cooper said.

“It’s always a good idea to have someone else take a look at what you’re doing and give an opinion on it.”

Cooper said every community that has gone through a similar process has been better for it. Recommendations from the inspection will be compiled in a report expected to be done in the early summer.

Council will share results with the public.

Some of the local unrest stems from the need to fund services in a growing community at a time when people were weathering a recession, believes Cooper.

“When it came to the taxes, it got a lot of people very upset and concerned, and I respect that,” he said.

“We’re growing and with that growth there is a cost attached to it.”

A similar inspection was done in Donalda in 2011. It was ordered after residents in the tiny community signed a petition asking for an inquiry — a higher level of review — because of a lack of confidence in administration.

That inspection found the community of 230 had been mismanaged for a decade and eight directives were ordered to fix shortcomings.

Under the Municipal Government Act, if an inspection leads the minister to believe the municipality is managed in an “irregular, improper or improvident manner” the minister can order changes in operation.

If that doesn’t happen, the minister can dismiss members of council or the chief administrative officer.

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