City releases AMSQ documents

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The City of Airdrie released the last four years of minutes, agendas and financial statements for Airdrie Main Street Square (AMSQ) Nov. 14, posting the documents on thesquareairdrie.com

Mayor Peter Brown, who chairs the AMSQ Board, said he was “glad” the documents had been posted.

“We have nothing to hide. Everything is on there for the last four years,” Brown said. “I’m glad that they did that because it shows the work that we did and the work we do every year on the board – the basics of the board and ensuring all the critical infrastructure is kept up, the budgeting and all that. I’m just happy that it’s out there.”

At its Oct. 17 meeting, City council approved a motion to direct staff to release the documents, as well as a report compiled by Ernst & Young Orenda Corporate Finance Inc. for the proposed redevelopment of a part of downtown including City Hall, the library and retail space.

The Ernst & Young report has yet to be released.

Plans for a major redevelopment of Airdrie’s downtown, known as The Square, were halted after significant public outcry about the way the project was announced and how the AMSQ board functioned. Questions arose about the cost of the project, possible conflict of interest because the AMSQ board was comprised of all members of City council plus the city manager and director of finance, and the lack of public consultation on the proposed project.

Council voted Oct. 3 to move all decisions regarding The Square to the purview of council. On Nov. 7 council voted to not approve the projected capital budget of $52.7 million, despite assurances from Brown and City Manager Paul Schulz the funding was not part of the current 2017 budget deliberations.

Marnie Marr, a founder of the Airdrie Engaged Facebook group, had asked to have the documents released to the public, going so far as to lodge a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) request. As a result of council’s Oct. 17 decision, Marr agreed to drop her FOIP request for those documents.

Marr said she was “very glad” the documents had been released.

“It’s a great step towards transparency of AMSQ. I’ve only spent a few hours going over it so far but I think there is a lot of good information that has been released. I’m looking forward to reading the E& Y report soon.”

The request required City staff going through the documents and redacting any proprietary information, a process which took many hours, according to Manager of Legislative Services and Corporate Communications Sharon Pollyck.

Pollyck said staff would be bringing a report back to council regarding the total number of hours and cost to taxpayers to complete the request.

“We still have some documents to release and some questions to answer,” she said in an email to Airdrie City View. “The funds we can collect under FOIP legislation are only a fraction of the actual cost, but they do help to offset some of the costs.”

One issue stirring up some controversy as a result of the release of the documents is a motion made and approved at the Dec. 21, 2015 AMSQ board meeting to not approve the payment of a dividend of $550,000 from AMSQ to the City of Airdrie for 2015.

According to Director of Corporate Services Lucy Wiwcharuk, paying a dividend to the City is not mandatory.

“Annually, prior to a fiscal year end, a for-profit corporation reviews its financial position and determines both the operational funds required and whether dividends can be paid out to shareholders,” she said in an email to Airdrie City View. “Accumulated equity helps ensure that assets used to produce income are kept up to date, life cycled or refurbished.

“Over the last two years, AMSQ had been contemplating redevelopment of its real estate. The (Civic Centre) master plan laid out the vision and potential staging. The decision not to declare dividends for 2015 allowed more cash to remain in AMSQ Corporation to assist with potential redevelopment plans.”

Wiwcharuk said it was important to remember that, “regardless of where the dividend money sits, it is part of the City’s equity and will be used to deliver value for Airdrie citizens.”

More of the requested documents will be posted to the website as staff complete the review and redaction process.

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