Coun­cil change

Gananoque town coun­cil meets in new cham­ber for last time

The Gananoque Reporter - - FRONT PAGE - WAYNE LOWRIE Post­media Net­work [email protected]­

The last meet­ing of the out­go­ing town coun­cil also marked a first.

The cur­rent coun­cil mem­bers – none of whom will be re­turn­ing af­ter their term ends this week – met for the first time in the new coun­cil cham­bers that are part of the $3-mil­lion ad­di­tion to the his­toric town hall.

Coun­cil rushed its con­trac­tor to get the cham­bers ready and de­layed its meet­ing for a week so that the coun­cil could hold its fi­nal meet­ing in the new, win­dow-lined cham­bers on the sec­ond floor of the ad­di­tion.

Coun­cil’s de­sire to meet in the new cham­bers on Tues­day (Nov. 27) was sym­bolic. The ad­di­tion stands as one of the sig­na­ture ac­com­plish­ments of the cur­rent coun­cil­lors, most of whom were elected for the first time in 2010.

It also be­came a po­lit­i­cal flash­point in the Oct. 22 elec­tion cam­paign as many dis­grun­tled vot­ers claimed the town couldn’t af­ford it or ar­gued that other mu­nic­i­pal prop­er­ties could have been used in­stead to pre­serve the her­itage town hall.

The three in­cum­bent coun­cil mem­bers who ran in the last elec­tion were de­feated, in­clud­ing Coun. Brian Brooks, who was the chief coun­cil cheer­leader for the new ad­di­tion. Brooks ran fourth in his bid to be­come mayor.

Long­time coun­cil­lor Anne War­ren was un­suc­cess­ful in her re­elec­tion bid, as was Joe Jansen, a mem­ber of the Class of 2010. Mayor Erika Dem­chuk and coun­cil­lors Jan Hayes, Jeff Girling and Dwayne Fletcher chose not to run again. (Fletcher was booted off coun­cil a month ago af­ter he stopped show­ing up for meet­ings.)

On Tues­day, War­ren, who served 15 years on coun­cil, re­ceived a stand­ing ova­tion from the au­di­ence as she said her good­byes.

War­ren said it has been a priv­i­lege and an hon­our to serve the res­i­dents of Gananoque.

War­ren has served on ev­ery com­mit­tee of coun­cil, in­clud­ing three times on the po­lice board, and she has sat as Gananoque’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the Leeds, Grenville and La­nark District Health Unit for 15 years, in­clud­ing the last four as chair­woman.

Like all the other de­part­ing coun­cil mem­bers, War­ren had high praise for the town’s staff. She noted that she was on the se­lec­tion com­mit­tees for all of the cur­rent se­nior man­agers.

Dem­chuk, who served eight years, thanked each coun­cil­lor and staff mem­ber in turn, and spoke of the hon­our of be­ing mayor.

She said her coun­cil al­ways based its de­ci­sions on the greater good of Gananoque, and they were not al­ways the eas­i­est or most pop­u­lar choices.

Dem­chuk urged the next coun­cil to keep its eye on the greater good, and to re­sist the temp­ta­tion to pan­der to the views of crit­ics on so­cial me­dia.

“You can’t al­ways base de­ci­sions on what you might see on so­cial me­dia from a hand­ful of peo­ple,” she said.

Hayes said “it has been the hon­our of my life” to serve for the last eight years.

While the work at coun­cil meet­ings is im­por­tant, Hayes said much of the real work of coun­cil and staff is done out of the pub­lic eye. She cited the town’s fight, along­with the Town­ship of Leeds and the Thou­sand Is­lands, to re­tain the casino against the very real pos­si­bil­ity that it would move to Kingston.

As well, the work to im­prove hy­dro ser­vice to the town was an­other un­sung ac­com­plish­ment, she said.

Jansen re­lated some ad­vice that he had re­ceived from a for­mer mayor af­ter his elec­tion eight years ago. Ev­ery $ 65,000 that coun­cil spends rep­re­sents a one-per-cent hike in taxes, he said. An ex­pen­di­ture of $3,000 is equal to one home­owner’s prop­erty taxes.

“I’ve taken that to heart over the last eight years,” he said. “Some­times you have to spend money to save money, some­times you just have to save money.”

He wished the new coun­cil mem­bers good luck and urged them to re­mem­ber that les­son when spend­ing money.

Brooks said he was hon­oured to serve on coun­cil for the past four years and he cited the town hall ad­di­tion as one of the many ac­com­plish­ments of which he is most proud.

The ad­di­tion will be around to serve the peo­ple of Gananoque long af­ter the cur­rent coun­cil mem­bers are gone, he said, not­ing that the ex­ist­ing build­ing has stood for more than 180 years.

Brooks said the cur­rent coun­cil has had a lot of tri­als and tribu­la­tions and “in­ter­est­ing com­ments from peo­ple who hide be­hind key­boards.”

He urged the new coun­cil to rec­og­nize the ded­i­ca­tion and value of the town’s staff.

Coun­cil Jeff Girling was ab­sent for the fi­nal meet­ing.

The new coun­cil will be sworn in Tues­day in the coun­cil cham­bers in the Emer­gency Ser­vices Build­ing, not the new cham­bers in the ad­di­tion, which is still be­ing fin­ished.

For the first time in decades, all of the coun­cil are men. Mayor Ted Lo­jko will lead a coun­cil of Matt Harper, David Os­mond, Dave An­der­son, Den­nis O’Con­nor, Mike Kench and Adrian Haird.

Gananoque town coun­cil meets for the last time in the new coun­cil cham­ber. WAYNE LOWRIE/ POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

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