Amaranth Mayor Bob Currie, seeking to return as the township’s deputy mayor, told more than 100 ratepayers at an all-candidates meeting Tuesday night that the township was “hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt” when he became mayor nine years ago, but “now we’re hundreds of thousands of dollars to the good.”
In a theme largely seized upon by all five current council members, he boasted of heading the “only council in Dufferin that has had seven straight budgets with no deficit.”
But deputy mayor challenger Wally Kolodziechuk attacked the fiscal record, asking, “then why do your taxes and mine keep going up?”
Except for questions related to attitudes toward reserves, the meeting focused more on a variety of other issues that it did on finances.
The sponsoring Greater Dufferin Area Chamber of Commerce had imposed restrictions on what topics could be raised. Those included items now before the Ontario Municipal Board and any that are subjects of in-camera meetings of council.
Although the OMB items were not specified when the restrictions were announced, the township is on notice that the wind farm issue could go to the OMB (but no date has been set), and discussion of wind generation was limited.
However, ratepayer Roy Brownell, an anti-turbine activist (via Amaranth Citizens Coalition), accused Mayor Currie of declaring a pecuniary interest (in Melancthon Phase 2 wind project) but not vacating his seat.
Mr. Brownell read from the conflict of interest guidelines, in which it would appear that councillors should not only avoid conflict but also the appearance of conflict. He then polled all candidates.
Mayor Currie, who has never voted on any turbine issues but has chaired public information meetings outside council, acknowledged that he had received “one cheque” from Canadian Hydro Developers (CHD) for options to lease sites on his farm and that of his son.
Mayoral candidate Rick Dewsbury said he had allowed a CHD lease, but CHD abandoned it when they realized he has an airstrip.
Deputy Mayor Don MacIver, now running for mayor, said he has no conflict on any issues whatsoever.
Mr. Kolodziechuk, former Dufferin OPP detachment commander, not only said he has no conflict, but “it’s important to declare.” He said all laws and bylaws must be upheld.
All other candidates – incumbents Jane Aultman and Percy Way and challengers Bill Cowie, Kevin Ewen, Wes Lomond, Vi Robson and Bob Cositer – stated bluntly that they have no conflict.
Resident Joyce Winegar challenged Amaranth’s poor relationship with Orangeville concerning access to the town’s libraries, and asked about other relationships.
Describing it as a lack of communications in negotiations for a library agreement, she said, “I’m concerned there may be bigger problems.”
Incumbent councillors, three of whom had sat on the library negotiating committee, blamed Orangeville for the lack of an agreement. Mr. Currie said it had been impossible to forge a deal with the town, so his council had decided after a public meeting to reimburse Amaranth families who chose to purchase library memberships.
Ms. Aultman said Orangeville’s demands had been “disproportionate,” and it had insisted on “no township representation on the library board.”
Mr. Ewen accused Orangeville of “wielding a little power on us (and of) packing the punches.”
Ms. Robson said she had agreed with the council’s decision on the library, “but I can’t be bothered paying (for a membership) and then getting reimbursed.” Mr. Way said the township has worked well with Orangeville on other issues.
Two candidates remained critical of the township. Mr. Kolodziechuk said the township “has to get along and work better” with its neighbours, and Mr. Dewsbury said the township should “renegotiate with Orangeville” on the library. But Mr. MacIver said there are “no barriers” to library use. “Amaranth does not put up a barrier.” Hilda Pincoe raised the
issue of traffic safety, specifically at County Roads 11 and 3, and at Highway 10 and County 16. Another resident said there should be signs indicating approaches to intersections, and cited the lack of such a sign at County 11 and 5 Sideroad.
On creation of reserves rather than to reduce taxes, Mr. MacIver said the township pays cash for its equipment purchases rather than going into debt. “There’s no debt in Amaranth. We pay as we go.”
While Mr. Currie said the township does use reserves from time to time “when necessary” to keep taxes in line, Mr. Kolodziechuk said the township had used $50,000 in this year’s budget, “but the taxes went up.”
All other candidates agreed with creation of reserves, and Mr. Way said modest tax increases are unavoidable as costs are rising. “If you don’t put three per cent in there you’ll go behind,” he said.
Issues of the appearance of Shannon Court (on Dufferin Road 11 just north of 109), and of derelict vehicles were legal items, and led to virtually no discussion.
By Wes Keller, Freelance Reporter
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