SCUGOG: Incumbent and candidate faced off on Tuesday, Sept. 30 for the Mayor’s seat at Scugog Township Council. Mayor Chuck Mercier and challenger Tom Rowett debated many timely topics during a mayoral debate hosted by the Scugog Chamber of Commerce at the Scugog Arena Community Centre.
Mayor Mercier opened up the debate by urging his constituents to stay the course, and promote follow through - while Mr. Rowett stated that 2014 is a time for change, and a fresh view on problems facing the municipality.
Mayor Mercier noted his Council’s work in balancing Scugog’s financial books, and continuing work on issues such as road repair - without entering into debt.
If elected, Mr. Rowett said that his strategy is to analyze the Township’s costs, and search for efficiencies - which would eliminate unnecessary spending.
The first question posed to both Mayor Mercier and Mr. Rowett asked how each man would handle a lack of income from future development fees, given that the municipal sewage capacity is almost entirely allocated for new growth. Mr. Rowett was given the chance to speak first.
“We need to look at finding efficiencies within the Township’s budget,” said Mr. Rowett - citing his background is business and accounting. “Many grants from the upper-tiers of government are ours for the taking - if we spend the money to fix our roads, they will be more apt to fund Scugog.”
Mayor Mercier responded by saying “the year before I was elected, the Township received $1 Million in development fees - this year we didn’t clear $100,000 due to service capacity - and the province pulled a support budget. Unfortunately we were handed a Township losing money, but we have worked to balance the books, sell unneeded properties, and still do necessary work - such as improving the Nonquon Sewage Plant. Moving forward, it is time to make tough decisions and manage money fairly - nothing can be sacred cow anymore.”
The next question for the debaters centred around the future of the Old Mill - an issue which polarizes many of the Township’s residents, due to the historic value and high-cost of the property.
Mr. Rowett criticized the current Council’s decision making process, saying that a finalized solution needs to be made immediately.
“If the Township goes ahead and leases the property to the private sector, and place it under protective legislation, the Old Mill can be used by the community and not torn down - at the owner’s expense,” said Mr. Rowett.
Mayor Mercier defended Council’s decision to close the Old Mill and break the tenant’s lease contract - explaining that the building came with structural, health, and air quality risks, and that the Township could not, in good conscience, continue letting people occupy the building.
“We are currently conducting market sounding excercises, to see if we have interest in using the property - and to measure up the costs of repair and the profit of investing,” said Mayor Mercier.
Both candidates thanked the audience for attending and offered a closing statement.
Mayor Mercier lauded the success of Port Perry’s downtown - asking the people for support as an experienced Mayor for another term.
Mr. Rowett proposed change in Scugog, stating that the current Council has done a good job, but that taxes need to be lowered and efficiencies found - focusing on small business.