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LETTER: Open Letter to Grand Forks Mayor Frank Konrad and GF City Council

To Mayor and Council of the City of Grand Forks,

I write you today as a concerned citizen of this amazing City. I am compelled to write to you about some concerns I and many other citizens have arising from the Regular City Council meeting this past Monday January 12th, 2015.  I was unable to attend the meeting in person but was able to watch the live video feed of the meeting on GFTV.COM. Please allow me to explain my concern.

Let me preface my comments by stating that I am aware that our mayor and half of our council members are “rookies” when it comes to serving in local government. As such, I was under the assumption (and hope) that there would be a culture in Council Chambers of open mindedness and that mayor and Council would deal graciously with citizens and especially City staff. I know that we have a wealth of experience among the senior city staff and I would have assumed that mayor and council would be eager to build and maintain a good working relationship with employees so as to take full advantage of that experience and knowledge. Therefore I was disappointed by what I witnessed at the meeting on Monday night.

Specifically, during discussion around the acceptance of a letter from a citizen about the Residential Water Metering program, it was suggested by staff that Wayne Kopan, the City’s Manager of Environmental and Building Construction Services (a portfolio which includes, to my knowledge, the role of Building Inspector), speak to the issue at hand. Mr. Kopan went on to explain the results of his research into the issue (the issue in question was whether using Certified Water Meter Installers instead of Licensed Plumbers was in compliance with the building code or not).

I’m sorry to say that at this point, Mayor Frank Konrad let down the citizens of Grand Forks. The manner and substance of his questioning of Mr. Kopan played more like a Crown Prosecutor questioning a hostile witness than a sitting mayor discussing a matter with a member of his own staff. Mr Kopan stated that he had spoken with Zachary May, a Codes Administrator with the BC Building Code Appeal Board. By all accounts, Mr. May should be seen as an excellent source for Mr. Kopan to cite in bringing valuable information to both council and the citizens of Grand Forks. I found this bio of Mr. May online:

Zachary May is a Codes Administrator with the Building and Safety Standards Branch. He has a background in residential construction and renovation with an emphasis on sustainable practices. In his role as a Codes Administrator, he works with a range of stakeholder groups to provide and support educational presentations related to the Building Code.

Source, http://waterbucket.ca/cfa/2013/10/06/changes-bc-plumbing-code-enable-rainwater-harvesting/

Mayor Konrad seemed unimpressed with Mr. May’s word and proceeded to, in my opinion, belittle both Mr. Kopan and then Councillor Thompson when she offered thoughts on the matter. Incredibly, Mayor Konrad also took it upon himself to declare that “the installations are null and void, they’re illegal.” At one point, Mr. Konrad even appeared to be accepting and receiving text messages rather than paying attention to the discussion at hand.

Needless to say I am disappointed by this performance. In my opinion, a leader is cautious before making pronouncements and treats those he is supposed to be leading with dignity and respect, not ridicule and scorn. It is my hope that we will look back on this incident as an example of a person making an error in judgement due to inexperience. I and many like me are prepared to offer this council our support as citizens over the next four years as they learn and grow into their roles.

Regardless, I know that the citizens of Grand Forks will be watching with interest.

Sincerely,

Ian Mitchell

Grand Forks, BC