Municipality of North Cowichan councillors voted last month to move forward with a process that could see the municipality and the City of Duncan amalgamate.
But the costs of the process, which staff estimate could be up to $145,000, with the vast majority made up of consultant fees, was questioned at the May council meeting by Coun. Rob Douglas.
Douglas said consultant fees for the citizen’s assembly that is taking a major role in the process and projected to be as high as $75,000, and consultant fees to assist with the amalgamation study, estimated to be approximately $60,000, are too high.
The plan is for the costs of the process to be split three ways between the two municipalities and the province.
But Coun. Al Siebring said the main reason for the consultants is to give credibility to the process.
“We’re trying to make this process as independent as possible and keep it as far away from staff and politicians as we can,” Siebring said.
“As we get this ball rolling, it’s wise for this process to be as transparent and independent of government interference as possible, and that’s why there is a need for the consultants.”
Coun. Maeve Maguire added that it’s important for people to have confidence that the “best process” was used when they are eventually asked to vote on amalgamation.
Councillors also voted to have its staff work collaboratively with two councillors from each municipality to draft a process for conducting an amalgamation study.
The study will be done along with the citizen’s assembly that will make a recommendation to both councils on amalgamation, with the aim to complete the entire process within the current term of the councils.
Council also voted to direct staff to send a joint request to the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development for a restructure study grant of one-third of the cost of the amalgamation study and citizen’s assembly.