ARICHAT: Two topics arose at Richmond Municipal Council’s latest monthly meeting regarding tighter restrictions on county-owned vehicles and the proper rate for councillors and staff to use when travelling in their own personal vehicles.

Council voted 3-2 in favour of a motion to allow individual councillors to access Global Positioning System (GPS) systems installed in the vehicles of municipal employees. District 4 councillor Gilbert Boucher introduced the motion to allow elected officials the opportunity to monitor the use of vehicles issued by the municipality for county business.

“A few years back, we had a number of complaints about our vehicles being all over the countryside where there were no water and sewer projects, people hauling wood with county vehicles, and gravel, and everything else for their own personal use,” Boucher commented.

“I spoke to one of the Public Works representatives six months ago, and asked them if they paid for themselves, and he said, ‘Yes, they did’… So I recommend that any councillor that wants them on his computer, that [GPS] program, should have access to it and police it themselves.”

While Isle Madame councillors James Goyetche and Alvin Martell suggested that Richmond County’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), and not individual councillors, should be responsible for such monitoring, Boucher held a different view.

“When you put very expensive equipment in our vehicles and you don’t get any reports in eight years on those vehicles, then there’s something wrong – staff is not doing their job,” Boucher charged.

Earlier in the same meeting, council also voted on a proposed amendment to the municipality’s official travel expense policy, which was designed to see municipal employees reimbursed with a per-kilometre rate that averages out the rates afforded to employees of the provincial and federal governments, to cover return travel from the employee’s regular place of work or their place of residence to the required destination.

However, the amendment was defeated 3-2 shortly after Goyetche pointed out that council’s policy committee and councillors themselves had agreed on the provincial rate.

“It was accepted at the policy committee, accepted by council, and now we’re trying to amend something that we just passed a month ago,” the veteran councillor recalled. “Are we going to keep amending policies that we have [already] established?”

Warden Brian Marchand responded that he would accept some of the responsibility for the confusion on the per-kilometre rate, noting that previous discussion on the same policy had centered mainly on meal expenses and the use of municipally-issued credit cards.

“I was the one that brought this forward, and maybe I should have thought about it more during the policy meetings, but it seemed the focus was more on meals and what we were going to do with meals,” Marchand told the May 23 council meeting.

“So I’ll take some of the blame for that – I don’t know how it slipped by me, but it did.”

In the end, Goyetche, Martell and Deputy Warden Jason MacLean voted against the amendment, with Marchand and Boucher supporting it.