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Mike’s rant — WL problems far excede spending

A couple of points of clarification before we get rolling this week: Dennis MacPhail, board chair of Smithville United Church gave me a buzz to clarify a comment made in last week’s story about the new parking lot which will replace lost parking spots along West Street and then some.

The old manse, which stood on the property for many years was torn down. It didn’t burn.

Secondly, at the recent school board Accommodation Review Committee meeting at Grimsby Secondary a ton of numbers and percentages were offered up.

At one point, the proposed capacity of a new “super school” was noted to be 1,400. At this point, the capacity is set for 1,600. That may seem like a small point in the grand scheme of what is unfolding for our west Niagara high schools, but not really.

As was noted at the meeting, at 1,600 that is only a one per cent growth capacity in the new space…not much margin for error in attendance projection which is easily questionable on many fronts.

* * * * * * *

There are a lot of challenges in running a small, independent newspaper. Having done it before there have been no surprises, which is a very good thing.

For me, as a core editorial guy, the biggest challenge I face on a day-to-day basis is how to split my time between sales and writing. The stories and coverage we offer is, essentially, why we are still here. Yes, we have a much larger circulation in Niagara West than our friends across the street, but they can also reduce their rates to a song as they attempt to buy up the market.

Again, no surprise.

The big difference is what gets covered, and what does not get covered. This publication has and will cover what needs to get covered. There is a price to pay for that, and that’s just fine with me. Residents see how things roll out. It is part of the ongoing issues, really.

I get calls and emails regularly asking about when town meetings are being held on certain topics, as I did for the recent transit open house in Grimsby.

“I didn’t see it in your paper and I don’t get the other paper,” said one fellow. Common.

A couple of weeks ago, I had several fellows come in from the St. Anns area saying they had heard about a wind farm related public meeting. I hadn’t. I sent out a bunch of emails to wind farm people, found out there was a meeting (which was Tuesday, Feb. 7) and got a couple of ads in the paper so people in those effected areas could find out about the meeting, hopefully attend, and get informed.

Informing is what it is all about. A simple presentation of information and readers can take it, leave it or flat out ignore it. But in this paper, everything does get read, cover to cover.

Because of this responsibility, and for a real newspaper it is a responsibility, this last couple of weeks has been very frustrating.

This past week I spent three solid days just answering questions and talking to people about the West Lincoln multi-use recreation site (MURS) project.

It is no mystery, that project has been a debacle from Day 1. So much so, council chucked the first outline and, basically, started over. The problem there is, a major reason the first one was chucked was because the $14 million price tag was deemed to expensive for the township.

That wasn’t the problem. The real problem came when council, in its infinite wisdom approved spending $23.6 million on a new arena et al. While the spend is one major problem, the ongoing disaster of a process has spawned multiple issues, not the least of which is a question of the legality of the project. At this point, one councillor says major components of the conceptual plan were altered at an advisory committee meeting which he says had a quorum of council, yet no minutes were taken.

As well, another councillor is on record as stating no votes were taken or decisions were made. Two minutes later the CAO told those at Jan. 23 council meeting a decision was made after a discussion to include several elements in a draft MURS design which not approved for inclusion by council back in October.

And it just goes from there, really.

This issue deserves a great deal of time, as does the plethora of issues percolating away in Grimsby but I don’t have room to get to those. Keep those letters rolling in. Your opinion matters in this publication. We are here for the taxpayers, not chasing the almighty buck…but a buck or two would be nice 🙂

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