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Editorial: Confusion reigns as Yorkton Council sells library without warning

Well on this one the window of transparency was badly muddied over, and that should worry even those supportive of the sale.
Yorkton public library
The way the public learned of the sale of the Yorkton Punic Library building raises questions. File Photo)

YORKTON - Right about now if you are one of the people who felt the Yorkton Public Library should have stayed in its current location you are at the very least feeling disappointed, and some no doubt feel outright betrayal.

Certainly the process as it unfolded was at best mishandled.

When the offer was made Council took the matter in-camera, which is the norm when discussing property matters where public debate might influence offers in a variety of ways.

According to City Manager Lonnie Kaal the offer was accepted April 24, and that was it. The decision was to accept the offer. The downtown building would be sold, and the city would backfill a space now empty at the Gallagher Centre.

It was at that point a pretty straight forward process.

But, the waters around this decision would soon be a muddy quagmire.

A single offer is not always an assurance of a good price – something that has been noted by this Council when a single tender is received.

So the city ran a Public Notice and suddenly citizens realized the library was up for sale – or so they thought.

The Public Notice was after the deal was done, and was only the city shaking the tree to see if they could get a better offer. Kaal explained with a better offer the city could have rejected the initial deal and went for the better one, but without likely huge compensation could not walk away from the initial deal agreed to in April.

The Public Notice wasn’t exactly detailed in that limitation, and a full council chamber greeted the May 15 meeting.

Now here things get a bit confusing because it ended up a tad smokey in terms of process.

Council allowed people to speak against the sale based on the Pubic Notice which was never about allowing input into whether the building should be sold. That decision was already made.

So more than 20 Yorkton citizens spoke, many with a great deal of passion – extolling Council not to sell the building.

Council sat and listened knowing the deal was already done. Citizens thought they were having a say, that they could make a difference – but it was already too late.

And it gets worse, Mayor Mitch Hippsley suggested they had heard the concerns and assured the final decision was still to be made – expected at the June 5 meeting of Council.

Since the May 15 meeting people have been vocal online, with petitions, with calls to Council believing they were making a difference.

Not according to Kaal, though who repeatedly told Yorkton This Week it was a done deal dating back to April 24.

It is simply put a horrible way to treat citizens. Someone May 15, the mayor, the councillor with experience as a former mayor, the president of SUMA who sits on Council, the long-serving director of finance, needed to have told those in attendance thanks for showing concern, but we made the deal already.

They didn’t, and that is messy at best, and made worse by an edition of Council often talking about the need for greater transparency.

Well on this one the window of transparency was badly muddied over, and that should worry even those supportive of the sale.