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07-Oct-2018

Ask a West Grey candidate


Ask a West Grey candidate

 

South Grey News reached out to West Grey municipal candidates with questions from you, our readers. Here are their answers.

For more information about election dates and voting in the Municipality of West Grey, visit www.westgrey.com/municipal-elections.cfm.

MAYORAL CANDIDATES

KEVIN ECCLES; west grey

KEVIN ECCLES - Mayoral candidate

Q: On the Save Grey Gables group, there was a new plan to renovate Grey Gables, adding 30 beds and closing the loop between the two long halls. How do the candidates respond to this concept and how would representatives to Grey County Council work to bring this concept to fruition?

A: Grey Gables ability to be expanded onto would be impossible as to leaving the three long halls with making them into the desired 32 bed pods. ‎When the first proposal came to county council the expert consulting company said that it could only add onto not fix the problem of the long halls in the spoke layout as present in the building. 

So this theory of just adding to or getting 30 more beds for Grey Gables is not structurally feasible because of the constraints of the physical layout of the building. 

The plan was never peered reviewed by architectural or engineering personal before presentation and after was found not feasible. Keeping Grey Gables open and operating as a retirement assisted living facility is my commitment to the community. 

Q: West Grey is boasting total assets of approximately $81 million, a surplus in 2017 of $150,000 and reserve funds of approximately $6 million. How would you commit to spending our tax money to make our community a better place to live?

A: The Municipality of West Grey has many assets but they are not liquid assets that can be cash to build roads or arenas. These are the values of the roads, bridges, buildings and equipment that is used to deliver the services for to the community. 

The auditor has stated that the municipal budget is followed very well. Going forward I envision the municipality to continue to invest in upgrades in our arenas, roads, and equipment in a responsible and cost effective manner that meets the request and needs of the municipality. Council has a tough job of balancing the needs and wants of the community with what the community can realistic afford.  

Q: If someone came to you with a proposal to build a new piece of public infrastructure in our municipality (road, bridge, etc.) how would you evaluate whether that project was worth implementing?

A: First does the proposal meet the needs of the strategic direction of the municipality. ‎Then cost out what the on going and maintenance of the gift will be.  

Q: How important is it to engage our youth in local government? What strategies should we adopt in order to retain young people in our communities?

A: Two questions in one. Keeping youth here is a big concern that has been a concern for more years than anyone has been alive. At the turn of the last century youth left to go west and, Neustadt went from 2,000 to 1,000 in population in ten years. John Deifenbaker being one of them. 

My point is it a natural thing for youth to go off and explore the world and part of that is our lack of post secondary education options. With the expansion of Georgian College in Owen Sound that is offering at least one spot to ‎advance education opportunities locally. 

What can the Municipality do? We can communicate with the world ‎and promote the community as the best place to live and raise a family. The jobs are here, with a unemployment rate under 3 percent employers are struggling to fill their labour force needs. 

I believe it is getting the promotion program going to tell the youth of the world that realistically that West Grey will be their last move they will want make.

Mayoral candidate Enos Martin did not reply to our request.

CHRISTINE ROBINSON; west grey

CHRISTINE ROBINSON - Mayoral candidate

Q: On the Save Grey Gables group, there was a new plan to renovate Grey Gables, adding 30 beds and closing the loop between the two long halls. How do the candidates respond to this concept and how would representatives to Grey County Council work to bring this concept to fruition? 

A: Adding 30 beds to Grey Gables would result in the reported efficiencies. Closing the loop of the long hallways makes sense and would help in the rehabilitation for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. A proven plan, with the costing, benefits and concept to loop the hallways would need to be reviewed by experts before being presented to the Grey County Council for approval. 

Q: West Grey is boasting total assets of approximately $81 million, a surplus in 2017 of $150,000 and reserve funds of approximately $6 million. How would you commit to spending our tax money to make our community a better place to live?

A: One of my key platform promises is to have a comprehensive assessment completed of the West Grey infrastructure and develop a complete plan that will assist in correcting the neglect of West Grey infrastructure by this current Mayor and Council. To date, there are two bridges closed, a library closed and a landfill closing. As Mayor, I believe that a plan for the future is needed to be developed with the incoming Council to address a primary stewardship role of the Mayor and Council. This will enable for growth and needed improvements in our economic sustainability, housing starts and commercial developments.

Q: If someone came to you with a proposal to build a new piece of public infrastructure in our municipality (road, bridge, etc.) how would you evaluate whether that project was worth implementing?

A: A detailed plan needs to be developed for the current needs and priorities of West Grey. A comprehensive request for proposal for each project would need to be established with specific points that match each of the requirements needed under the project. This would include references and other project comparisons as well as bonding requirements and details in regards to a work plan and schedule for completion on time and on budget. Detailed discussion will occur with Council.

Q: How important is it to engage our youth in local government? What strategies should we adopt in order to retain young people in our communities?

A: It is very important to engage our youth in local government as it has direct impacts for them such as recreational facilities, youth centres, local youth clubs and teaches our youth about local government responsibilities.

Some strategies to retain our youth include the ability to gain meaningful work and jobs that have a future to them. Well paying jobs in manufacturing, retail etc. means local government is required to attract business to the area. Affordable housing is also needed so that youth can get into the housing market in semi-detached or small homes. 

We need schools, recreational facilities and health centres for young families. Retail stores and services for all of our necessities and other family oriented storefronts are also required. We need high speed internet and good communications networks to connect people. Our youth are our future. 

DEPUTY MAYOR CANDIDATES

Deputy Mayor candidate John A. Bell did not respond to our request.

TOM HUTCHINSON; west grey

TOM HUTCHINSON - Deputy Mayor candidate

Q: On the save Grey Gables group, there was a new plan to renovate Grey Gables, adding 30 beds and closing the loop between the two long halls. How do the candidates respond to this concept and how would representatives to Grey County Council work to bring this concept to fruition?

A: County finance and County consultant have both found that adding 28 beds to Rockwood Terrace would save $1.2 million per year. Change it from 100 beds to 128 beds works. This is $500,000 more than the savings found by building a 166 bed home. Adding beds will add income, moving beds does not. 

With that logic, it only makes perfect sense that adding beds to Grey Gables would compound the same effect.  Grey Gables was originally built with an expansion plan in place down the road. The kitchen and laundry are large enough to handle the much needed increase in beds.

This line of thinking makes sound financial sense, converts the long hallways into a layout that works better for staff and patients and best of all keeps all three County homes right where they need to be for full coverage of Grey County.

Once elected, I will advocate at the County to revisit the issue as the current plan in comparison is a poor financial plan and it brings hardship to some of the very families that built Grey County. I feel that we could get the extra beds from the Province if we actually tried.  Nothing good ever comes of not making the effort.

Q: West Grey is boasting total assets of $81 million, a surplus in 2017 of $150000 and reserve funds of approximately $6 million. How would you commit to spending our tax money to make our community a better place to live.

A: Originally, they announced that we had $80 million in surplus. Now the figures change again to your question of $81 million is assets, a surplus of $150,000 and reserves of $6 million. Before we consider any spending, maybe the public should have some real numbers presented to them and not ones that make no sense. Calling public assets “surplus” on your bottom line is simply wrong.

I would consider the following to spend the money on: 1. Roads and bridges; 2. Spending money on our downtowns and helping the vendors that have been ignored for years; 3. Hiring a civil engineer to look at our entire infrastructure including water in Durham so we have an actual plan before we get in over our head; 4. Freeze taxes if we are boasting so much extra revenue; 5. Cut the farm taxes if we have so much extra revenue; 6. Restore all the services that have been cut due to lack of growth.

Q: If someone came to you to build a new piece of public infrastructure in our municipality (road, bridges, etc) how would you evaluate whether the project was worth implementing?

A: First off we would need to consult with the public on what they felt was deemed to be the most necessary project to complete. Along with their input and proper studies done in the Municipality we should be able to determine what would be best suited for our needs at that time. 

Q: How important is it to engage our youth in local government? What strategies should we adopt in order to retain young people in our communities?

A: It is very important that we get our younger generation involved with the local politics. The Municipal Government is more important than our provincial and federal as it affects us directly. We need to get them to engage and fight for their future here.

In order to retain the youth, we need to create actual real paying jobs. The low paying jobs here are not enough to help the youth sustain a healthy future. Our average house cost is sitting around $370,000. How can our younger generation break into the housing market when they earn below average wages. Some will say we have a low unemployment rate. I do not call minimum wage as a sound benchmark to support this statement. We need to build smaller more affordable homes to help this starving generation. They will continue to leave the area and seek a future elsewhere.

COUNCIL CANDIDATES

Council candidate Scott Foerster did not respond to our request.

CALLIE GREENSHIELDS; west grey

CALLIE GREENSHIELDS - Council candidate

Q: On the Save Grey Gables group, there was a new plan to renovate Grey Gables, adding 30 beds and closing the loop between the two long halls. How do the candidates respond to this concept and how would representatives to Grey County Council work to bring this concept to fruition? 

A: With wait times any where between 3 and 5 years or longer in Ontario, more beds are needed. To lose any beds in assisted care and or long-term care homes is a travesty. Recently the new provincial government has announced that more beds would be coming. The people of both West Grey and Grey Highlands have rallied strongly to support both of our facilities in our respected municipalities. I am in full support of both Grey Gables and Rockwood Terrace staying in Grey County. I believe every municipality should have these homes. Just because they can no longer live at home, shouldn’t mean living far from family, friends or their communities.

Q: West Grey is boasting total assts of approximately $81 million, a surplus in 2017 of $150,000 and a reserve funds of approximately $6 million.  How would you commit to spending our tax money to make our community a better place to live?

A: I have just received a copy of The Corporation of the Municipality of West Grey Consolidated Financial Statements For the year ended 2017, and I am still working my way through it. While I have a list, the reality is that the new council will have to review the report and access the needs and wants of the community before any spending is done. 

Q: If someone came to you with a proposal to build a new piece of public infrastructure in our municipality (road, bridge, etc.) how would you evaluate whether that project was worth implementing?

A: I would listen to the proposal, research it, seek community input, and evaluate costs, pros, cons, and benefits to the community. Depending on what it is, location will also need to be taken into consideration as West Grey is almost 900 square kilometres in size. It will need to be accessible to everyone in West Grey. Durham may be the centre of the municipality according to the map, but it doesn’t always make it the right location. Other areas of our municipality may be better suited.

Q: How important is it to engage our youth in local government? What strategies should we adopt in order to retain young people in our communities?

A: As many people know we are a homeschooling family. The side benefit to my running for council is that I have engaged my children in every step of the process. If elected, I would encourage them to be involved not only at council meetings but also in serving and volunteering with various committees. If I am afforded the privilege of a seat on council, I would recommend the Municipality of West Grey take on co-operative students to work in the various departments and to serve on committees and sub committees. I would encourage council to be open to visiting the schools and homeschool groups and engage our young people in conversations about government issues.

BETH HAMILTON; west grey

BETH HAMILTON - Council candidate

Q: On the Save Grey Gables group, there was a new plan to renovate Grey Gables, adding 30 beds and closing the loop between the two long halls. How do the candidates respond to this concept and how would representatives to Grey County Council work to bring this concept to fruition? 

A: As a music therapist with experience in long term care and palliative care, I am in full support of keeping long term care services local and this includes Grey Gables. We have a responsibility to build communities in which we can live throughout our life span. I support innovative and creative approaches to deliver the best care for residents and their families. If elected as West Grey councillor, I will not have a vote at Grey County, however I have a strong voice and will advocate for our community.

Q: West Grey is boasting total assts of approximately $81 million, a surplus in 2017 of $150,000 and a reserve funds of approximately $6 million.  How would you commit to spending our tax money to make our community a better place to live?

A: I attended the meeting at which the auditor presented the 2017 financial audit to West Grey Council, this meeting provided good insight and overview. Following this meeting, the press release from West Grey boasted West Grey’s “accumulated surplus of $80 million." In speaking with residents, this figure created confusion, and many residents believed this meant that West Grey had on $80 million in savings. To clarify, if we account for all of West Grey’s assets – buildings, equipment, land, savings, etc. – West Grey is estimated to be worth $80 million dollars of which there is approximately $6 million in reserves. To circle back to the question about how to best spend tax money and make our community a better place to live – we need to start with communication and community engagement: publish regular budget updates using simple and consistent info-graphics; hold a public meeting for feedback on the budget; make all reports easily available on the website; and form an audit committee by residents who create an annual report card of West Grey’s performance on the budget and action plan. A successful budget will be driven by West Grey’s Asset Management Plan and the Action Plan. In this way we are prioritizing spending, maintaining and investing in essential assets, and building for our future.  

Q: If someone came to you with a proposal to build a new piece of public infrastructure in our municipality (road, bridge, etc.) how would you evaluate whether that project was worth implementing?

A: I welcome working with community groups and the private sector in building new public infrastructure. We are fortunate to have so many volunteers working in our community who donate time and raise funds for projects in our community. Our tax dollar only goes so far and so often our volunteers fill in those gaps. A new infrastructure project would be assessed by how it fits into the priorities of the Action Plan, the Asset Management Plan, and the budget. I would also promote using the “triple bottom line” approach and look for the social, environmental, and economic impacts of moving forward or not proceeding with the infrastructure project. We would look to funding, grant opportunities, and where appropriate, fundraising. We would look to partnerships with volunteers, private businesses, and other levels of government. The project would be tendered. The process for deciding on new infrastructure needs to be streamlined and consistent. Through this process West Grey can make a decision that is economically sound and supports the Action Plan.

Q: How important is it to engage our youth in local government? What strategies should we adopt in order to retain young people in our communities?

A: We absolutely need to engage youth in local government. When youth have meaningful influence in their communities then we will see more youth engagement. We can begin by connecting with youth on their “home turf” in schools and after school programmes. We could start a youth “think tank” which meets regularly and reports back to council. Let’s ask youth how they want to participate, how they see our community’s future, and what areas they want to see improve. Regarding how to best “retain young people in our community”, youth ought to be exploring the world, leaving their home town for new experiences and education –  we need to consider how to create a community in which they want to return. Let’s begin by visiting high schools and speaking with students about the job opportunities we have here in West Grey. Let’s work with businesses to develop succession planning. Let’s work with the Chambers of Commerce, BIAs, Saugeen Economic Development Corporation, and our Economic Development Officer to provide support and incentives for new entrepreneurs. 

Council candidates Rebecca Hergert, Doug Hutchinson, Jenny Parsons, Geoffrey Shea, Doug Townsend and Stephen Townsend did not respond to our request.

BOB WEIRMEIR; west grey

BOB WEIRMEIR - Council candidate

Q: On the Save Grey Gables group, there was a new plan to renovate Grey Gables, adding 30 beds and closing the loop between the two long halls. How do the candidates respond to this concept and how would representatives to Grey County Council work to bring this concept to fruition? 

A: The long term care issue is a grave problem facing West Grey residents. The plan presented to Grey County Council that would expand Grey Gables and also rebuild Rockwood Terrace I believe was not looked into seriously. Any plan that would save Grey County money and also expand the number of county beds should be given the serious consideration the original plans presented to council had. Ultimately only the mayor and deputy mayor from West Grey sit on county council, but I believe they should present the views of the council, as well as all the people in the municipality who depend on their representatives to stand up for them. We all need to present our views to them for true democracy to work.

Q: West Grey is boasting total assts of approximately $81 million, a surplus in 2017 of $150,000 and a reserve funds of approximately $6 million.  How would you commit to spending our tax money to make our community a better place to live?

A: My thoughts on West Grey’s surplus and reserve funds would probably be a two step process. We do need to have a reserve fund for any emergency that comes up not covered in the budget. On the flip side of the coin, when roads are suddenly closed due to an aging bridge, one has to wonder what the reserve is actually being reserved for. The most important asset West Grey has is the ability to move. When our roads and bridges fall into disrepair or are closed, we are cutting ourselves off from the rest of the world. The province is pushing tourism in this part of Ontario, but that means more than just craft shops in our urban areas. If you can’t drive it, you can’t see it. I would not recommend spending our reserves just because it is there, but our infrastructure must be maintained.

Q: How important is it to engage our youth in local government? What strategies should we adopt in order to retain young people in our communities?

A: This question blends into my thoughts on our reserves. All proposals for public infrastructure should be looked at, after all it is the public the council represents, but to build for the sake of building does not make economic sense. We have to repair or replace existing infrastructure to acceptable standards before we attempt something new unless in the plan it will improve what we already have.

Q: How important is it to engage our youth in local government? What strategies should we adopt in order to retain young people in our communities?

A: I believe it is very important to engage our youth in local government. They are our future. The work we do to keep West Grey functioning properly would be a waste of time if there is no one interested in following us. I’m not sure if strategies is the right word for trying to include our youth, but include them we must. I have a very deep pride for West Grey as a multigenerational resident. There are lots of ways to entice our youth through social media, but if there is no sense of pride instilled in them through our parents and community then the messages on social media are useless. If we can be proud of what we have, our youth will follow. If they develop that sense of pride, it will be harder for them to live anywhere else but West Grey.

Council candidates Jeff White and David Wilde did not respond to our request. 

Editor's note: Each of the emails to municipal candidates were sent in the same manner however some went to Spam and are being discovered late. We will extend the time allotted for candidates to respond and update the articles as time allows. We can be reached at news@southgreynews.ca. 


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