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Springwater Councillors Bite Back After Exclusion From ROMA dinner

Dinner snub drives wedge between township politicians; councillor asks mayor to end ‘high school nonsense’

By Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Today

Things got a little heated around the Springwater council table Wednesday night when talked turned to dinner plans … or lack thereof.

During the municipal notes portion of township’s bi-weekly council meetings, every councillor normally takes a few minutes to tout their ward’s gold-star efforts — maybe an upcoming public event organized by a local service club, or a successful venture by a local resident.

Last night’s session started as expected.

Coun. Matt Garwood kicked things off by giving a shout-out to Elmvale curler Tye McCutcheon, who is part of an under-18 curling team competing in the national championship in Ottawa.

He followed that up with information about the Saginaw Spirit practising in Elmvale on Wednesday, Feb. 14. Garwood wrapped up by announcing a St. Patrick’s Day dance will be held on March 16 at the Elmvale Community Hall.

When he finished, you could feel a change in the air.

Coun. Anita Moore began to recount her experience at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference, which was held Jan. 21-23 in Toronto.

She said she received a call on the Monday evening (Jan. 22) of the conference from a councillor from a neighbouring township who wanted to know why she didn’t attend a specific sponsored dinner. Moore said she knew nothing about it.

While she didn’t name the sponsor, Moore said they represent “one of the largest and longest-standing service partner relationships we have in this township.”

“So, that was strange,” she said.

Moore made some calls and discovered the invitation — which was extended to all of council, she said — went through the mayor, who was requested to call back with the numbers of who would be attending.

“She (the mayor) returned the call to say three would be in attendance, inferring that all seven had been invited, but only three would be attending,” Moore said.

According to Moore, she ran into the sponsor at some point after the dinner was held and the sponsor wondered why she and other members of council — Deputy Mayor George Cabral as well as Councillors Danielle Alexander and Phil Fisher — were not at the dinner. She said she told the sponsor she wasn’t invited and didn’t know anything about it.

Moore said the interaction was “a very awkward moment for both of us.”

She called it embarrassing for everyone and then questioned the mayor’s integrity.

“It begs the question, what other information has deliberately been kept from council,” she asked the mayor directly. “The withholding of information affects trust and relationships and can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts and damaged relationships.

“The act of keeping secrets raises questions about honesty, transparency and the potential harm caused by withholding the truth not just for council members, but for the township’s accountability and public image,” Moore added.

The councillor finished with a three-point question to the mayor.

“First, should I bring a motion forward that says the mayor be directed to disseminate all information as requested to do so, to all members of council, by anyone that so requests?” she asked.

“Seems like a no-brainer,” said Moore, answering her own question.

“Number two, no council members will attend said conferences or sponsored events in the future. And number three, that the mayor commits to ending this high school nonsense now.”

Mayor Jennifer Coughlin, obviously caught off guard by Moore’s comments, responded directly.

“I spent the conference learning and networking with stakeholders and politicians from across the county and the province,” Coughlin said. “I was invited into conversations, to many meals, hospitality suites and many delegations with provincial ministers as deputy warden of the county, vice chair of TAPMO (Top Aggregate Producing Municipalities of Ontario) and only one delegation with the minister as the mayor of Springwater Township, to which you were invited and declined to attend.”

Coughlin said that over the past 16 months, since the current council was elected, she has extended many invitations and sent many emails to members of council.

She said she’s received no response to most of them.

“As mayor, I will continue to use my discretion and, just as I have ended every email to you, please feel free to reach out to me with any concerns or questions,” Coughlin said.

“And now, I would prefer to get back to relative municipal business,” she added.

Coughlin also expressed a desire to stop “the high school nonsense.”

But Moore wouldn’t let it go.

“You didn’t answer my question,” she said. “Why would you do that?”

Coughlin replied: “I believe that when I did show up the Wednesday before that (ROMA) I was very clear why. I do believe there is a division amongst this council and I think that division is not created by one person — the division is the responsibility of seven people at this table.

“There have been numerous opportunities for council to become involved and engaged and those opportunities were not taken,” Coughlin added. “So no, I did not extend the invitation.”

Coun. Phil Fisher picked up where Moore left off.

“I’m concerned over the non-transparent and divisive pattern of behaviour on the part of our mayor and other members of council,” he said. “I’ve often felt that as chair, our mayor has favoured certain members of council.”

Fisher noted that he and Coun. Alexander were not invited to tour schools in their wards, but Coun. Garwood was invited to tour one in his ward.

Fisher said he dismissed these incidents in the past, but felt the need to speak up about not being invited to dinner.

“The decision to exclude and hide an invitation from council members that was extended to us from a major firm that Springwater uses as a consultant on a regular basis shows incredibly poor judgment in my eyes,” he said.

“This could have caused irreparable damage to the relationship the municipality and councillors have with this particular firm,” Fisher added. “This particular firm may have felt members of council from Springwater were apathetic toward the valuable work they do for us.”

Coughlin responded directly to Fisher.

“The invitations to the school were given to me by Trustee (Liz) Grummett and I was not asked to invite anyone else,” Couglin said. “The invitation to Coun. Garwood did not go through me. That was an assumption on your part.”

Garwood, now brought in off the sidelines when his name was mentioned by Fisher, tried to maintain his composure.

“The invite that I attended a school visit in Elmvale came from a teacher at that school that is a resident in the ward that I was elected,” Garwood said. “That same invite was returned this year and I’m going there next month.

“Again, if you’d like, I can send you an email and let you know,” he said directly to Fisher.

Deputy Mayor George Cabral said he was “a little bit miffed” about not knowing about the dinner, but it wasn’t the first time it’s happened, he said.

“I can’t recall being invited or apprised of a dinner at ROMA last year,” Cabral said.  “I’m disappointed because it seems like there might be a pattern here.”

Cabral also agreed that there may be a sense of favouritism on council.

“I’d have to say, from looking outside in, certain members of council got a room on Saturday night without asking for it yet other members who registered didn’t get a room Saturday night,” he said. “I’m disappointed and disillusioned.”

Coun. Alexander said she was also disappointed.

“I feel by not extending the invite and deliberately choosing whom the invite was going to go to, it showed a lack of leadership,” Alexander said. “As mayor, you’re supposed to act as a leader.

“I understand there’s divisiveness sometimes, but actions like this just make that divisiveness worse and it does not move us forward in a productive manner,” the councillor added.

Springwater Township council will meet again on Feb. 24 at 6:30 p.m.


Springwater Mayor and Councilors Focus on Long Term Care Issues

Feb. 2, 2024 – In late January, Mayor Coughlin, Councillor Garwood, Councillor Thompson and Township staff met with Ministry of Long-Term Care Parliamentary Assistant, MPP John Jordan at the 2024 Rural Ontario Municipal Association Conference  as shown in above photo.

During the delegation, focus was placed on the need for the provincial government to put measures in place to construct more long-term care spaces by extending existing licenses and providing more funding opportunities for new capital infrastructure projects. By Matt Garwood


Township of Springwater: Council Meeting Highlights: February 7, 2024

Next Council Meeting: February 21, 2024

Submitted by Nicole Audette

This summary is not a full representation of the meeting. For the official record, please refer to the minutes in the next Council Agenda. Past Council Meetings are available for viewing on the Township’s YouTube channel.

Letter of Endorsement – Definition of Employer

Council has voted to endorse a resolution from the City of Greater Sudbury to petition the province to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act to clarify the definition of ‘employer’ and exclude owners that have contracted out a project.

Service Awards

CAO Jeff Schmidt recognized staff members that recently achieved years of service milestones with the Township of Springwater. Staff who received awards were:

5 Years: Brittnee Fisher, Katie Naray, Cheryl Thompson, Jennifer Marchand, Deborah Ann Liske, Greg Goss, Anita Shanks, Joseph VanLaarhoven

10 Years: Nicole Audette, Brittany Kellington, Chris Russell, Jeff Schmidt

15 Years: Steve Buchanan, Chris Nichols, Mike Ummels

20 Years: Scott Trace, Brent Spagnol

RFP Awarded

The award for the Supply and Delivery of Bulk Highway Salt was awarded to Compass Minerals Canada Corporation for the 2024/25 year at an estimated amount of $75,878 plus HST.

Celebrate Springwater

Mark your calendars for Celebrate Springwater taking place on Saturday, September 14, 2024. The community-wide event will be held in recognition of the Township’s 30th anniversary of amalgamation and will be held at the Township Administration Centre. Additional details will be released in the coming months.

Cycle Simcoe Grant Partnership

The Township will partner with Tourism Simcoe County and Cycle Simcoe to apply for funding to purchase e-bike charging stations located along the Simcoe County Loop Trail. Should the grant application be approved a charging station will be located in Heritage Park in Elmvale. The Township would be responsible for the installation and maintenance of the charging station through the partnership.

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Springwater Announces Doug Herron as New Director of Planning & Development Services

By Nicole Audette

Township of Springwater / February 5, 2024 – The Township of Springwater is pleased to announce the appointment of Doug Herron as Director of Planning & Development Services, effective February 5, 2024.

Mr. Herron brings an extensive range of knowledge to the position with over twenty years of experience, primarily with the Town of Wasaga Beach, including five years as the Director of Planning and Economic Initiatives.

Mr. Herron holds a master’s degree in public administration from Western University and is a member of the Canadian Institute of Public Planners and Ontario Professional Planners Institute. He is passionate about professional development and continues to upgrade and expand on his skills.

“We extend a warm welcome to Doug Herron, our new Director of Planning & Development Services,” says Jeff Schmidt, Chief Administrative Officer. “As Springwater sees significant changes in the coming years and with considerable growth on the horizon, his knowledge and expertise will play a crucial role in guiding the direction of this important portfolio.”

“I am honoured to join the team at the Township of Springwater,” says Mr. Doug Herron. “I look forward to working with staff, Council and the residents of the community by contributing to the efforts of delivering, supporting and implementing key planning and development initiatives.”

Mr. Herron will oversee the Planning, Building and Development portfolios at the Township of Springwater.

The paper is electronically available online on publishing date at our website. The paper is published every other Thursday. The deadline is the Monday before (3 days).