Observations & Views of the 2014 -2018 Mississippi Mills Council

There is a serious need for CHANGE in our Mississippi Mills municipal government.  Over the past few years there has been so many troubling issues created by this Council that cannot be ignored.  In case you are not aware, here are just a few:

  • Debt is at an all-time high from just over $14.8M when the current term began in 2014; it is projected to be $22.2M at the end of 2018 (both include water and sewer) while reserves have been reduced by about 2 million. Taxes have increased at the rate of 7% per year for each of the last four years, not to mention the approximately 10% increase in MPAC property assessments over the same time. And you wonder why we are concerned?
  • The true nature of the current Council reared its ugly head with their efforts to stop ENERDU’s attempt to build a provincially sanctioned state-of-the-art Hydraulic Generating Station on the Mississippi River in Almonte. From the Club-tailed Dragonfly to The Council of Canadians, they used every despicable trick that they could think of to halt the project!
  • One of the tactics designed to stop them was the hurried By-Law for a Heritage Conservation District (HCD) in Almonte. Pushed by John Edwards and their consultants, it limits how a homeowner can modify/maintain his/her property. Two formal requests to meet with even a couple of members of Council to discuss the issue were refused. The implications of insurance coverage and the 50+ pages of conditions explaining how HCD homeowners must engage with the Municipality. This can be verified with your insurance company if you are in the District.
  • Don Maynard Park, (DMP) is a neighbourhood park dedicated to one of Almonte’s favourite sons. Council intended to sell it for infill of 5 building lots (apparently they needed the money?) Despite 1300 signatures and 350 people showing up at the Council meeting to protest its sale (Aug. 9 midsummer…unheard of), Council did not listen! It has been referred to the Ontario Municipal Board and it is being contested by PRATAC as one of 5 Objectors.
  • A local contractor bought a property and paid the required development fees. He built a garage with temporary living accommodations. A couple of years later, he took out a Building Permit and began to build a large home. The building permit was cancelled because they said that he had not paid enough of a development fee. There was a stalemate that lasted approximately six years during which he could neither finish the house nor move in so lived in the cottage. He ultimately received a letter from the Municipality, which stated that he had to pay an additional ($2,500.00) or he would have to obtain a permit to demolish the house ($600,000.00 invested) or they would demolish it for him. Efforts to meet with them and settle the issue were refused. They took him to Court. The Court’s decision was that the Municipality did not have cause and they were instructed to reinstate his building permit and were directed to settle the issue forthwith.
  • How many times have they ended up in Court? Mayor McLaughlin and Councillor Edwards used the Municipality’s money (amount unknown) to sue an individual whom they claimed had damaged their reputations by depicting them as clowns? The Municipality lost in Court and had to pay his costs. Why can Council not set up a process whereby a small group of Council and staff could meet with any concerned citizen and try to resolve a problem rather than going to Court?
  • Municipal information sheets were distributed to local farmers on the 7th line, listing four options for the replacement of the 7th line bridge in Ramsay. The preferred option (4th) was to remove and not replace the bridge, posing a major inconvenience for local farmers and commuters. It was a major effort to get Council to listen, saying that they did not need to consult with the users and that they knew all that they needed to know about the bridge”. Eventually they relented and the bridge will be built and wide enough to be practical.
  • The Municipality is regularly using Google Earth to spy on its constituents and view properties which have not yet obtained Building Permits and whatever else? This despite the fact that even the Police are not allowed to avail themselves for this kind of intrusion.
  • Two potential self-serving bypasses on the OVRT in Almonte were proposed and approved by the majority of Council, who seemed to have no concern for the safety of the users or the impact on the potential adjacent property owners. It was a relief when the OPP condemned the options. Why would they consider bypassing the downtown core when every other municipality is embracing the potential tourism revenue?
  • It was an embarrassment to the overwhelming majority of residents of Mississippi Mills, when the Mayor refused to lower the Flag to half-mast out of respect for the Humboldt Broncos tragedy. Disappointingly, no Councillor stood up to challenge the Mayor, while the entire country mourned this tragedy.
  • A local citizen was forcibly taken down by the OPP and handcuffed, after he protested against the 10 minutes he was expecting to have at a planning meeting (to which anyone was invited to speak) to express concerns over the sale of Don Maynard Park. Shortly into the meeting, the Mayor arbitrarily reduced the allocated time to two minutes. There was, once again, no comment from any other Councillor.
  • A senior resident sat quietly in the gallery at one Council meeting with a small sign over the railing, expressing his desire to have government stay off his land. The Mayor crossed the floor, shook his fist under the gentleman’s nose and after saying “take that sign down” several times told him loudly to “F___K OFF”. To which there was only the quiet response “show me the by-law”! There was none! Again no other Councillor protested this treatment?
  • The Community Official Plan, (COP) outlines the growth and planning for the Municipality over a five-year period. Our COP was last completed in 2005-2006 and should have been completed again in 2010 – 2011. It was announced in November of 2017 that they would like to have it passed and sent to the County for ratification by the end of January 2018. PRATAC held three meetings in December 2017 (one in each ward), which were heavily attended. The residents’ frustration was very evident and was caused by Council’s lack of proper meetings to inform the ratepayers of the Community Official Plan’s implications and to give people an opportunity to voice their concerns. Particularly upsetting was the Natural Heritage Systems portion, which sought to add extensive controls over private property. Finally, Council convened a meeting last December 14, at the Almonte Arena Hall. The answers given at that meeting by Councillors were not well received and the meeting became loud and completely out of the control of the Mayor. The feeling of utter frustration was very evident, feeling that it could not be considered a Community Official Plan, when the only groups with input besides the Municipal staff were the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority and the Mississippi Valley field Naturalists. No other community groups were consulted. Never being adequately resolved, the minimum Provincial Standards (option 3) was promised by Council. However, it was not adopted despite promises given by each councillor and it is now at Lanark County Council with Option 2 approved by Council, awaiting their approval.
  • This is only a partial list of the problems that we have seen with the current Council. It basically amounts to no concern for the plight of the elector or the Corporation, for which they are responsible for managing.

PRATAC has in excess of 1000 members. It consists of former members of Council, Mayors, church ladies, farmers, contractors, labourers and business people.

  • Each one is unhappy with the performance of the current Council. We are not a group of disgruntled naysayers but basic hard working individuals most of whom have not been particularly political. The situation over the last four years has made the membership more politically astute and concerned.
  • Along with 4 other Parties, we are presently before the OMB to save Don Maynard Park. If the subject bylaw is not repealed sooner, the hearing will probably be heard in February.
  • Along with local farmers, we were involved in persuading Council to revisit the seventh line bridge and incorporate the necessary structural changes.
  • We have pressured Council over the OVRT and the concept that if everyone is paying for the trail and its maintenance, every recreational group or individual should be able to use it.

There are many other issues, which have been brought to the attention of the Municipality by PRATAC. We are not there to cause trouble. However, the current Council seems to have no respect or concern for the will of the ratepayers of Mississippi Mills. This Council has not acted on their oft-flaunted ideals of transparency, openness, honesty and communication. It is sad when individuals express a reluctance to openly criticize the Municipality out of fear of retaliation.

Our detractors have accused us of running a slate of candidates. They say that this has always been our intention. We have no such agenda!

We urge any resident of Mississippi Mills who was unhappy with the unrest in the Community to become engaged. PRATAC’s support and the support of the majority of the voters will be for change and for candidates whose platform shows respect and concern for the residents. Their intentions are to operate the Corporation in the best interests of the residents and the Municipality. There are many new candidates in the running now for whom we have the utmost respect. Now please do your part and be sure to vote!

 YOUR VOTE IS THE ONLY ONE THAT CAN FACILITATE CHANGE!

 Yours truly,

 Pakenham, Ramsay, Almonte Taxpayers Advocacy Coalition     

Voting begins on October 15th at 10:00 am

And ends on

October 22nd at 8:00 pm

 You should have received your Voter Information Letter (VIL) by now.

If you have not, contact the Municipality at

elections@mississippimills.ca

Or call them at (613) 256-2064