Mayor Doug Struthers made a comment at the end of the last council meeting, addressing the resignation of Jeff McNamee, the municipality’s former Economic Development Officer. At a previous council meeting, comments were made that made it seem like the municipality had nothing to show for the eight months they had Jeff on staff. When resident, Dawn Dawson, asked whether Jeff ever submitted a report to council, the response made it seem that one had been requested, but none was ever provided.
Mayor Struthers clarified at the meeting of August 26 that Jeff had submitted a report to CAO Doug Robertson, but that report was never provided to council. “Any comments made during the discussion on July 22 were not intended to reflect on the performance of Mr. McNamee,” Doug said.
Former Chair of the Economic Development Committee, Jane Graham, was happy to hear the statement from the Mayor. She was concerned about the fact that comments made at the council meeting in July made it seem like Jeff had done nothing while he was employed with the municipality.
Jane met with Jeff regularly from October (when he was hired) to February (when her term on the Economic Development Committee ended). She says that monthly reports from the EDO were submitted to the committee and were available in the minutes of their meetings. Unfortunately, she notes, these minutes were never provided to council.
According to Jane, many businesses benefited from Jeff’s support while he was the EDO. He helped individual businesses get the Digital Main Street grant, and it was with his guidance that the Chamber of Commerce received a $10,000 grant from the same program to improve their online presence. He was also working on developing business on the north side of the river in the Village, in the hopes of building a case for the installation of natural gas in the area, and was scoping out possibilities for a senior’s residence in Merrickville-Wolford. He went to various economic development conferences, and represented the Village in an investor networking event in Toronto to try and get Merrickville-Wolford on the radar for those with deep pockets. He was also spearheading the development of a new municipal website, which Jane hopes is still in the works. “It was not a waste of money, which the public would know if they got the reports,” she says.
Jane believes that there was a disconnect between what Jeff was working on during his employment, and council. She says the fact that the municipal election, and the transition period for the new council and municipal committees, might have had something to do with it, but the ball still should not have been dropped. “The municipality is not getting the information out to the public that we want to know about,” she says. “Because it is government funding, we have a right to know what is going on.”
Mayor Struthers made the public aware at the last council meeting that the municipality is looking to fill the EDO position as soon as possible. “Council recently waived the personnel policy to allow the CAO to proceed quickly in filling the position, and that process is underway,” he said.
Jane is happy to hear that the municipality is going to fill the position and continue to take advantage of the Rural Economic Development (RED) grant they received from OMAFRA to pay for roughly half of the salary of an EDO. “We have been working on this for years, and we finally got the funding to do it,” she says. “I just want it to work better, and for us to take advantage of all that is out there.”