Norfolk council is thrilled that seniors in Port Dover have formed a club and have found a venue where they can grow their membership.
But some council members think the process leading to this point leaves something to be desired.
Specifically, Mayor Kristal Chopp took Adam Veri, president of the Port Dover Board of Trade, to task on May 22 for steering this process without the help of Port Dover Coun. Amy Martin.
“We have to break down these silos,” Chopp said, adding she hopes to see Coun. Martin involved in all future deliberations on the matter.
For her part, Coun. Martin said she attempted to get involved but was unsuccessful. When she caught wind of relevant meetings, Martin inquired about them but was told they were cancelled.
Veri expressed confusion about the mayor’s remarks, asking whether citizens are forbidden from undertaking community projects without running them by council first.
The exchange occurred while council considered a staff report on the establishment of a seniors centre in Port Dover – the fastest-growing community in Norfolk. The report recommended – and council approved – establishing the Kinsmen Hall-Scout Hut as the launching pad for the new social organization.
Waterford Coun. Kim Huffman took exception to the exchange between Chopp and Veri, who organized and hosted a number of public meetings in recent months that brought the issue to this point.
Huffman said this line of commentary was “inappropriate” and irrelevant to the matter at hand.
“Obviously, there are some other issues going on,” Huffman said. “Let’s just focus on the report. I’m a little confused right now but that’s nothing new around here.”
Veri was later asked by the Reformer if council members’ concerns over the process might have something to do with who gets credit.
“I don’t know, and I think speculating may not be fair to anyone on council,” Veri said. “It wasn’t a conscious decision. I’ve done a lot of projects involving the county and I never had to go through council.
“In 10 years of doing projects, I’ve never had that happen. This is a new experience. My take is councillors should determine their own level of involvement. My only interest is that we ultimately have a seniors centre.”
Veri was one of eight candidates vying for the councillor seat in Port Dover-area Ward 6 last fall.
Martin was the runaway winner with more than 50 per cent of the ballot. Martin collected 2,242 votes while Veri placed second with 912. In a conversation earlier this year, Veri said a seat on Norfolk council remains an attractive proposition.
After Tuesday’s meeting, Veri said he took the lead on this file because so many seniors expressed a desire for a social centre while he campaigned. Veri told them this would be a priority and that something would get done.
Veri said placing second is not an excuse to abandon commitments.
“To take my ball and go home is just stupid,” he said. “I would not do that.
“My only role here is to help the seniors get the most out of their centre. The fewer people with fingers in the middle the better things seem to go.
“We got it approved so we obviously did a good job. If we hadn’t done it the right way it wouldn’t have been approved.”
Charlotteville Coun. Chris Van Paassen also commented on the process.
Van Paassen noted that he – as a councillor – can’t commit staff time to preparing a report unless he has the support of his council colleagues.
Yet, Van Paassen observed, Veri was able to summon a detailed four-page proposal from the county’s community services department without council direction.
Bill Cridland, general manager of community services, replied that this was “a chicken-or-the-egg” situation and that he wanted to bring forward something detailed and substantial that council could debate, ask questions about, and ultimately vote on.
Cridland added that hundreds of seniors have signed on to the Port Dover initiative. As such, the establishment of a club was never in doubt; the only details to be determined were how the county could help as it does with seniors centres in Simcoe and Delhi.