Opinion: Always there in the Nick of time

By Mike Williscraft

Nick Andreychuk.

A man synonymous with the Town of Grimsby for decades died suddenly

Tuesday after suffering a major heart attack.

Newbies to town may not even recognize the name, but if you have been around the area for any length of time you may recall Nick as a 35-year politician with 13 as Grimsby’s mayor.

He was mayor when I rolled into town from Ottawa way back in 1995. It was soon
apparent he had things well in hand in the community.

One of the first major community squabbles I can recall was a developers’ proposal to put a large parcel of town homes out at Casablanca and the QEW where the Tim Hortons/Swiss Chalet are as well as the Casablanca Inn. For the time, the density was nuts.

The developer was trying to push the Town around and the council of the day muscled up and prepared for an Ontario Municipal Board fight. It was expensive, but the Town won and that development never happened at all.

Keeping that land opened, in hindsight, was extremely strategic and correct as it preserved much-needed space for commercial interests to come in diversifying the tax base and generating local jobs.

We had many jousts as well. In the mid-90s, that was prime “downloading time”. No, not the computer style downloading, we’re talking federal and, in turn, provincial downloading of huge grant dollars, meaning they were being pulled.

Many municipal programs simply saw their funding dissolve. Grimsby, to keep its tax increases low, starting using its reserves over the first several years of that process, which I didn’t happen to agree with. With anything, balance is needed. Zero increases are nice, but the piper will get paid eventually….like this year.

One of the things I appreciated about Nick was he always had an informed, well-reasoned opinion – BUT he never went around offering it.

You had to ask him, in some cases pry it out of him as he was never one to trash people. If you talked to him long enough, you could tell who he had respect for and who he thought was a disaster, but his words were well-chosen and thoughtful.

He was a regular in our NewsNow office, coming as recently as last week, post-budget debate at Grimsby council. He was in the week before that, too, and I suggested he would want to attend last Monday so he could see things unfold for himself.

Like many, he did. Nick, too, was amazed and not in a good way.

The good ol’ biodigester was another regular topic for our discussions as Nick noted to me he was still on the hydro board when the notion for the doomed project was first bandied about. I have noted in this space in the past Nick said he would never support that project until he saw a budget which made financial sense. He never saw one.

Another regular topic for us on his visits was the Grimsby Museum, his pet project which helped keep him busy and connected in the community.

But there really was not a key issue in town which we did not cover. Nick had the ability to see through quantitious amounts of bull and summarize the real issues at hand – an important skill these days as the forest can be clouded by trees easily…like a couple of weeks ago.

In a recent column (Grimsby 5 back wrong horse, Feb. 27) dealing with council’s vote to replace Coun. Dorothy Bothwell as chair of the Town’s Heritage Committee with Coun. John Dunstall, I mentioned Grimsby’s former director of planning Michael Seaman, who was the Town’s lead liaison on the committee.

Seaman contacted me last week noting he had some concerns about the reference to him, so I thought it best to clear everything. The reference to Seaman or anyone else in the column was not intended to place blame on any person for the dissolution of the committee. The dissolution of the committee was made by Town Council after allegations of harassment against Town staff.

It has been more than a year since Seaman has moved on from the Town of Grimsby and I wish him well and I am certainly sorry for any misunderstanding in this matter.

However, as Nick noted to me, the issue really had nothing to do with Seaman, rather some members of council acting in a political party style to boot a highly qualified person from a position for purely personal reasons.

Nick Andreychuk was a very good man, a mentor to many and a great sounding board. He will be sorely missed. My condolences to his wife, Carol, and family.

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