Opinion: Small things add up

By Mike Williscraft

There have been lots of “big” things as Grimsby council has disintegrated before our eyes, but the “little” things continue to pile up as well.

This week there were several little things and, now that council will only meet three times – yes, that’s right folks, three times between now and October unless Mayor Jeff Jordan calls a special meeting for which everyone decides to show up – you will see, good reader, how these things accumulate.

Last week, the Town hosted a webinar for rest-aurateurs who want to expand their patios. Great. The initiative includes waiving of the $200 fee for a permit to do just that. What seemed odd was there was no report or proposal at the council meeting which took place a few days prior. The decision on the process and waiving of fees, CAO Harry Schlange noted to me in an email, came from the Town’s EOC (Emergency Operations Centre) group.

All well and good as this committee was put together to expedite matters under COVID-19 protocols, but council should still be providing oversight and, at least be consulted where expenditures are possible and time allows. Time certainly allowed in that case, but a small thing given the fee is only $200 per instance.

Another item, the Town’s new planner has been hired. It comes as a surprise to absolutely nobody the new planner and CAO both worked in Brampton as there is a history to staff moving municipality to municipality under Schlange. Two departments were merged to create the position which could afford to bring in the new staff member. Little thing #2.

Last week I had a letter from the Town of Grimsby delivered which says, unfortunately, I will have to wait for “longer than usual” to see what will happen with my request for the report filed after a two-month investigation into allegations made against Schlange by some staff members.

Since I had not heard of any delays to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, I checked with appropriate provincial officials which resulted in a definitive response.

Simply, any permission of delay comes at the top of the food chain, at the ministry level, and nothing in the emergency order relates to how municipalities should be conducting business.

Small thing #3.

Last week’s council meeting included a discussion spurred by a motion to have the Town’s advisory and sub-committee structure revitalized to keep projects and information up to date as all have been mothballed since March.

The shutdown of council’s administrative process also necessitated the delay of implementation for the new committee of the whole program which was to start in June but has now been put off until late September.

Council, at least five members of council, were not interested in maintaining two council meetings in the summer or getting advisory committees to meet virtually over the next several months choosing to keep the traditional one meeting per month in the summer through to and including September.

That leaves one meeting in July, August and September for full council before we roll around to the one meeting in September which, according to Schlange, is scheduled to be the first committee of the whole meeting. This will kick a lot of administrative matters to the EOC. For this bunch, that is dangerous.

Small thing #4.

This is just one week…there are three months before council gets back to its regular meeting schedule in October.

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So, onward we press.

As I regularly note, I welcome all and varied opinion at this publication. One reader did not like a short-coming on coverage of an event on last week’s deadline day. I appreciate her opinion. I will simply say we cannot get to everything, but we do our best and will always continue to do so.

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Under the “good luck” category, we turn to Scott Brownlee and his new venture, “Sassafras” which opens Saturday in the former Olympia location in downtown Beamsville. This place has been planned long before COVID-19 reared its ugly head and, now that patios are permitted, Scott is getting ready to roll. The menu looks amazing and creative – can’t wait to try the Bayou Bullets. Scott noted they are opening with a patio-style menu.

All restaurants are facing serious challenges in this climate. One could not pick a more difficult time to open, so best of luck to all at Sassafrass and all our other local eateries.

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