Stockwell Report V1-E4

WASAGA BEACH STOCKWELL REPORT

 

A  tip of the Wasaga Beach cap to the lady that took me to task for pointing out a spelling error in last week`s Report when this blog has spelled the word “calendar” wrong on our masthead, for three straight weeks. Her observation was certainly correct and I have asked our “blogmaster” to correct the error.

 

My blog….my bad, and I won`t be critical of questionable spelling in the future. I promise.

 

Earlier this week the members of the Wasaga Beach Council went through a process of hearing presentations from 17 residents who submitted their applications to become the fifth municipal Councillor, replacing Ron Anderson, who resigned from Council a few weeks back.

 

Each candidate was given ten minutes to present their credentials to Council members, and the general public, giving reasons why they should be chosen to fill the vacant position. After their presentations Council members were allowed to ask up to two questions of each candidate, should they wish to do so.

 

All the presentations were well thought out and were delivered with sincerity. Those who had previous Council experience clearly picked up points for their past service. However, when called upon to defend some of the decisions made by those Councils, some fell short in doing so.

 

Those candidates that had not served on previous Councils were easily split into two groups. Those that had a working knowledge of the responsibilities of local municipalities compared to the responsibilities of the upper tier municipalities (i.e., Counties), and those that did not. All had valid concerns; however, not all of those concerns fell within the purview of the lower level municipality.

 

A common thread that ran through nearly all of the presentations was that of volunteer community service. The group, as a whole, was steeped in community service.

 

As someone who was charged with casting a vote at the end of the evening, I rated the presentations as each candidate spoke. In my opinion, four of the seventeen presentations stood out above the rest. Each of the four presented a strong commitment of working with Council in moving the municipality forward, even though they were not necessarily in lockstep with every decision made during the present term of Council.

 

In my opinion, the best presentation of the four was made by Joseph Belanger. As the volunteer Co-Chairperson of the Wasaga Beach Blues Festival he has worked with both the business community and the general public, and has a record of success in guiding this popular event.

 

I well remember Mr. Belanger addressing Council a year ago when the question of purchasing properties on Beach One was under consideration. He was one of sixteen ratepayers who addressed Council, speaking either for, or against, the purchase. What stood out in my mind was his total support of the purchase and his understanding of how it would move the municipality forward in reversing a downward spiral in tourist visitations that saw the loss of over a million tourists in the previous twelve years.

 

At that time he wasn`t standing for an appointment to Council, he was simply a resident that was interested enough to make his voice heard regarding the future of his home town.

 

When Council was called upon to cast their ballots Mr. Belanger received support from Councillors Ego and Smith, as well as Yours Truly on the first ballot. Ex-Councillor George Watson received two votes from Deputy Mayor Bifolchi and Councillor Bray. Gary Cerantola, the Chairperson of the Wasaga Beach Film Festival, received one vote from Mayor Brian Smith.

 

According to the rules agreed upon by Council, a majority of votes were required to appoint a successful candidate. As this was not obtained on the first ballot, the candidate with the least votes would be removed from the ballot and a second vote would take place.

 

As a result of the first ballot, Mr. Cerantola was removed, and a second ballot was issued.

 

On the second ballot, Joseph Belanger received votes from Mayor Smith, Councillors Smith and Ego, and Yours Truly. George Watson received votes from Deputy Mayor Bifolchi and Councillor Bray.

 

Joseph Belanger became the fifth Council member of Wasaga Beach.

 

I thoroughly believe that over the next two years we will be hearing a lot more positive comments from, and about, Joseph Belanger.
Paraphrasing the late Humphrey Bogart of “Casablanca” fame: who knows, this may be the start of a beautiful political career.

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The Stockwell Report V1-E3

WASAGA BEACH STOCKWELL REPORT

 

Before we get into this week`s subject matter, let me answer a few inquiries as to the meaning of the word “wag”.

 

“Wag” is a word that I have used in my writings for the last thirty or forty years. Should you go to the Collins Canadian Dictionary, it describes the word as “humorous, witty, person”. The Miriam Webster Online Dictionary refers to it as “a person full of jokes and humour.”

 

Nothing demeaning, and certainly nothing misogynistic, as suggested by one Triple N groupie, even though she spelled it wrong……Lighten up kiddies.

 

Now, let us have a look at a piece of Wasaga Beach history……. The Dardenella Night Club and Restaurant. The Dard, as it is affectionately referred to, is a two storey building, located at Beach Drive and First Street.  It was constructed in the 1920`s and during the “Big Band Era” of the 1930`s and 40`s it was home to most of the great dance bands of the day that barnstormed through Southern Ontario.

 

The Dard was part of a four acre property acquisition along Beach One that the municipality purchased early in 2015, containing 28 commercial units and 3 restaurant-bars. The lands represent the main tourist area of the Town.

 

As the Purchase and Sale agreement didn`t close until May 15th, the municipality was faced with a very short period of time to issue a Request For Proposals (“RFPs”) and negotiate leases in order to meet the start of the 2015 summer tourist season.

 

Given the limited length of the proposed leases, (one year) and the tight schedule to prepare the establishment for a July first opening, there was little interest shown from private operators to respond to the RFP`s.  As a result, two of the contracts were awarded to Phoenix Hospitality Inc., a company headed up by Enzo Grossi, a previous operator of the facilities, who could meet the tight deadlines.

 

The third contract covered the Dard, and was the subject of a second RFP. Upon receiving the proposals, it became apparent that Phoenix was the only bidder capable of meeting the tight opening schedule, and, although its bid was less than expected, the Chief Administrative Officer was directed to enter contract negotiations with Mr. Grossi in an attempt to increase the proposed rent.

 

Agreement on a one year lease was reached with Mr. Grossi for the 2015 season running from June 22, 2015 to September 30, 2015, for a rental fee of $27,750, plus 3 months taxes.

 

The fact that one operator ran all three licenced establishments didn`t seem to impact the three bars. However, as the summer came to an end, in late August, the hours of operation for both the Dard and the Copa became more irregular. It was at that point that the lack of competition was resulting in a lesser level of customer service to the general public.

 

In February of 2016, Committee of the Whole passed a resolution directing staff that in the interest of ensuring competition between licensed establishments Council reserved the right not to award the RFP for the Dardanella to the operator whose proposal scores the highest if that operator is already leasing a licensed establishment from the Town.  That motion passed on a vote of 4 to 3 with the Deputy Mayor and Councillors Anderson and Bray opposed.

 

In March 2016, Council awarded the licensed establishment known as “Bananas” to Enzo Grossi on a vote of 5 to 2 with the Deputy Mayor and Councillor Bray opposed.

 

Also in March 2016, Council awarded the licensed establishment known as “The Copa” to RLS Wasaga Group Inc. on a vote of 4 to 3 with the Deputy Mayor and Councillors Anderson and Bray opposed.

 

The following month, April 2016, Council defeated the awarding of the licensed establishment known as “The Dard” to Enzo Grossi on a vote of 4 to 3 with the Deputy Mayor and Councillors Bray and Smith voting with the minority.

 

On May 17, 2016, the Committee of the Whole directed staff to issue yet another RFP for the operation of the Dardanella Licensed Establishment, with some minor changes. The report stated, “There is a tremendous history within the Dardanella and it is a Town landmark. If a proponent puts forth ideas to repair the Dardanella and restore it to full operation, these ideas should be considered. The revised RFP provides that opportunity.”

 

At the recent Council meeting of June 9, 2016, staff presented a report, giving the details of three RFP submissions from Brian Crombie and Billy Gordon Developments, Elusiv Entertainment (Vince Piacente), and Phoenix Hospitality Inc. (Enzo Grossi).

 

The report was presented by George Vadeboncoeur, Chief Administrative Officer of Wasaga Beach, who explained the process used to “score” the three submissions, assessing lease rates and leasehold improvements over the five year contract.

 

In assessing the Crombie/Gordon submission the report stated that it was “professionally presented, but was not as strong in certain areas and was missing an element. There was no certainty to the Town with their lease rate proposal and the Town would have to pay the group back for any leasehold improvements made to the building. This group had the strongest Value Added component and it was very creative.”

 

Comparing the remaining two submissions, the Chief Administrative Officer recommended that, “it would be in the best interest of the Town to grant the lease to Elusiv Entertainment, subject to negotiating a satisfactory lease.” The report went on to say that, “In coming to the recommendation the writer focused on the lease rate proposed by Elusiv and Phoenix Hospitality as other factors were fairly close. Over six years Elusiv is proposing to pay the Town $115,000 more than Phoenix Hospitality.”

 

In regards to Leasehold Improvements, Phoenix committed themselves to spend $480,000 over a five and a half year period. Elusiv committed themselves to spend $500,000 by December 31st. 2017.

 

So, Council was presented with a motion awarding, “the lease of the Dardanella beachfront licensed establishment to Elusiv Entertainment, subject to negotiations of acceptable lease terms.”

 

The motion was lost on a tie vote, as follows;

 

In favour…..Mayor Smith and Councillors Ego and Stockwell…..Opposed….Deputy Mayor Bifolchi and Councillors Bray and Smith.

So, who knows what the next step is for the Dard. There isn`t enough time to lease the property for the 2016 summer season. Not only will it remain “dark” for the 2016 summer season, it means that the Town has missed out on $750,000, made up of $250,000 rent, over the five year lease, and $500,000 in Capital upgrades.

 

The Wasaga Sun ran an online story reporting the actions of Council, and it was posted on The Wasaga  Beach News and Commentary site with a comment from the chap that posted it, “this is a bit disturbing I thought one would go through.”
Disturbing…….I think that most Wasaga Beach ratepayers will find it OUTRAGEOUS.

Stockwell Report V1-E2 May 9th 2016

WASAGA BEACH STOCKWELL REPORT

 

I received some interesting responses to last week`s report.

 

Most replies were supportive; however, there were a handful of comments that were nasty, and some that just didn’t make any sense at all. One wag thought I was bullying the Deputy Mayor, and sent me a link to an online site that would help me overcome my bullying tactics.

 

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised at the interest shown. The report was posted late Wednesday, and by the weekend it had registered over a thousand hits.

 

Sprinkled amongst the comments on the column were a few concerns regarding Council’s decision to appoint a replacement to fill the recently vacated seat brought about by the resignation of Ron Anderson.

 

Again, when Council was presented with a choice of three ways to replace the vacancy, it chose to call for candidates and make a council appointment, as stated in the Municipal Act.

 

Both the Deputy Mayor and Councillor Bray initially moved a motion to name George Watson, the 2014 election candidate that finished sixth in that election. When that motion was defeated, they presented another motion that called for a by-election to fill the position that would cost the Wasaga Beach taxpayers approximately $95,000, and would not see the winner seated until September 2016. That too was defeated.

 

“ It’s the most democratic process,” said the Deputy Mayor, “Hand picking this person, when we have two and a half years left does not respect our voters.”

 

Well, that’s one way of looking at it. However, I look at it with a different view.

 

The sixth place finishing councillor from the 2014 election had served three terms as a member of Council and was shown the door by the voting public. For me to vote to return him to his previous position without knowing what other citizens were interested in serving, in my opinion, would be a blow against democracy and really be a slap in the face to the Wasaga Beach voters. So, it`s just how you choose to look at it.

 

When it comes to Council voting to fill the vacant position, it will be interesting to see if the two council members cast their ballots for Mr. Watson. One would think that their actions to date commits them to doing just that.

 

The Deputy Mayor has gone on record to say that the upcoming appointment, “is already predetermined.” It`s not unusual for the Deputy Mayor to make such outrageous comments.

 

As for Yours Truly, I can only tell you that other than receiving letters from the two previous council members, as did all of Council, I have not spoken to any of the candidates seeking the position, and I have no idea as to who I will support, and won’t know, until I have a chance to listen to all of their presentations to Council.

 

At that point I will vote for the candidate who, in my opinion, will serve the ratepayers best.

 

Now, getting back to last week’s column.

 

The most interesting thing to me about the response to that column was that it was written in a way to point out the rift between the Deputy Mayor and the majority of Council when it comes to bringing change to the municipality. Her voting pattern clearly shows her negativity to anything that smacks of moving the municipality forward.

 

The report finished with a challenge to her groupies to explain how her negatism does anything in helping the overall economy of the municipality and the future of the business community and the ratepayers that we serve.

 

No one, but NO ONE attempted to do that. They would rather continue to dump on Council in general, and the Mayor in particular, than defend Triple N.

 

Now, the Deputy Mayor’s  actions are not new to municipal government. In fact, they are rather common throughout the industry.

 

Very few Mayors float through their municipal careers without having one, or more, members of their Council set themselves up as a self appointed Official Opposition. If the mayor says good, the opposition says bad, and so it goes until, eventually, an election settles the matter.

 

It must be remembered that municipal politicians are first, and foremost, ratepayers. Not many graduates set their life goals as municipal politicians. They are usually encouraged by friends and neighbours to run for local Council after showing leadership qualities in fighting a neighbourhood battle with Town Hall. In fact, if a poll of any municipal Council was run, with just one question, “do you consider yourself a member of the building team or the wrecking team”, I would venture to say that almost one hundred percent of the responses would be, “The building team.”
The “Wreckers” not only kid the voters but end up kidding themselves as well.

WASAGA BEACH STOCKWELL REPORT – JUNE 2ND 2016

It was the Spring of 2010 when my wife, Loretta, and I moved to Wasaga Beach to enter that wonderful world of retirement. We chose Wasaga because we loved the countryside and Loretta had a couple of sisters living in the Beach.

 

Settling into retirement, my days were spent in long walks on the beach and watching the political news on  television, from both sides of the border.

 

Once a political junky, always a political junky.

 

I took little interest in the local council until some four years later when the 2014 municipal election was on the horizon, and it became clear that the natives were restless enough to make some wholesale changes in who would represent them for the next four years.

 

Now, I had seen this before in the fifty years of my political career, serving both as an elected official in the Metro Toronto area, and as a Chief Administrative Officer in four different municipalities in Southern Ontario. However, what was different, was the fact that those candidates seeking to replace the old guard were generally inexperienced in the world of municipal government.

 

The thought crossed my mind that if I entered the fray, and was successful, I might be of some help to the incoming council.

 

The odds were certainly against my being elected, considering I was new to the area, had no “political base”, and had no campaign workers, save for a few neighbours who had no political campaign experience.

 

That would be tough enough, but not as tough as convincing my wife of sixty years that I should take the plunge. Much to my surprise I won her approval with only one stipulation, I was limited in how much money I could spend.

 

Within a few days I launched my campaign with a bare-bones budget. No advertising, no lawn signs, and certainly no screaming supporters, cheering me on.

 

The election came and went, and much to my surprise I finished fifth in a councillors` race where five were to be elected. The only person more surprised than me was the lady that gave me the O.K. to run.

The election returned only two members of the old guard, Nina Bifolchi as Deputy Mayor and Ron Anderson,  finishing fourth in the Councillors race. The newly elected mayor was Brian Smith, a local businessman who had been raised in Wasaga Beach, and had very deep roots in the area. The remaining three Councillors elected were Bonnie Smith, Sylvia Bray, and Ron Ego, finishing one, two, and three.

 

Other than the two returning members from the previous Council, the remaining five were elected on a platform of CHANGE.

 

Now, you would think that with such a wholesale facelift of Council, it wouldn`t be difficult to get everyone on the same page when it came to change. However, that didn`t happen.

 

Early in their mandate,  Council was faced with an opportunity to evoke a major change in the development  of Beach One, the homebase of Wasaga Beach`s tourism industry, and hence, the entire economic future of the municipality.

 

In February of 2015 the new Mayor introduced a motion for Council to direct staff, along with the town solicitor, to conduct a review of the process to establish a Development Corporation under Provincial Legislation to oversee the development of a “Main Street” and the “Development of Beach Area 1 and 2.”

 

The motion carried 6 to 5 with the Deputy Mayor as the only member opposed.

 

In April 2015 a public meeting was held to listen to deputations regarding the proposed purchase of private properties by the municipality, along Beach 1 for a purchase price of $13.8 million. The purchase included seven properties and 8 buildings, resulting in the municipality having ownership of over seventy percent of the commercial lands on Beach 1.

 

After hearing a number of residents` opinions on the matter council voted 5 to 2 to proceed with the purchase. Again, the Deputy Mayor voted in the negative.

 

From that point on it became obvious that the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor were on different sides of the “change” issue, and Council was looking at a long four years of division.

It wasn`t long before the Deputy Mayor turned to social media to use her website to take her case directly to the general public. In the beginning her comments were bland when it came to reporting the actions of Council. However, as time went by, and her opposition to almost everything that came out of the Mayor`s office grew, she began to use her website to belittle the mayor and members of Council, as well as painting herself as a “victim”, at the hands of her fellow Councillors.

 

All in all, it was a “poor me” diatribe.

 

Most ratepayers follow Council`s activities “in passing”. However social media, at least in Wasaga Beach, has produced a small number of ratepayers who have become political groupies, and the Deputy Mayor has become their favorite. There are two sites that are quite entertaining. They can be found on Facebook and are named, Wasaga Beach Political Forum (“W.B.P.F”), and Wasaga Beach News and Commentary Group.

 

The W.B.P.F. is overseen by Mark Wineberg, the spouse of Councillor Bray, although that`s never mentioned on his site…..so much for full disclosure.

 

At any rate, the overriding opinion of these sites plays into the “victim” scenario espoused by the Deputy Mayor, and fun is had by all.

 

To really grasp the negativity that exists at the Wasaga Beach Council one has to review the voting patterns over the past year and a half. Recorded votes are not taken on all issues, but those that are taken are recorded in the Official Minutes.

 

February 2015

 

A staff report to establish a Development Corporation carried 6 to 1…The Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

April 2015

 

A motion to purchase land and buildings on Beach one carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

May 2015

 

A motion to award a number of one-year rental contracts for Beach One properties carried 6 to 1…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

A motion to award a one year rental contract on The Dard carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

A motion to award a one year rental contract on The Copa

carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

A motion to transfer insurance money to repair damaged trusses in The Dard carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

A motion to appoint an Integrity Commissioner carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

A motion to refer the development application re. Pine Valley Developments back to Committee to allow ratepayers the opportunity to address council carried 6 to 1…Deputy Mayor opposed

 

June 2015

 

A motion to amend the Code of Conduct carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

July 2015

 

A motion to have staff develop a business case to establish a Development Corporation carried 6 to 1…Deputy Mayor opposed

 

August 2015

 

A motion directing staff to prepare a proposed 2016 Budget based on a zero percent increase carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

 September 2015

 

A motion to restructure the Economic Development and Planning departments carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

A motion to direct staff to prepare new rental agreements for Beach One properties for the 2016 season for council approval carried on a 5 to 1 vote…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

October 2015

 

A motion to amend zoning by-law to allow the development of a recreation hall at 60-19th. St carried 5 to 2… Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

A motion to establish a Main Street Market for the year 2016 and direct staff to make application for any provincial grants that may be available carried 6 to 1… Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

A further motion directing staff to report on the necessary infrastructure needed to support a Main Street Market carried on a vote of 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

A motion to have Committee of the Whole, operating as the Budget Committee, receive the proposed 2016 Operating and Capital Budget First Roll-Up- Part 1 carried on a vote of 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

Nov. 2015

 

A motion to implement a Coordinated Committee of the Whole structure to replace Standing Committees of Council passed 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

Dec. 2015

 

A motion to direct the Director of Economic Development to proceed with a Terms of Reference and seeking private funding of a Downtown Master Plan carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.

A By-Law appointing Board of Directors of Wasaga Hydro carried 6 to 1…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

A motion approving Operational and Capital Budgets carried 4 to 3…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

January 2016

A motion to revise a Code of Conduct carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

A motion to approve three year leases covering kiosks at $6,000 annually carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

A motion to hire an architect to design a beer garden  carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

A motion directing staff to proceed with negotiations for a beer tent at the Main Street Market with the Wasaga Beach Brewing Co. carried 4 to 3…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

A motion to proceed with the necessary infrastructure supporting the Main Street Market carried on a vote of 6 to 1…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

February 2016

 

A motion to approve a rental lease of the Copa carried 4 to 3…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

A motion to review options of establishing a Ward System for the 2018 municipal election carried on a vote of 4 to 3…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

March 2016

 

A motion for staff to prepare a report regarding sky

diving requirements carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

A motion to lease Bananas for 5 years with an additional 5 year option carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

A motion to lease 31 Beach Drive by RLS for five years plus a five year option carried 4 to 3…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

A motion directing staff to issue a Request for Proposals to undertake The Downtown  Masterplan carried 4 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

April 2016

 

A motion to approve a contract to design and build the Beachfront Rental Kiosks; the Main St Market Kiosks, and the Lifeguard/Ambassador Stations carried 4 to 3… Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

A motion recommending approval of a three year lease to rent 12 Main St., Unit F, to Blooming Onion carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

A motion recommending approval of a three year lease to rent 12 Main St.,Unit U, to Edward Donnelly carried 5 to 2…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

May 2016

 

A motion deferring consideration of Council Compensation Review until Council has a full compliment of members and can have a full discussion on the report carried 4 to 1…Deputy Mayor opposed.

 

It is no wonder that in the coffee shops across town the Deputy Mayor is referred to as Nina No No. A name that will be hard to shake.

 

So, when those loyal supporters of the Deputy Mayor cheer on her continuous opposition to the motions that have been presented to bring about change, and move the economic development of the municipality forward, the ratepayers of Wasaga Beach should look back to the 2014 election campaign and just review what the now-members of council said what they would do if elected.

 

In fairness to the Deputy Mayor, her campaign was made up of telling the voter of all the Committees she had served on over the previous eight years as a member of Council, other than her plans for the future.

 

Bringing about change was not part of her program.

However, she did state the following, “Wasaga Beach has seen some changes and had been met with some challenges over the past decade that have allowed us to re-evaluate and plan for the future. Transition and change take time and now that the background work and planning is done, I am ready to move Wasaga Beach forward to become a place we can truly live, work and play.”

 

So, if we had the magic wand, and with the flick of the wrist, we could reverse all those things that the Deputy Mayor has opposed over the past year and a half, what would we have left?

 

We would be back to the old way of doing business. No change….No progress.

 

Can any of the Deputy Mayor`s supporters from Social Media make a case for that ?

P. S….Keep watching…there`s more to come.