NewsNow E-Edition December 1, 2022

West Lincoln ~ Hopefuls roll out views at all-candidates meeting

Town of West Lincoln

By Mike Williscraft

For NewsNow

Candidates for West Lincoln council, Niagara Region council and school boards all took part in an all-candidates meeting at Smithville Christian HIgh School last Tuesday.

The school’s director of communications, Marlene Bergsma acted as emcee for the evening, which drew a standing-room-only crowd.

Incumbent mayoral candidate Dave Bylsma told those on hand he wants to keep the municipality moving forward despite several contentious incidents arising during the term.

“I am especially pleased to say I had perfect participation in every council and committee meeting. I sought to uncover truth and fact in an ever-increasing, noisy political environment,” said Bylsma.

“The events and disruptions of COVID-19 certainly  tested the limits of every leadership team, this was no less true for West Lincoln.”

As far as the last term of council, Bylsma said the group accomplished a lot.

“This iteration of council restored the rural and urban balance…I think that all of council is also pleased to claim fiscal restraint and taxpayer value for the many services that are provided,” said Bylsma.

Mayoral candidate Cheryl Ganann, a current township councillor, said she believes residents’ biggest concern is the municipality’s development.

“Although the condition of and vehicle speeds on local roads and appropriate tax levels are important, residents, both long-time and new, rural and urban shared that the changes in, and the growth of our community are of concern,” said Ganann, noting increased police presence is still needed.

“(Growth) related decisions must be made by a strong council obligated to examining future needs, yet maintaining our community roots.”

Greg Stephens said he decided to run for mayor because he believes the township is looking for wholesale change.

“They’re complaining about not being included in the township. They’re complaining about the outward areas saying that they’re having issues, that they’re not paying attention to them,” said Stephens of the “limited number” of residents he has spoken to as he kicked off his campaign, adding his work experience in operating a company which installed sewer and water mains allowed him to see how many municipalities operate.

“I have quite a knowledge of that.”

WARD 1

Paul Griffin said accountability is something residents want, “but unfortunately, we all too often don’t expect it. We don’t expect it from our leaders because, when we ask, we do not receive,” said Griffin, adding because of that, residents have stopped demanding it.

Griffin also said council and town staff should not deceive taxpayers.

“What’s worse, though, is when you, the people of West Lincoln, are intentionally misinformed by decisions made by council or  town staff. When you have a question, you have the right to receive an honest answer…This is how we hold one another accountable.”

Incumbent Mike Rehner told the crowd he has been part of significant advancements on several fronts where infrastructure is concerned, noting a   new bridge in north Chippawa, Concession 5 being ‘tarred and chipped” and playground equipment being installed at Caistorville Library, as examples.

“We even had the Region redo Hwy. 20 and 14 Road from Caistor/Gainsborough from Townline Road to Warner, but most importantly – after working hard for 19 years to get it – I’ve been part of the new fire hall in town,” said Rehner of the new Caistor firehall under construction.

The other Ward 1 incumbent Jason Trombetta noted several key infrastructure goals achieved.

“There’s still more work to be done. I want to continue with our road program, continue to convert our roads from gravel to tar and chip. I am also very passionate about our community halls,” said Trombetta, noting he’d like to invest more in Abbingdon Hall. “They are gems of our community.”

Henry Vis said his business experience would be an asset for him as a Ward 3 councillor.

“As a business manager I’ve dealt with budgets several times larger than West Lincoln and I have been involved in developing much of our infrastructure,” said Vis.

As for concerns, Vis said speeding and road conditions are key for him.

WARD 2

Shelley Ann Bradaric, who described herself as “quiet” said that appearance is possible due to her preparation.

“She doesn’t take over meetings, doesn’t ask question upon question…Well, there are reasons for that,” said Bradaric.

“I pride myself in coming prepared for meetings. I read. I review staff reports. I take the opportunity to do my own research on topics, reach out to township staff with questions and thoughtfully engage with presentations.”

Joann Chechalk, who previously served Ward 2 for eight years prior to the last term, said council has a lot of work to do.

“In many ways, I have not been happy with what I’ve seen going on or what I have heard…I know that the time has come for our isolation to be put aside and our differences to be forgotten and our similarities to be celebrated and moved forward on,” said Chechalk, adding future growth needs to be managed properly.

Tim Jonker spoke on behalf of his brother Harold – a Ward 2 incumbent – who was quarantined due to international travel.

“He will work to ensure that the growth that is happening is  done wisely and at a reasonable rate so that our infrastructure keeps up,” said Tim, reading a prepared statement.

“Maintaining our infrastructure and improving it is important and he will continue to work wisely with your tax dollars to ensure that our money is well spent.”

Eric Ravensbergen said he believes his “fresh perspective” would serve him well on council.

“If elected to council, I intend to work hard to ensure that guidelines are put in place to maintain the smalltown community and character of West Lincoln while working with the province’s growth strategy,” said Ravensbergen.

He also noted, given concerns on a world scale with food supply chains, West Lincoln can do its part.

“It is critical that we continue to build local food networks and policies which help, rather than hinder, our local farming community.”

WARD 3

Former Ward 1 councillor Terry Bell did not use his time to outline his overall platform, rather, he urged all voters to ask questions and assess candidates at all levels and, most of all, get out and vote.

“There are a lot more important things to hear tonight. You, the voter and the citizens, whether you are Ward 1, 2, or, it’s very important that you look at your candidates that are running in all the wards and at all levels from the mayor down to the councillors, trustees and the regional people,” said Bell.

“Know who they are, understand them, know what they are going to do for you. Be aware of what they are. You have to appreciate it because this election is very critical for West Lincoln.”

Incumbent William Reilly described his first term as “unique”  and did include several improvements including improved communication with taxpayers, an updated website and got the township active on social media.

“We are even live streaming our meetings now, which is light years ahead of where we were the term before,” said Reilly, adding safety in the community has been a key focus for him.

“A vote for me is a vote for a proactive, accessible, responsive member of council, someone who values your concerns, leads by example and delivers on their promises and someone you can count on.

Mark Wanders said the community as a whole has a great opportunity in front of it.

“Together we will build on past successes, cherish what we have and peer into the future to envision what might be,” said Wanders, noting he has raised his family in West Lincoln for the last 20 years.

“If you vote for me,  we will make this year a solid step towards the next 20.”

Clarence Vanderhout said it was important for council to get back to face-to-face meetings.

“We need to get back to in-person meetings,” said Vanderhout, adding there are a couple of key pieces of land which require council’s attention.

“Specific areas needing addressing are the old St. Martin’s School parcel and  the College Street parcel. Our residents would like to have a voice in the decision making and I will be that voice,” said Vanderhout.

REGIONAL

COUNCILLOR

Incumbent for regional councillor Albert Witteveen said this first term has had many successes.

“We’ve worked with all our municipalities to increase efficiencies, save money and reduce duplication by creating new service agreements between Niagara Region’s 12 municipalities,” said Witteveen, adding council added a platform to give residents more of a voice by establishing committees for diversity, equity and inclusion.

Peggy Cook, noting West Lincoln’s population targets will double the size, said, “We need affordable housing for seniors and young families, single moms, single dads, for all of the folks out there doing their best,” adding rental units and infrastructure must be part of any plan.

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