By Adam Eisenbarth
A flurry of accusations has been directed at Rimbey Mayor Dale Barr in the last several weeks through letters to the editor of the Rimbey Review.
Barr has held the position since 1998 but in the last several weeks, residents have been sounding off with a variety of topics; from a broken down vintage truck, to the mayor’s wages and whether being the mayor of Rimbey should be a full-time position.
After reading the flow of letters, Barr wants to clear up the issues.
“There certainly seems to be a letter-writing campaign, obviously pre-election, to try and derail myself and council.”
Barr feels letter writers need to re-evaluate their process in confronting issues.
“Surprisingly most people who write letters to the editor about the town or council have not even tried to get in contact with myself or the town office to find out the facts before they write their opinion.”
It all started with a July 27 letter to the editor, calling into question the choice in furnisher for the Rimbey Ambulance Station.
The letter, submitted by EMT Brent Camplin, stated that while Sears would have provided a cheaper alternative, Home Furniture, owned by the mayor, was selected instead.
It has since been pointed out by former town manager Russ Wardrope and Barr that the process had nothing to do with the mayor at all, and Home Furniture was selected according to the town’s policy.
“I was not involved in any of the decision-making process. I am proud to say council’s direction was to use as many local businesses as possible to build and complete the ambulance building, as with all purchasing.”
But this story has a twist. Rumours have swirled regarding the dismissal of Camplin and while neither Camplin nor Barr would confirm or deny that, Barr did have this to say: “That’s a personnel issue and I’m not involved in personnel or purchasing issues. That’s something the EMS manager and administration are dealing with. Council’s position is not to get involved in day-to-day activities with employees.”
Camplin’s letter was followed by Jim Moore, who wondered where a vintage truck had gone. After the mayor travelled to Chicoutimi, Que., the town purchased the 1934 International truck and intended to show it off in parades each summer. It hasn’t been seen.
“The project turned out to take longer than expected and we are working with Action Autobody and Ber Automotive and Machine to complete the work needed.”
An update is being prepared for the Rimbey website and will be posted soon. Barr is hoping the truck will be completed this fall “and certainly ready for 2011.”
The truck was purchased for $16,500, more than $9,000 less than the original asking price. The trip to Chicoutimi, on which Barr was joined by Carey Anderson of Action Autobody, cost $3,700 and restoration costs have come so far total about $16,000; $20,000 has been budgeted to complete the project.
“We need to recognize that (the town) has been looking for a ’35 International truck since 2004. These trucks are very, very hard to find.”
Barr admits the plan was to have the truck ready in 2008, but there were unforeseen problems when the truck was inspected.
“We were very disappointed that we couldn’t get it out that year and that lead into the unfolding of the work that needed to be done on the truck.”
The concerns haven’t stop there. On Aug. 10, another letter was submitted by Loretta Matthews, who was shocked to see that the mayor had upgraded his position to a full-time job — without the approval of council or Rimbey residents.
The suggestion was made in the “Talk of the Town” newsletter that the mayor’s position is a full-time job. While he maintains that he puts in a great deal of time, Barr has confirmed that his position is not full-time.
“The mayor’s position has not been declared by council to be a full-time position.”
Another letter to the editor outlined the mayor’s salary as compared to other communities. The chart showed that Barr earned much more than the mayors of other communities, such as Rocky Mountain House, Ponoka, Sylvan Lake, but Barr says comparisons from community to community are not valuable.
“The definition of the job in Ponoka and Sylvan is significantly different than the definition of the job here.”
He also pointed out that councils in other municipalities have secretaries working for the mayor and an economic development officer who could be making more than $100,000 per year. Barr concluded that it’s just not fair to compare his salary to that of mayors in other municipalities.
“It’s not only unfair, I think if you talk to the other mayors who know me, they would clarify it very clearly because they know my activities. I work very hard for this town.”
At the August town council meeting, Coun. Dave Karroll presented a document proposing a number of policies to improve the transparency of council.
Council will discuss these issues at their regular meeting on Sept. 14.