The verbal backlash toward Salmo Mayor Ann Henderson, four councillors and village staff has turned physical and Friday a notice was issued by the village to Salmo and area residents to help identify the perpetrators.
Vandalism to village property has increased and village staff has had tires slashed and “other events,” posing safety concerns and risk of injury, said the mayor.
Salmo RCMP have been called to the village hall numerous times in the last month to escort people off the site.
“I am tired of the abuse and the bullying,” explained Henderson.“All sorts of thoughts go through your head because we have all been verbally abused and threats have been made.”
The Salmo RCMP did not respond to questions from the Trail Times by press time.
The bitter confrontation from a group of residents towards the mayor began after council opted to tender out the village garbage contract earlier this year, according to Henderson’s timeline.
Council stands by its decision citing it a “cost-saving measure,” but the Salmo Garbage Services, a local business that held the contract for over 20 years, has dug in its heels to question the legality of the decision.
The process by which the tender was awarded (in camera) is the crux of the dispute, and has spawned a group of outspoken residents to attend each council.
For the fourth time in the last four meetings, council chambers became the backdrop Aug. 27, to insinuations of village impropriety and harsh words by gallery members, hurled directly at the mayor and council.
“For the last three meetings, I have had to start by reading off the expectation of decorum because things were starting to get bad,” said Mayor Henderson.
“But the abuse, accusations and bullying continues to escalate.”
Historically, rain or shine, half a dozen residents attend each Salmo council.
Time is allotted at the end of each meeting for public discussion pertaining to items on that night’s agenda.
Since July, the village hall has been packed to capacity with residents, many who use public time to voice complaints.
“I’ve been dealing with this for awhile,” said Henderson. “It’s like Tuesday night has become a social event and now they are suggesting a different venue to accommodate more people. This is our council chambers to conduct business. People are using the meetings to come and do all their complaining but we have other procedures in place to address those concerns.”
Although public time is meant for attendees to address agenda items, usually financial, last week’s topics veered off course to include queries about backyard roosters, dust at KP Park, the absence of bi-weekly gas receipts (village) and work ethics of the Salmo public works crew.
“What is currently happening is counterproductive to any type of progress,” said Coun. Jennifer Peel. “It has become an opportunity to abuse council and their actions, vent unnecessary criticism, demand responses to irrelevant questions and personally attack council. The implication that the things we talk about in camera are sinister and being “hidden” from the public is insulting.”
Being inundated with questions and not given time to answer, false accusations and profanity in council meetings is over the top of public discussion, said Coun. Janine Haughton.
“We live in a time of history in which the balance of our planet is in serious jeopardy,” said Haughton. “There are many projects close to home they can sink their teeth into rather than do their best to vilify
people who are working extremely hard to effect positive change.”
In three terms as mayor, Henderson has not experienced this degree of contemptuous behaviour but is determined to conduct village business with less adversity at council Sept. 10.
“My office is open for anyone who wants to come at a time convenient for both of us.” said Henderson.
“But the public time is strictly a courtesy and I feel it has been so abused I am cancelling it. The next meeting, there will be no public time.”