Town Council Former Southampton Mayor speaks out on fiscal responsibility Read More

Former Southampton Mayor speaks out on fiscal responsibility
by Sandy Lindsay

July 17, 2016

Town Council

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"I've been quiet for 23 years, and I can't stay quiet anymore," said former Southampton Mayor, Art Knechtel, at the recent meeting (July 11) of Saugeen Shores Town Council.

Knechtel, born and raised in Southampton (Saugeen Shores) held the position of Mayor for 12 years, was also on the Police Commission and the Public Utilities Commission and was a teacher and Education Department Head for 34 years (combined).

"I want what I am going to say to be taken as positive criticism ... as I have considerable municipal experience," said Knechtel.

"We live in an area that is very difficult to manage as we live in a bubble, a phony economy ... there are the 'haves and the have-nots' and many in between.  One of the reasons I'm here is to speak for the silent majority," Knechtel said.  "If you are going to be on Council, then each and everyone of you (councilors) should be watching out for the silent majority because they keep quiet, they don't say much but I will tell you ...they are upset and you people don't realize that.

Why are they upset?  They are finding it very difficult to pay taxes.  Some of them are the descendants of the forefathers who built these communities.  Bruce Power has been a 'god-send' to this community.  They have done a great deal and put a lot of money into this community ... but there are two sides to every coin and, there is a downfall. The downfall is that, sometimes, the silent majority is forgotten because the make-up and the wages of the people change.  Twenty per cent of the people are in the 'Sunshine Club' ($100,000+/yr.) while the rest are either on pension or fixed income.  If their pensions are indexed they are lucky ... if not, they're unlucky and they have a tough row to hoe.

The others are the merchants and small business who are trying to scratch out a living.  This is a very expensive community to live in - rent and otherwise.

When people have to pay taxes and the town budget goes up 6.8 per cent, I think that is totally unfair and totally unrealistic.  The Mayor said that 'we should be able to do better' and it went down to 5.8 per cent because money was borrowed from the tax stabilization fund but it's really 6.8 per cent.  Every dollar that comes into this community has 43.6 per cent to the town, 34.2 per cent to the county and 22.2 per cent to the school board.

Now, the town budget went up 6.8 per cent but the school board went down minus four per cent and the county went down minus one per cent.

There is a tremendous assessment base here that comes on every year.  There's more money going to the school board and to the county every year and it's because of our assessment.  That should make it easier for you as the footprint doesn't change and there's no reason the taxes should be that much and I think it's totally ridiculous.

I wish I wasn't here now but I'm speaking for those people that are having difficulty. "

It was then that Knechtel said that Councilors are elected to represent all of the people and not just the top 20 per cent and that he feels that is not happening.

"I am being straight to the point and please don't take it the wrong way."

Knechtel then brought up the issue of the proposed new splash pad and the $75,000 that has been proposed to be put aside in the town budget for it.  "With a tax of 6.8 per cent, this does not make sense to me - it wasn't even in the budget."

He went on to say that he has visited the beach washrooms that have been considered for upgrading and talked to people and he doesn't feel that a new swimming pool is affordable.  "We have a police building that is not adequate and that will be a lot of money but I'll be speaking to that at another time."

"Then, there is $1.4million that is intended to be borrowed as a result of the Waterfront Study and this is against the Waterfront Study - that says 'you should be fiscally responsible.  This is not being fiscally responsible.  The rate of inflation should be the rate of taxation."

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Knechtel then moved on to the proposed new splash pad.

 "I commend these ladies for going out and raising the money.  That is what makes these communities strong but, the location?  I have a real problem with it. It will be located to the biggest splash pad in Ontario - Lake Huron.  You don't build a splash pad beside a lake.  Also, take into account the geese that are there every year - what are you going to do - put diapers on them? 

There are two jewels in Saugeen Shores - one is North Shore Park and the other is Pioneer Park at the river in Southampton.  The splash pad will totally destroy that park (North Shore).  If you start clearing that park, cedar roots are very shallow and, therefore, if you 'open' that up everything will be gone like matchsticks ... and that has to be done for the footprint of a cement pad and parking lot.  Also ... it is ten degrees warmer up-town away from the lake.  Therefore, on cool days by the lake there won't be any use made of the splash pad.  These are only a few of the concerns."

Knechtel said that people have been coming to this community and area is because ".. it is virtually untouched and is natural.  It is a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow and we here are very fortunate."

He then drew a comparison to the Fort Desoto Beach in Florida that was voted a number one beach in North America because it was left  natural and has lifeguard services.

At the end of Knechtel's presentation, Mayor Mike Smith said in response that Council is always open to constructive criticism and welcomes Knechtel back at any time.

Deputy Mayor Luke Charonneau then added that a public meeting is being held on July 20th at the Plex regarding the proposed changes to the local police building and that the police are looking for public feedback.

"If that meeting isn't packed," added Knechtel, "then the people of Saugeen Shores will get what they deserve ... whatever that is ... but I'll be there."

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Sunday, July 17, 2016