Essex Council Could Grow

An eight-member council in Essex isn't out of the question after the latest meeting on a ward boundary review in the town.

Council reviewed the final report on the review at a special meeting on Monday where two main options were presented — which didn't have much support on council.

After a long and bumpy discussion, councillors rescinded a previous motion that tied it to not adding any new seat as part of the review. Electing a deputy mayor at large has long been agreed on, but adding a new councillor has not.

Essex resident Kim Verbeek was hoping to see council make a definitive decision.

"I'm walking away a little bit frustrated," says Verbeek. "I'm hearing now that they may not even vote on this again next week, that they may do more chasing the questions around without getting any answers."

Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche feels the special meeting helped solidify council's direction on the issue.

"Until I actually [saw] the report and was shown how that would look on a map, I did not really understand the full potential of how it was going to come across to our community and our residents," says Meloche.

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Richard Meloche, deputy mayor for the Town of Essex, attends a special meeting concerning the final report of a ward boundary review is held on September 11, 2017. (Photo by Ricardo Veneza)

One of the options presented would have created five wards while the other option would have looked more status quo, but changed boundaries — each with five councillors along with a mayor and deputy mayor.

While some councillors suggested waiting until after the by-election to vote on the issue, Verbeek says you have to play with the cards you're dealt.

"Not having a councillor in place is not ideal, but honestly they have to move forward with what they have, otherwise this is just going to keep going around," says Verbeek.

Verbeek doesn't want to see the issue get bumped.

"This current council has been working on this a long time, spending a lot of time, and energy, and money, and resources — and now they're thinking they'll just pass it onto the next council who will then again will have to spend the same time, money and resources and keep them away from other town business," says Verbeek.

Meloche thinks council is set on ensuring a deputy mayor will be elected at large for the upcoming election, because the workload on council needs to be better shared.

"I know there's persons that I've talked to to try and get them to run for council and they said that there's no way that they can spend every evening of every week going to meetings and I understand totally what they're talking about," says Meloche.

It was another meeting that saw councillor Randy Voakes leave early, seemingly frustrated with the course of discussion at the meeting. The controversial councillor abrubtly got up, saying "I gotta go" as he left the room at Essex Town Hall.

The ward boundary review issue will pop again at the regular meeting of council on September 18, where a vote is expected.