Mayor-elect Sandy Brown looking to lead Orangeville into bright future

October 30, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

Orangeville’s mayor-elect is a man with a plan.

Coming out on top in the community’s red-hot race for mayor in Monday’s municipal election, Sandy Brown has already started working on solutions to some of the Town’s long-standing problems – and he isn’t pulling any punches. During his first sit-down interview following the big vote, Sandy discussed the community’s eye-watering residential tax rate, the future of the Orangeville railway line and the possibility of bringing a YMCA to town, among other things, with this reporter.

Asked how it felt, after five months of rigorous campaigning, to be sitting the day after the election as the mayor-elect, Mr. Brown was quick with his response.

“It’s flattering, humbling, exciting,” he said. “After months of hard work, it’s a little strange that it’s all over, but I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.”

Listing off the members who have been elected to work alongside him, Sandy recognized the credentials of Andy Macintosh, who will serve as deputy mayor, and lauded soon-to-be councillors Todd Taylor, Joe Andrews, Grant Peters, Debbie Sherwood and Lisa Post for their experience, personality and character.

“I’ve had conversations with each person who was elected (on Monday) and I tell you, the skillset is at a very, very high level. We are going to have a very strong team over the next four years and I think that bodes very well for Orangeville residents,” Mr. Brown said.

Promising to get the community “back on track” during his announcement that he would run for mayor back in June, Sandy fully intends on following through, first taking aim at the number one issue in town right now – taxes.

Over the past decade, Orangeville’s residential tax rates have grown to such an extent that they are amongst the highest in the province. According to Mr. Brown, that has come as a direct result of a number of “questionable decisions” made by previous councils, and an inability of this most recent council to take advantage of what he described as “an incredible opportunity”.

He noted his frustration at how things have been allowed to spiral out of control from a financial standpoint over the years and vowed to shine the light on Orangeville’s expenses, promising to explore every avenue to ensure there is a definitive need in place before he will support any type of significant investment over the next four years.

“We need to look at the long-term ramifications if we plan to spend any significant amount of money,” Mr. Brown said.

That was a parting shot, of sorts, to the council that served for three years between 1997 and 2000, whose legacy centres around its decision to purchase the Orangeville Brampton Railway from Canadian Pacific Railway in Sept. 2000. CPR had previously stated their intent to decommission the line.

“It’s pretty clear, by now, that that was a mistake,” Mr. Brown said. “We currently have four businesses using that railway line right now. The Municipal Act that governs municipal councils says we are not allowed to give incentives to manufacturing companies – right now they’re the only ones benefitting from a $500,000 loss per year. We need to have a meeting with those companies and have a frank discussion about this.”

He talked of the Town’s need to promote itself better throughout the GTA as a potential day-trip destination. An ideal first move, in his eyes, would be to partner up, once again, with Headwaters Tourism.

“They’re much better suited to help us reach out into different markets,” Sandy stated.

Before long, the conversation turned towards policing. Not wanting to repeat himself, Mr. Brown instead pointed to the work conducted by Orangeville CAO Ed Brennan and Treasurer Marc Villeneuve last year, where, in their analysis of the financial figures involved with shutting down the Orangeville Police Service in favour of a contract with the Ontario Provincial Police, it was estimated the Town could eventually save up to $4.3 million per year.

“Ed claimed if we had gone with the OPP last year, but 2025 the Town would see $22 million in savings,” Mr. Brown said. “His job isn’t to hoodwink anybody. His job is to present the facts to Town Council to the best of his ability, and I believe he did that.”

He mentioned he has already held discussions with Pembroke Mayor Michael LeMay, who has had experience overseeing a transition from a community police force to the OPP.

“He told me they have had nothing but good experiences. If anything, community policing is now stronger under the OPP,” Mr. Brown noted.

He went on to state that his first move as mayor would be to put a motion forward at the first meeting of this new Council, slated to take place on Dec. 3, requesting a new police costing from the OPP.

“It’s a domino effect. If that decision gets made and it’s a positive outcome for the taxpayer, the savings that we would eventually see down the road could pay for things like a new fire hall, could completely overturn our infrastructure deficit, could replenish our reserve funds,” Mr. Brown said. “It’s, potentially, a huge opportunity.”

While he took flak throughout his campaign for suggesting Orangeville could do without two libraries, he didn’t waver when asked again what he’d like to see happen to the facility at the Alder Recreation Centre.

“I wonder if that second library is necessary in a world of increased knowledge available on the internet and decreasing library visits. I love our library on Mill Street – it’s absolutely perfect and everyone in town is a maximum of three kilometres away. It doesn’t make sense to keep two full-time sites open,” Mr. Brown said.

He noted that he would like to partner up with Upper Grand District School Board to see if there was a possibility for the Town to operate the Westside Secondary School library during out-of-school hours, to provide a cheaper alternative to residents who would like to see a library maintained in that part of town.

The future of Tony Rose arena has long been debated throughout the community. Calling it a “tired” building, Sandy said he’d like to entice the YMCA to come into town and breathe new life into a facility he believes is in a perfect location, but has long since been neglected by the community.

And the important thing? YMCAs operate as their own, individual entity, with no ties to the municipal government.

“YMCA is an incredible organization and they’re in just about every single community surrounding us. I’d love for us to explore the possibility of bringing them to Orangeville – they operate fantastic facilities and, if they were to take over Tony Rose arena for example, it would be all off the Town books. That’s a potential positive thing for taxpayers.”

Perhaps something of an overlooked feature of the mayor’s job is the role he or she plays on Dufferin County council. Having spoken at length, previously, of the need for more long-term care facilities in the region, he hopes to persuade the powers that be that such a facility, should it ever come to fruition, belongs in Orangeville.

Front and centre of his mind, however, is fiscal responsibility at the Town level.

“Instead of being the highest taxed town in Ontario, we need to get back to being somewhat average. I think we can reduce taxation, get it back to a level that is comparative to other towns, in a way that makes sense without giving up too much,” Mr. Brown said. “I’m not suggesting massive cuts. Are there departments and line items that need to be scrutinized? Yes. I think they should all be scrutinized. We, as a council, need to make sure that, if we’re spending a lot of money on something, there is a real need there.”

He concluded, “I’m going to be watchful. I’ve made observations about some of the things done over the past 20 years, some I’ve really had to scratch my head about. There have been decisions made that have burdened this community to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. So I’ll examine things closely and make sure that any decision we make as a council, we do so in an appropriate manner, after exploring every available opportunity. We all know this is a fantastic place to live and work, we need to do more, we need to do better as a council to make sure it remains a realistic home for the community.”

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