UPPER NAPPAN – Municipality of Cumberland County has been left scratching its head regarding the behaviour of the Joggins Fossil Institute Association Board.
“We’re at a loss and don’t understand why they don’t sign the lease agreement,” said Rennie Bugley, Cumberland County CAO.
Bugley discussed the lease agreement and the funding agreement between the county and the JFI during last weeks meeting of council.
“They’ve indicate they’re not willing to sign that lease agreement, and they’ve gone to the extent to where they’ve suggested the county should be willing to consider divesting itself of the ownership of that facility,” said Bugley. “The lease agreement is a standard, legal lease agreement which intends to protect the rights and benefits of both the parties. We’re at a loss to understand why they’ve taken that position and not provided any details with respect to the funding agreement.”
County funding to the JFI is dependent of the signing of the lease agreement.
“They provided an invoice to us in the amount of (approximately) $77,000, which we really don’t understand,” said Bugley. “We’ve indicated to them that, should they sign the lease agreement, should they be willing to enter a multi-year funding agreement based on financial need, we would certainly be willing to pay the amount of $55,000 for last year and the current year.”
The multi-year funding agreement is intended to ensure the county provides funding to the Joggins Fossil Institute on a financial-need basis but also to establish accountability regarding ongoing funding.
“For example, we require financial statements, budgets and sustainability plans,” said Bugley.
There is a joint committee between JFI board members, and two county councillors, deputy warden Don Smith and District 9 councillor Mike McLellan, sit on the board.
“Council can ask for a meeting of the joint committee or council can ask for a full meeting comprised of the entire council with the JFI board,” said Bugley.
Warden Keith Hunter agreed, and said a meeting should be set up with the JFI board.
“We’ve been trying to communicate with them, and I’ve been trying to communicate directly with the chair of the board but I’m getting no responses,” said Hunter. “We’ll try to set that up and if that doesn’t happen then maybe we’ll have to get an (third-party) intervener.”
Hunter put a motion to the floor to schedule a meeting with the JFI, and council passed the motion.
“If they can’t come, or if they refuse to come, then maybe we should look at cutting off financial funding,” said Lynne Welton, councillor for District 5. “We’ve been after them and have had a terrible time getting financial accountability from them.”