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HomeNewsQuesnel City Council reneges on commitment to send Steam Shovel back to...

Quesnel City Council reneges on commitment to send Steam Shovel back to Likely

Quesnel City Council, after a lengthy and spirited debate, has reversed its decision to relocate the Steam Shovel in Likely.

The decision was made at a special council meeting on Tuesday (May 16) night.

Mayor Ron Paull said he ordered a pause in the moving in view of new information that had come forward.

“The word repatriate implies that the item or items being returned were taken without consent or permission of the owner.  In fact it has been said that the steam shovel was spirited away from Likely without permission of consent, and I have even heard the rumour that it was stolen.  Our research reveals otherwise.  Likely was not even the former owner of the Steam Shovel as it was sold to the City of Quesnel by the provincial government for the sum of 1 dollar.  Our research has revealed that there was mutual consultation and agreement from members of both communities in gathering up the steam shovel and moving them from Likely, the Bullion pit, to Quesnel.”

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The relocation was halted on the day that the equipment was supposed to move.

Some on Council, including Councillor Laurey-Anne Roodenburg, questioned the process.

“We keep talking about process with this Council and the Mayor doesn’t have the end power to make something stop without coming to Council.  When I heard that you asked for the work to stop on the project, Council knew nothing about that.”

Councillor Scott Elliott expressed a similar sentiment.

“I am very disappointed that it was you that went down there and had the conversation to stop the project when it was a Council decision and it was unanimous.  I think it doesn’t put Council in a good light if one member of Council can move forward and stop any project that we voted on more than a year ago, and staff has to stop everything.”

The vote was just 4-3 in favour of reversing the decision.

Councillor Mitch Vik was one of those who changed his mind.

“Certainly in our public discussions the designation of this piece of equipment in terms of where it came from, how it got here in the first place, wasn’t definitively laid out but certainly informally it was intimated that how that shovel ended up here may not have been above board.  So the question in my mind is does the decision that was made back in May 2022, can it stand based on some pre-dispositions I may have had in that vote.”

Vik said that he was struggling with that and the commitment they made to another community to transfer that piece of equipment to them.

Councillor Debra McKelvie noted that for her the decision was personal.

“My family has been very involved in the reconstruction of that steam shovel.  They brought it here and spent years putting it back together.  It is an incredible piece of machinery and it is a draw for tourists to look at.  The fact that it is going to back to Likely out to the Bullion Pit where it could possibly be vandalized because it is in an area where it is not supervised is a real shame, so I would implore that you think very carefully because that was a gift to the city, and I think it’s important that we keep it in our own area.”

Councillor Martin Runge was also in favour of keeping in the Quesnel area.

“With due respect to the Mayor because I think he does have a prerogative to move some of his items forward, and I don’t think we have all the information all the time.  I am willing to revisit this.  I know it makes us look horrible relative to Likely but we also didn’t get a lot of information last year.  As a Council I think we have a right to say look, I hope this isn’t a normal thing for all our future ways of looking at things, but we should have the right to say hey there is a lot of pushback here, we didn’t necessarily have all the information on when we made our original decisions, maybe it is OK to just pause for a little while and see what happens.”

Elliott, Roodenburg and Tony Goulet were all opposed and it was Mayor Paull who broke the tie.

Goulet questioned why it took so long to bring this new information forward.

“I look at the timeline of May 10th, 2022, one year in May.  And during this year this information hasn’t come to us at a Council meeting which makes you wonder, and with this being a unanimous decision.  I think when it was explained I think it was a piece of Likely history is how I read that back when that decision was made, that it did belong to Likely and it came across as that.  We had a whole year and we should have been having some type of discussion but here we are trying to change a decision last minute.”

The steam shovel will now be moved to a temporary location, pending a staff report outlining options for a new permanent location in the Quesnel area.

Several questions remain unanswered however, including will a grant the city was expecting to receive for the move to Likely still be valid or will local taxpayers have to now foot the bill for the move or moves, and will the City be liable for any money that has been spent on the other end if Likely has done any of the prep work to receive it.

The steam shovel is being relocated from Lhtako Dene Park to make room for some of the changes that are happening in that area.

 

 

 

 

 

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