| Aug 17, 2006


Feature Article - August 17, 2006

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Feature Article - August 17, 2006

The battle for mayor is joined in Central Frontenac

by JeffGreen

At the tail end of a somewhat sleepy August council meeting, a motion moved by Central Frontenac Councillor and mayoralty candidate Janet Gutowski, sparked an interesting exchange between herself and incumbent Mayor Bill MacDonald.

The motion said that “staff be required to provide a written report and receive permission from council prior to hiring a consultant or outside expertise.”

In response to the motion, Township CAO Heather Fox wrote a short report, citing a passage from the township’s procurement bylaw which states that staff may seek out the expertise of external consultants for certain specified purposes. Fox’s report concludes that if Councillor Gutowski wants to accomplish the stated objectives of her motion she would be required to propose an amendment to the procurement bylaw.

In speaking to her motion, it became clear that Gutowski’s concerns stem from how the township’s budgeting process was carried out this year.

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“It is council’s role to represent the public,” Gutowski said, “Some of the major decisions made in our budget were made exclusively by staff. Two of these decisions cost $600,000.”

Of the two decisions Gutowski was referring to in her remarks, only one was delineated, the decision to build a new fire hall for the Oso fire crew.

In that case, the Chief Building Officer, Ian Trickett, enlisted an engineering firm to determine the safety of the building after the deputy fire chief called him in to see some water damage that had developed in early March. The engineering firm subsequently concluded that the building is not safe for occupation and council was faced with the necessity of building a new fire hall when they discussed the fire budget in April.

“It was the building inspector who called the engineering firm, which is something that he has the authority to do if he is concerned about the safety of a public building, as far as I know,” Heather Fox said in response to Councillor Gutowski.

“There wouldn’t be a need for this bylaw if there was better communication,” Gutowski said.

Council retains the ability to approve or disapprove any staff recommendation,” Mayor MacDonald said. “Personally, I don’t want to tie the hands of staff. We meet every two weeks, and sometimes staff has to act more quickly than that … but I don’t think that staff has overstepped its authority. There are procedures that are spelled out, and they follow them.”

Other councillors piped in concerning a perceived lack of long-term planning by council, expressing the idea that council is always reacting to things, and is unable to see problems developing over time.

Gutowski then piqued MacDonald by saying, “In your role as mayor, you are in communication with staff on an ongoing basis, and it is your role to bring information to the council.”

“I want to make it clear to you, that I have not held back information from council at any time. As far as the Oso Fire Hall is concerned, I found out about it at the same time that council found out.

“You have to remember that we have been facing issue after issue coming down at us from afar since this township was established nine years ago. The downloading and the new regulations have been relentless. How can you engage in long-term planning when you are always facing this kind of pressure? We are extremely lucky in Central Frontenac that we have been able to keep the staff we have, or we would be in a mess right now,” MacDonald continued.

In the end, Janet Gutowski withdrew her motion.

Mayor MacDonald submitted his nomination papers for the upcoming municipal election a week ago. After publicly speculating about retiring from the mayor’s job, which he has held for nine years, the entire life of Central Frontenac Township, MacDonald began to waver about a year ago, and throughout 2006 he has been considering running for a fourth term.

In outlining his reasons for running again, he said that there are ongoing projects that he would like to see to completion, particularly the rehabilitation of Hwy. #7 and some of the county-based initiatives he has been involved with.

Just this year, the redevelopment project for Road 38 was approved for federal and provincial funding. This is a project that Bill MacDonald has worked on throughout his tenure as mayor.

“Leona Dombrowsky wondered what I would be calling her about after Road 38 was approved; well she’s going to hear from me about Hwy. 7. It’s been from both ends right to the edge of our township, and we need to get that road fixed in Central Frontenac,” MacDonald said in an interview with the News last week.

Janet Gutowski announced her intention to seek the mayor’s post last November, and submitted the nomination papers in January of this year. She cites a desire for more community involvement in township matters and in economic development, a cause she has championed for three years as councillor.

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