Council to fill vacancy tomorrow Mayor livid over process

Town council will make a decision as to who will fill the vacancy left by the sudden passing of Coun. Struchan Gilson last month during a special meeting tomorrow.
After much debate last night, council decided to forgo the option to hold a byelection—which would cost taxpayers $20,000—and instead appoint one of the runner-up candidates from the 2003 election.
This will take place at a meeting starting at noon tomorrow, during a process where the candidates’ names will be put on a ballot and the mayor and council will rank their choices (first, second, third, etc.).
The overall highest-ranked candidate then will be appointed to fill the vacancy until the next municipal election in November, 2006.
Clerk Glenn Treftlin was instructed to contact the runners-up from the previous election prior to tomorrow’s meeting to determine whether they’re still eligible to be councillors, as well as if they’re interested in serving.
Only the interested candidates will be included on tomorrow’s ballot.
Possible names, and the amount of votes they garnered in the last election, include former councillor John Albanese (1,743), Pastor Stephen Laing (1,466), former councillor Gus Lindberg (1,186), Misty Christian (1,050), and Bud Edwards (1,030).
Mayoral candidate Sharon Tibbs, who lost to Mayor Dan Onichuk, also could be included on tomorrow’s ballot.
The decision to not hold a byelection, and to make an appointment in this manner, came only after much debate over how the process should work.
Mayor Dan Onichuk was livid following last night’s meeting. He felt council simply should have appointed the council candidate who got the seventh-most votes in the last election—Albanese.
“It’s the typical old boys’ club mentality of this town—they want to pick and choose who’s on this council,” the mayor remarked. “Quite frankly, I thought it was no-brainer, that this was the way to go.
“But I’ve learned a lot of things in the last two years, about how people in this town want to squash other people,” he said.
“I can’t believe that this council—six people—are going to decide who the next councillor is when over 1,000 people voted for Mr. Albanese,” Mayor Onichuk added. “I think it’s absolutely ridiculous.”
While most councillors felt a byelection would be the fairest way to fill the vacancy, the majority also felt the $20,000 price tag was unreasonable, especially since the term will expire in just over a year.
The only one who stuck to the election option by the end of the night was Coun. Roy Avis.
“I think it’s better to have an election,” he noted, adding the most democratic way of going about things is to allow anyone to run, get elected by the people, and “get a taste of council and see if they want to run again” in 2006.
The decision to make the appointment did not come easily. First, council was split 3-3 (with Couns. Avis, Tannis Drysdale, and Todd Hamilton voting in favour and Mayor Onichuk and Couns. Kabel and Rick Wiedenhoeft against) to hold a byelection, defeating the motion.
Then the same split came in a second vote, defeating the motion to fill the vacancy by appointment.
Clerk Treftlin then informed council that under the Municipal Act, the vacancy must be filled somehow. He warned the province could go to court and get an order to force town council to make a decision.
Coun. Wiedenhoeft, seconded by Coun. Kabel, then agreed to reintroduce a motion that the vacancy be filled by appointment.
After being discussed at length, an unrecorded vote was taken, with Couns. Wiedenhoeft, Drysdale, Hamilton, and Kabel voting in favour of the motion and Coun. Avis against it.
Mayor Onichuk declined to vote.
Direction then was given to pursue the appointment process using Coun. Kabel’s suggested method.
Also at last night’s meeting, council:
•heard a quarterly activity report from acting OPP detachment commander S/Sgt. Steve Shouldice;
•received a presentation by David Lovisa regarding land development on Minnie Avenue North (the matter was referred to the Planning and Development executive committee for a recommendation, with input from the other three executive committees);
•approved a break-open ticket licence application from Friends of Little League at Sparky’s Confectionery from Sept. 13, 2005-March 6, 2006;
•passed a bylaw to make an amendment to an agreement with Paul Bock to increase rates chargeable for limousines used for hire in the Town of Fort Frances;
•passed a bylaw to make an amendment to an agreement with Paul Bock to increase rates chargeable for taxicabs used for hire within the Town of Fort Frances;
•referred an application for a zoning bylaw amendment re File No. 8/98-BB (1235 Idylwild Dr.) to municipal planner Faye Flatt for processing;
•passed a bylaw to amend Zoning Bylaw 8/98 (515 First St. E.) to permit the property to be used as a personal services establishment (massage therapy clinic);
•passed a bylaw to authorize the sale of certain lands to Arthur E. Hammond; and
•referred a request from the City of Port Colborne for support of its resolution regarding eligibility for lottery licensing municipal museums and public libraries to the Administration and Finance executive committee for a recommendation.