municipal election

Lavigne hopes voters will return him to council for a second term

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Jason Lavigne enjoyed his first term on council and wants to bring what he learned to another term.

Lavigne is the only incumbent councillor seeking a return to the position.

“I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of this council,” said Lavigne. “I enjoyed the experience of being involved with all aspects of the town.”

Lavigne said he is proud of what has been accomplished this term, stating the town has been placed in the right direction. He hopes voters will re-elect him for another four years.

“We’ve had a really positive council,” said Lavigne. “I think we changed the direction of the town’s image.”

One of the biggest accomplishments of the current council was securing a new public high school. He said obtaining that will allow future generations to be educated in Amherstburg.

“I think that was huge,” said Lavigne. “We spent a lot of time and effort on that.”

The purchase of the Duffy’s site was another accomplishment Lavigne touted. He predicted it will be a “catalyst” for the downtown core but acknowledged there are competing interests for the site, with some wanting a boat ramp and boat trailer parking while others want it to accommodate festivals.

“I think public consultation is of the highest importance,” he said. “We’re trying to get a balance of what the groups want.”

Lavigne believes there can be a compromise on the issue.

“I hope everyone can work together and not form different factions. It’s all of our property,” he said.

Plans that were originally drafted were “a good starting point” and it will be a tough decision for the next council.

Jason Lavigne is seeking re-election as a councillor in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

The relationship council forged with administration is something Lavigne is happy with.

“When we came in, there was a high turnover rate,” said Lavigne. “I think we have a very solid crew now.”

The town enacted the recommendations from the Deloitte report, he added.

Money is put into reserves across town departments and the town is switching to a “pay as you go” model.

Lavigne also referenced the Deloitte report when speaking of staffing. He said the report called for positions to be filled.

Other hires were with the objective to offset costs that were formally farmed out such as legal and engineering. He said there were other requested positions that he voted against publicly.

“Nothing has been done behind the scenes,” said Lavigne.

The town has also been able to invest more money into roads than previous councils, citing Texas Road, Meloche Road and the soon-to-be done Creek Road projects.

Lavigne called the next four years “crucial for Amherstburg.”

Working with the Greater Essex County District School Board on developing the new public high school will be important, he said, as will the decision on what to do with the remaining 12 acres of Centennial Park. Lavigne said he understands the concerns over wanting to keep that as a park and whether the park will be continued to remain named for H. Murray Smith.

“There’s a lot of concerns out there and rightfully so,” said Lavigne.

The town’s festivals should continue as they bring a “sense of community pride most towns don’t have,” he said. Deferment of development charges should also continue, he believes, as it aids development. Further investigation on what other municipalities do should also be done, including what is done to spur industrial and commercial development.

Lavigne said he was opposed to the policing switch, with that decision being based on what he heard from residents. He said he heard “overwhelming” response from people that wanted to pay extra to keep the Amherstburg Police Service.

“I believe the job is to represent the residents of Amherstburg. That’s what I’ve tried to with every issue over the last four years,” he said.

If all decisions were based on finances, there would be no arena, parks or festivals, he added.

Pouget believes she has experience, track record to be deputy mayor

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A third current town councillor is seeking the job of deputy mayor.

Diane Pouget filed her nomination papers July 27 and became the fourth and final candidate for the position. Pouget will be running against council colleagues Rick Fryer and Leo Meloche as well as Amherstburg Police Services Board chair Bob Rozankovic.

“I decided to run for deputy mayor believing I have the knowledge, experience and proven track record to properly represent our residents,” she said.

Pouget stated there are “strong, honest candidates” running for councillor positions so she felt comfortable with her decision to seek the deputy mayor position.

Progress has been made over the last four years, Pouget indicated, but more progress is still needed.

“Although our current council worked very diligently to pay down our debt, we still have a long way to go,” said Pouget.

The town’s finances remain an issue for Pouget.

“If elected, my first order of business would be to try and re-instate the finance committee in order to refocus on our needs instead of our wants,” she stated. “We must continue to pay down our debt, build our reserves, improve infrastructure, repair our crumbling roads and get control of our hiring.”

As the deputy mayor also sits on Essex County council, Pouget said repairing roads are among her objectives if she is elected to represent Amherstburg at that level also.

“My goals are very similar to what they are right now (in Amherstburg) – to improve roads and infrastructure and to work collectively with all municipalities,” she said.

Diane Pouget is running for the position of deputy mayor in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

There are county roads that need work as well as town-owned roads, she believes.

Pouget said the number of people hired is an issue, as is where the people come from. She understands the town can’t be discriminatory, but hopes if there is hiring done that more people from the community get jobs.

“It is a very contentious issue,” she said. “Residents are very unhappy with hiring from outside our community.”

While a report she requested recently about town hiring and the cost factor of said hiring was refused by her council colleagues, she said the counterargument of savings through the new hires due to not contracting out services “has not been proven to council.” She said the finance committee helped council earlier in the term as it aided in whittling down a request for nine new employees to 3.5.

“I have been vocally opposed to the rebranding because of the cost and the fear of losing our historic identity,” she added.

Pouget stated she is “a strong advocate” of receiving public input from Amherstburg’s rural residents regarding their needs. She added that council must meet with developers before changing any agreements that have been in existence since 2007.

It is important for Amherstburg residents to vote in the Oct. 22 municipal election, she added, so that the most honest and strongest group of candidates can get elected to represent the town over the next four years.

Feedback to her candidacy for deputy mayor has already been strong, she reports, as she received numerous phone calls shortly after filing her nomination papers.

“I didn’t expect this much support,” she said.

The other three vying for the position are “very good candidates,” Pouget said, but believes her experience gives her the edge.

“I believe it’s because of my experience, knowledge and proven track record,” she said of what sets her apart. “I’ve always been there to represent (the residents). I’ve proven that over and over again.”

 

Keenan encourages public involvement, less divisiveness

 

By Ron Giofu

 

After fighting for fairer hydro costs and even meeting with then-Premier Kathleen Wynne, Libby Keenan is now looking to get into provincial politics.

Keenan is one of the 14 candidates for councillor in the Oct. 22 municipal election. She gained prominence due to her online posts about hydro, with that eventually resulting in a meeting with Wynne. Keenan notes she is an administrator of a “Take Back Your Power” Facebook page.

“I think I ended up with substantial influence over the dismissal of Ms. Wynne,” she said.

Keenan said she was asked by some to seek an MPP position but said Essex MPP Taras Natyshak and Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky are “pretty entrenched.” She found no reason to do it anyway. She said she gets along with Natyshak, though she was involved with PC candidate Chris Lewis’ campaign.

Keenan stated she likes that municipal politics is less partisan and more “grassroots.”

“I’m from Brampton but I love Amherstburg. This is home now and it has been for 30 years,” she said.

The issue of rebranding is one that Keenan hopes many people get involved with. She believes it is more than just image, but a matter of what people want the town to be. Citing Brampton as an example, it used to be a small municipality but now has “miles and miles of urban sprawl.” Keenan prefers Amherstburg to remain a mix of rural and urban.

“I think we have to decide what it is we want,” she said. “Yes, you want development but not at the cost of the natural environment around you.”

Libby Keenan is seeking a position as a town councillor in the Oct. 22
municipal election.

Amherstburg should be marketed better, Keenan believes, as the town is not known well enough across the province. She believes someone should be appointed or hired to better market the town and attend travel conventions, events and form stronger partnerships with other municipalities.

“It needs to be marketed,” said Keenan. “It’s here but it’s a bit of a secret, even now, after all this time.”

Belle Vue, Keenan stated, could be a “huge money pit” or a great benefit, depending on how it is used. She said a historic building in Brampton is popular for weddings, dances and similar events and she thinks Belle Vue could be too.

“It has to be very clearly defined what the goals are,” she said of Belle Vue. “There has to be very close oversight on the business plan for Belle Vue.”

The development of the Duffy’s site was another issue she addressed, and Keenan wonders if it will require a customs office to accommodate U.S. boaters.

Issues in the rural areas of Amherstburg need addressing, said Keenan, and not just the urban area. She is an advocate of putting a pool at the Libro Centre.

With the OCPC rendering its decision on the police issue, Keenan said “we have to give it a chance” though she also believes policing “could be the first domino.

“I’m not fear-mongering,” she said. “I’ve seen it happen.”

Keenan said, if elected, she would rely on the expertise of administration and wants to form a good relationship with them. She said they know what can be done and what can’t be done and that money and time could be saved by pursuing initiatives recommended by administration.

Keenan, a local horse farmer with a degree in social work from York University, said “there is so much to offer here” and that people should not be afraid to brainstorm ideas.

“It’s not a matter of mowing down the other point of view,” she said. “That’s no way to live.”

Sutherland trying to return to council, looking at a councillor position

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A former deputy mayor is attempting to return to town council, this time as a councillor.

Ron Sutherland, who served as Amherstburg’s deputy mayor from 2010-14, is trying to be an elected official once again. He said he made the decision to run for a councillor’s position as he, as well as residents he has spoken with, “are not pleased with the lack of transparency” with the current council.

“There are too many in-camera meetings with very little information being shared with the residents,” said Sutherland. “I truly believe that an elected official must be accountable.”

As for why he is seeking a position as a councillor in the Oct. 22 election, Sutherland said he believes he can have just as strong of a voice as a councillor as opposed to any other position.

“I believe I can be just as or more effective as a councillor at this juncture,” he said.

Sutherland opposed contracting out policing services from Amherstburg to Windsor.

“I spoke out against the contracting out of our police service to Windsor as there are too many unknowns,” said Sutherland. “For example, is it a 20-year contract with the possibility to get out of it and return to our local force after five years? At what cost? This has not been discussed publicly. What about the officers who apply to Windsor police? Will they be able to return and, again, at what cost?”

Sutherland also wonders if the “so-called savings of over $500,000” will cover the cost of retirement benefits for those officers who qualify.

Meeting attendance is something that needs to be addressed, he believes.

“Absenteeism is atrocious and out of control, not only on council but also some of those councillors who are on sub-committees that never attend these meetings to the point that some have had to be joined with others,” he said.

Sutherland added there are ongoing expenditures that could possibly increase the town’s debt. According to Sutherland, he has seen figures where new salaries over the last four years have averaged over $1 million per year.

“I realize there could be some savings by not farming things out but that still has to be addressed,” he said.

Ron Sutherland is seeking a position as a town councillor in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

Sutherland said he contacted the province four years ago asking for an audit of the town’s finances but a review was done instead. That eventually lead to the recommendations contained in the Deloitte report.

Sutherland said he is concerned about the efforts to rebrand the town.

“I don’t have a solution but I do question it,” he said. “We’re supposed to be a historic town. I don’t see the point of rebranding.”

Sutherland also voiced concern about the loss of ball diamonds at Centennial Park and whether the name of Murray Smith will be carried on, as for whom the park is named. He favors the town keeping the 12 acres of Centennial Park that wasn’t sold to the Greater Essex County District School Board.

“I’m very concerned they are going to sell that off as well,” he said.

Sutherland added he supports the Belle Vue purchase “but it has to stay as a fundraising initiative.” He opposes any money for restoration coming from the tax base.

The issue of a boat ramp at Duffy’s is one that “I truly believe there is a solution to” without causing parking problems.

“More to come on this issue,” he said.

Sutherland noted he is chair of the Amherstburg Drainage Board, an ERCA board member, a member of the board for the Community Housing Corporation, a former member/chair of the Amherstburg Police Services Board and former president of the Ontario Association of Police Services Board. He also said he was “instrumental in keeping Amherstburg’s shares in Essex Power.”

Fryer enters the race for deputy mayor

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A new name has entered the race for deputy mayor in Amherstburg and it is another current councillor.

Rick Fryer has filed his nomination papers and will be opposing Bob Rozankovic, Diane Pouget and Leo Meloche, the latter two also being a current councillors while Rozankovic chairs the Amherstburg Police Services Board.

Coming back in 2014 after losing the mayoral election in 2010 allowed him to be part of the recovery of Amherstburg, Fryer said.

Noting he had a “black and white” campaign four years ago, Fryer believed he has continued in that fashion the last four years as a councillor.

“Most residents have seen in the last four years that I’ve had black and white answers to issues in the town,” he said.

Fryer said he wants to continue to contribute to the growth and improvement of the town as deputy mayor. One of the ways that Amherstburg will grow will start to come to fruition this summer when the new forcemain is installed from the Edgewater sewage area to the main plant.

“The next four years will be the revival of Amherstburg,” he predicted.

Fryer said he would like to see the town return to what it was like in the 1980’s “when you didn’t have to leave Amherstburg to go to work.”

Amherstburg will be close to the new Gordie Howe International Bridge and Fryer believes that could assist in attracting jobs and industry to town so that “young families can come here, raise children here and work here.”

Town council has already demonstrated the ability to make the tough decisions though Fryer noted those “hard decisions may not be popular.” He said decisions have been made for the good of the town for the long-term.

Rick Fryer has his father Mike be the first one to sign his nomination form. Fryer is one of four candidates for the deputy mayor’s position.

One of the tough decisions was the issue of policing and Fryer was one of three council members to vote to contract out to the Windsor Police Service. Fryer said council has a “fiduciary responsibility” and that animosity over the decision will subside once residents see the savings that come as a result as well as the fact that the same officers will patrol the town, now that the switch has been approved by the Ontario Civilian Policing Committee (OCPC).

“I think savings are a big part,” he said. “We can’t spend like drunken sailors anymore. We have to look at the bigger picture.”

Fryer added: “Nothing is going to change. We are going to have the same people unless the officer decides to go to Windsor.”

Additional goals for Fryer would be to provide greater services residents in rural areas, including McGregor and River Canard. He said he will lobby for the reconstruction of Concession 2 North, stating it is a “thoroughfare” between Amherstburg and LaSalle.

Other goals include rebuilding more roadways around the community.

“A major push will be for our roads to be completed that have been neglected over many, many years,” he said.

Fryer added that removing interlocking brick sidewalks and replacing them with cement has paid dividends for those with disabilities as it provides a smoother surface for wheelchairs and other mobility aids.

Being deputy mayor means being on Essex County council as well, with Fryer stating he has plans for roadwork at that level too.

“I want to make sure that the county puts bike paths and walking trails on all county roads,” he said.

Fryer is the chair of the ERCA board of directors and he said that shows the confidence of his colleagues in his ability to lead. He added his decision to run for deputy mayor wasn’t one he made lightly and discussed it with family and friends.

“I want to make sure I represent the Town of Amherstburg in the best way that I can,” he said.