To The Editor,

Small towns have a hard time coming back from a loss of their main industry, sometimes towns don’t recover and just vanish and sometimes towns linger, dancing on the edge of bankruptcy, its citizens brooding in anger with an attitude of entitlement. Without exception, successful towns that do spring back from depths of despair and prosper do so, because of citizens’ ability to work together to reinvent themselves. They see a problem as a challenge. More often than not, these towns, the ones that beat the odds, have skilled leadership, a resourceful population and an attractive environment. Where does Hawkesbury fit in on that spectrum? Let’s have a closer look.

We have a great location and a very attractive environment, granted it needs some work, our location is ideal. Situated in one of the nicest places in Eastern Ontario, sitting at the base of one of the only bridges that connect Quebec to Ontario on the majestic Ottawa River while tens of thousands of people drive through our city each and every day between two major cities, themselves located an hour away. We have very resourceful people, that have built successful businesses and diverse industries which bring talented employment opportunities however, if you ask most people, Hawkesbury, the city itself, is suffering from a lack of success. My feeling is that we do not have a good city council nor mayor. The town doesn’t work with the people, instead using political division. It has failed at delivering campaign promises, has lost millions of dollars due to poor management, panders to poverty and things probably won’t get better. In fact, they can still get a whole lot worse. We have all the makings of success, yet our city council seems to do everything in its power to keep success from happening. Maybe our councillors have no vision of success. It’s hard to have that vision of success when you haven’t had much of it.

We are on the verge of an economic meltdown like we’ve never seen. If you think losing the mill was bad, wait until you realize what’s actually happening now, today, as you read this. The saddest part is that city council is about to vote itself another raise!

A city council is accountable to its citizens to ensure the safe working order of its infrastructure. The responsibility falls on those elected officials, to ensure that the individuals tasked with maintaining the water, the roads, the buildings are qualified and certified to the standards required needed to monitor, validate and to execute corrective actions when needed.

This is not, nor has been the case for quite some time within Jeanne Charlebois’ Hawkesbury City council. They have been operating with impunity and wasting taxpayers’ money without consequence or reason for the better part of their mandate.

I’ll do my best to highlight this level of incompetence through simple and readily available examples. By all means, this list is not exhaustive and if anyone is interested to know more, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

To begin with, the Robert Hartley Arena’s ice rink’s HVAC system had been an issue for some time (as noted in the minutes of city council dated September 13th, 2017 article 7.4) yet the city failed to do anything effective about it. As a result, the rink was shut down for an extended and critical time period. Not only did the cost of remediation exceed $500,000, but saw the loss of revenue in excess of $550,000.00. No one was able to properly monitor, validate nor effect any corrective measures to ensure the proper function of the rink’s HVAC system. Hence the insurance policy was not able to cover the almost one million dollars in unforeseen costs and lost revenues. The taxpayers are now responsible for the town’s incompetence. That money could have paved a few roads.

When the water purification plant suffered a broken main last year and put users of the water distribution network at risk for disease, the city had no one on staff to assume responsibility to sign off on the emergency plan. Typically it would fall on the fire chief to assume responsibility (as they would have the required certifications), yet the city seemed to have no one qualified. An ironic twist was that during the crisis, without an acting signing authority, such as a qualified fire chief, the city amended its emergency plan and hired Johanne Portelance’s husband to do the work. This cost the city much more money than had it been the fire chief. We paid almost double for the same work. That money would have been better spent on getting the fire captain certified.

This idea goes one step further and begs an answer to my questions. Is the fire chief certified to sign off on other plans like an evacuation plan for the Prescott Russell Retirement Residence? If the fire chief is not certified to sign off on certain plans and there is indeed an emergency, what are the direct liabilities to the city, and hence the taxpayer?

Insofar as accessing and attaining the required qualifications and certifications, they can be achieved through simple measures like online courses or going to a training seminars at little cost.

Not a certification issue but equally important was that no one on city council saw the economic benefit of revitalizing the waterfront in concerns to the Christ Roy School. It may not be a question of qualification in the standardized requirements, but the sheer lack of economic development vision, has left the city with another million-dollar hole that the taxpayer has to fill. That million dollars could have been used to beautify the waterfront or Main Street.

The town launched a failed lawsuit against a not-for-profit organization with the hope of taking them over as in the case the Town of Hawkesbury vs. Centre Culturel Le Chenail where the city alleged that Le Chenail was not in compliance of its lease. The judge in this case ruled in the Chenail’s favour and went on to cite bad faith on the part of the Town of Hawkesbury. The town’s lawyer had no evidence to present in court. That cost $100,000 to the city which could have been used to repair the swimming pool which cost the city thousands of dollars a week in lost water costs.

Had the city done any kind of study prior to building a $35,000 volleyball court at Confederation Park it might not have built it and instead installed new benches around town for our elderly people and installed more garbage cans to deal with our litter problem.

If my calculations are right, we are at more than $2 million of taxpayers’ money wasted this last year without having gone through the books with a fine-tooth comb. The fact is that our town has gone from bad to worse under this council and it shouldn’t be this way. We have amazing people and a great community. We need another chance. Heck! The city only recently replaced its CAO and we have an annual budget of over $15 million! Our infrastructure is being ridden into the ground by the lack of competence that is our city council.

Let’s not forget that we have an election coming up and the candidates will be out there trying to secure your vote. Don’t vote for someone because they know your mom, don’t vote for someone because they hired your son to cut their lawn, don’t vote for someone with no track record of success and try not to vote for someone because they already had that position. Vote for someone with an education, experience and a track record of success. If we chose our elected officials using logic and reason instead of who knows who, then we’ll all win. Hawkesbury has a choice. If you’re sick of failing, maybe if we elect someone with a vision of success we’ll succeed.

Stephen Sockett,