| Jun 07, 2007


Feature Article - June 7, 2007

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Feature Article - June 7, 2007

Split depens on North Frontenac Council: Beam, Cole, Watkins and Olmstead, the Four Amigos, control votes

by Jeff Green

After winning a convincing victory in last fall’s municipal election against the two sitting councillors who had been the most critical of the way he ran council, and then taking on the mantle of Frontenac County Warden, North Frontenac Mayor Ron Maguire might have thought his influence on North Frontenac Council would be on the rise right about now.

It hasn’t worked out quite that way.

The first vote taken by the new council seems to have been a harbinger of things to come. Rookie Councilor Jim Beam in a 4-3 vote defeated incumbent Councilor Fred Perry for the Deputy Mayor position in a 4-3 vote.

The four new members of Council: Wayne Cole, Lonnie Watkins, Bob Olmstead, and Jim Beam, have flexed their majority muscles several times over the past few months on other, more substantial, issues.

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Twice, those same four council members have thwarted Maguire’s intentions towards Pine Lake, where the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation has been developing a site on Crown land for the past year.

The first time was in February, when Councilor Cole proposed setting up a meeting with all levels of government over the development, a move that Maguire argued would undermine the interventions he had undertaken with Ardoch Algonquin and Ministry of Natural Resources officials.

It happened again a few weeks ago, when the Ardoch Algonquins proposed that council join with them in applying for a grant from a provincial rural economic development program. After debating the proposal for over an hour in an in camera session, it was defeated by that familiar 4-3 margin.

The past week, the same four councilors, who represent Wards 2 and 3, had an impact on the nuts and bolts of township operations, when they refused to endorse the purchase of a tandem truck as proposed by the township’s Public Works Manager John Ibey.

The purchase had been approved in this year’s budget and came in at $191,715, less than the $200,000 budgeted.

In a written report describing the process he used in obtaining pricing for the trucks, Ibey said “proceeding through RFP’s [Request for Proposals] with these specific dealers has resulted in the dealers obtaining pricing concessions from the manufacturers and the township has received excellent pricing on trucks for this purchase as well as past purchases from these dealers.”

However, Deputy Mayor Beam took exception to the fact that the two quotes Ibey presented to council were for trucks made by two different manufacturers.

“I would like to compare apples to apples. If we are going to buy a Sterling truck, I want to see it compared to another Sterling truck, not just an International truck,” said Deputy Mayor Jim Beam in response to Ibey’s recommendation.

Ibey pointed out that truck dealers generally keep to their own territory and are reluctant to compete with dealers handling the products from the same manufacturer in neighbouring territories, but the four councilors would not be swayed.

“When I’ve been talking to people around the township, they all say that we should be putting things out to tender,” said Councilor Watkins.

“What would the impact of re-tendering have on our delivery date for the truck?” asked Councilor Fred Perry.

“It generally takes 10 weeks for a truck like this to be built and equipped,” Ibey responded, “so if it takes a month or six weeks to tender, that would put us back that much time.”

The cost of advertising the tender in some of the larger regional newspapers, such as the Whig Standard and the Ottawa Citizen, was raised as an issue, and Township Clerk-Planner Brenda DeFosse said her understanding was that the cost would be in the range of $2,000, which would have to be included in the budget for the truck purchase.

After council decided to put the purchase out to public tender, Councillor Perry took the four rookie councilors to task, saying “you should realise that you have undermined the public works manager here.”

Councilor Wayne Cole denied this, saying, “Nobody is questioning John Ibey’s competence. We just want to get different prices for the same truck.”

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