Residents want campaign promises answered

By Joel Charron

It’s been just under five months since new council has taken office and residents are starting to call on council to make good on their campaign promises.

Take Stanley Couvillion for an example.

Couvillion lives on the Sixth Concession North, and according to him his rural concession has resembled more of a “washboard” than a road over recent years.

“This road is one of the main through fares coming off of Huron Line to Amherstburg. Our road is terrible,” said Couvillion.

Before elections, Couvillion said he talked to Mayor Wayne Hurst and Manager of Public Works Lou Zarlenga about repairing the Sixth Concession North.

“He told Mr. Zarlenga to take down my name and number and said they would check then call me to let me know what’s going on,” explained Couvillion.

The Amherstburg resident said that he was promised that the Sixth Concession would be repaired.

Couvillion said that he talked to Zarlenga last week and was notified that the Sixth Concession North will not be repaired.

“  It’s off the agenda all together,” said Couvillion. “I asked them why they spent all the money in town and not the rural areas. I’m getting frustrated because my taxes are getting near the $4,000 mark.”

That seems to be a common theme amongst residents. Improvements are being made within the town’s gateways, while the rural areas are being “forgotten.”

Deputy Mayor Ron Sutherland, who said during his campaign that he wanted to be a voice for the rural residents, said he is doing his best to fight for those residents.

“Every road in the County needs fixing,” explained Sutherland. “If we had a bucket full of money we would be able to fix them all, but this isn’t the case.’

Although the Sixth Concession North may not be on the board this year for repairs, Sutherland made a motion to have Third Concession North and the Ninth Concession South to be repaired.

“I know there are a lot of county roads out there that need repairing, but at least this is a start,” Sutherland said.

Sutherland added that he will be pushing to have the Sixth Concession North repaired as well, however he said that might have to wait until next year.

“I haven’t forgotten about the Sixth Concession North,” said Sutherland. “It may not get done this year, but we’ll get there.”

Councilor John Sutton said there isan upcoming strategic planning session, in which they will discuss the town’s need to come up with a rural road strategy. The meeting will be open to the public on Friday, April 18 at 8:30 a.m. at Town Hall.

“Now is the time to make those rural roads a priority and come up with a plan of how we are going to address them,” said Sutton.

In the aftermath of the Ombudsman report on the way council handled returning Jim Massen’s donation, residents are still saying that there are too many closed door meetings.

“It seems like every time you look council is meeting behind closed doors,” said resident Don Kennedy. “During elections everyone said there needs to be more transparency. Well where the heck is it.”

Both Sutton and Sutherland agree that this is one area that council could improve upon.

“I’m one who would like the public to have direct communication and access to everything council,” said Sutton.

Sutherland added that he has fielded plenty of phone calls regarding closed-door meetings.

However, there may be a reason to recent close door meetings. Sutherland said because  Councilor Carolyn Davis, Councilor Bart DiPasquale and himself are new and Councilor Diane Pouget is back after a long absence, lot of those closed door meetings are to educate the new councilors on municipal procedures.

“You can only pick up so much from sitting and watching,” said Sutherland. “There has been a lot of education and training on what to do and how to do it.”

Sutherland said council is endeavoring to bring issues forward to the public’s eye as they occur rather than later, however he also added that in-camera meetings will never go completely out the window.

In the case of the Ombudsman’s report, Sutton said council did make an error and understands that council should not have voted to return the donation in an in-camera meeting.

“What we really should have done was waited until the next public meeting and voted on it then,” said Sutton. “In my opinion, we were all in an emotionally charged situation and we wanted to let the public know as soon as possible how we were going to rectify the situation.”

With more than three and a half years still left on this council term Sutherland said it may be too early for campaign promises to be met.

“It is going to take time.  I don’t want to use that as an excuse, but it’s true,” said Sutherland. “Things will get better, it will just have to take a little more time.”

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