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Newly elected councillors ready to work

'It’s extremely humbling, and I appreciate the faith (of supporters),' said Andrew Wannan, newly elected councillor who received 2,358 votes in the unofficial count
The city veterinarian Andrew Wannan joined the race for a seat on the next Elliot Lake city council in the final week of nominations and secured possibly the most votes ever cast for a councillor in Elliot Lake.

The big winner in Monday’s municipal election was Andrew Wannan who got 2,358 votes in the unofficial count which may be the largest number of votes a person has received in the history of Elliot Lake.

Wannan who entered politics for the first time for this election considers himself to be a strong community supporter with a deep interest in how the city moves ahead.

“It’s extremely humbling and I appreciate the faith (of supporters),” he said. “It’s nice to be recognized.”

As a newcomer to local politics, the popular veterinarian said sitting and learning about how council operates and its commitment to residents is “daunting.”

“I think a good team is a good start,” he said of the makeup of the new council with mayor-elect Chris Patrie and Councillor Norm Mann having previous council experience teamed up with all the newcomers to council.

“I think it’s a good team, a good start. The goal is to make it a good team and make it work with respect and dignity.”

Among the issues, he sees coming forward are the pool renovations, replacing the old arena and bringing about an arts centre. He supports renovations to the former movie theatre for the arts, but would rather see a brand new all-inclusive cultural centre built.

“My personal opinion is it would be nice to have a cultural centre on the civic centre property.”

He has played hockey in the current arena built in 1967 but with its current, poor condition, Wannan said a new arena should be built that would be a benefit to young families here and attract new people moving here.

He would also like to see increased service to the local airport that would allow miners living here to travel to mines far away to work and travel to.

Overall, he can’t fully explain why he sought a council seat.

“I thought it was more important to run, but it’s difficult to explain,” he added.

On the question of perceived infighting that took place under the previous council, he said with the new council, many of whom he knows, if similar issues arise he would be “extremely disappointed if anything came up.”

For now, he is focused on getting familiar with operating the city as one of its new council members.

Newly elected councillor and well-known businessman Charles Flintoff is looking forward to the upcoming four-year term and the work needed to move Elliot Lake forward as a council and community.

“I’m totally humbled by all the support I got,” he said of the 1,726 votes he received during the municipal election.

Among the issues he sees as significant in dealing with are the arena complex question and the arts hub. Flintoff, at this point, is looking at getting the job done.

“I think we’re the type of council that’s going to get things done,” he said. “We need to move forward. I’ll consider anything that makes sense.”

“We have to have a location that’s going to work for all the people,” he added, referring to where a new arts hub building should be built. “We just have to move forward and get things done. I really feel we’re going to get things done.”

Monday’s election saw Councillor Norm Mann re-elected to a fourth term on council receiving 1,514 votes, a similar number of votes he received in the 2018 election.

Mann said he is also grateful for the support he received from voters.

“I do this because I feel it’s important,” he said of his decision to run again.

In his previous three terms, he has sat on a number of standing committees and was most recently chairman of finance something Mann noted as a position that deals directly with city finances and taxes and that he as a nursing home administrator is very familiar with.

“I like the finance committee, like the budget.”

Whether he will again be part of the city’s financial picture is something he will have to discuss with mayor-elect Patrie.

Mann would like to see the question of the aging arena and arts hub dealt with.

He disagrees with the current renovations being done to the former Reel to Reel movie theatre to make it into an arts facility. He feels creating an arts centre there should only be an “interim solution,” favouring stronger consideration for an art centre at a more visible and accessible location, including the former civic centre located on Highway 108.

“I’m committed to something longer term for the arts.”

“I wasn’t in favour of selling the highway property,” Mann said of council’s decision to sell the civic centre property with a decision on bids expected by the end of the month.

He would also like to see the former mall property sold to private interests as he feels outside developers remain interested in building in Elliot Lake. The city reportedly bought the site for $1 million.

Mann supports repairs being done to the pool adjacent to the high school which has been leaking water and has resulted in the building being closed until repairs are completed.

About plans to build a multi-use sports complex, Mann believes those discussions are now “off the table.” Instead, he would like to see council looking at securing funding to build a new arena.

Personally, Mann said with the new council he thinks “we’re in for some good times,” when it comes to governing and the city’s future.

Local businessman Merrill Seidel is also looking forward to working with the new council to get projects underway after the swearing-in ceremony in late November.

“I’m excited about working with the new council,” Seidel said. “What we need to do is identify what things are a priority and what can be achieved.”

On the issue of the construction of a new arts centre, he said he would prefer to see one built on the former civic centre site. Renovations of the former movie theatre as an arts space should be considered a temporary step until there is funding for a permanent arts centre.

“The only place for the arts is the location on Highway 108.”

Seidel also favours selling the former mall property for development by commercial interests like a hotel and the potential for some residential development.

The city bought the property for about $1 million four years ago and since then it has remained undeveloped and an “eyesore”, he said.

The new councillor said he believes building a multi-use rec hub at an estimated cost of about $30 million can’t be achieved without provincial and federal funding. The undertaking would be too costly for taxpayers without outside funding.

He expects the new councillors will be trained in the many different regulations governing councillor conduct prior to being sworn in. He said he also plans to contact city clerk Natalie Bray to get information and educate himself about the many city bylaws.

On the issue of new housing development, Seidel said with the sale of 19 building lots to a developer the city should, “maybe free up some lots” for more housing.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story does not include comments from newly elected councillor Rick Bull. Repeated attempts to contact him were unsuccessful prior to the news deadline. Also, two candidates, Luc D. Morrisette and Bruce Ibbitson were not contacted due to a vote recount triggered by a four-vote margin separating the two. The recount is expected to take place this Friday.


About the Author: Kris Svela

Kris Svela has worked in community newspapers for the past 36 years covering politics, human interest, courts, municipal councils, and the wide range of other topics of community interest
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