Long-time resident wants more communication with NAW council

Eganville – Long-time resident, community volunteer and ardent follower of municipal affairs Muriel Verch is not happy with what she is seeing at North Algona Wilberforce (NAW).

“They come with a motion and then it is ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but I don’t know when they discuss it,” she said. “I would like to hear from them.”

Mrs. Verch and her husband Ralph are among the handful of residents who have made it a regular habit to attend council meetings for “years and years.”

With a history of being very active in their community, they are interested in what is happening at the council table. They were there in the acrimonious days of past councils when NAW made headlines regularly and they continue to be in council chambers today when the meetings are much more sedate, brief and with very little discussion, according to Mrs. Verch.

They were there when meetings opened up in public again following the COVID-19 pandemic, although she was not pleased to see a notice on each chair telling people what the proper decorum was in council chambers.

“We are not in kindergarten,” she said.

Last week a letter she wrote to council was on the April 16 agenda expressing her concerns about the lack of communication between council and township residents. She also asked to be placed on the agenda for a future meeting.

Her letter stated, “I have been a proud resident of this township all my life. I have always been interested in what is happening in my township and trying to learn and see how problems are solved, how residents are listened to, how our tax dollars are being spent, what services I am getting for my tax dollars and when do council members discuss items on the agenda and look at different solutions for different problems. Also, what is new in our township.

“I feel communication between council and ratepayers is lacking in our township and would like the chance to tell council how it feels to come to a meeting or try and listen to a meeting online and read minutes and really be no wiser,” her letter concluded.

On Monday, the Leader reached out to Mrs. Verch to see if she had received a response. She said it had been discussed briefly and her feeling is she would be hearing officially from the township – at some point.

She had not received any notification by Monday evening, almost a week later.

She said council did discuss her letter and “touch on some points” but she was not clear on everything.

“I try to listen, but half the time you can’t hear,” she said.

The acoustics are a challenge in the council chamber and some members of staff and council speak very softly, she pointed out. It was noted there are microphones in the room but she said they are not being used.

Mrs. Verch said there was also a mention about the newsletter as a means of communication, and she noted this is another one of her pet peeves.

“They are spending all this money on a newsletter that tells us nothing,” she said.

It is also hard to find information online from NAW, she said.

“The website is terrible,” she said.

As a senior, she said she can do emails and fill out forms, but she is not interested in trying to spend a long time finding something through the website.

Prior to the meeting on April 16, she had received a call from staff asking about her concerns which she had touched on in the letter.

“I am not happy not hearing anything from council,” she said she explained. “You don’t discover anything going on.”

She referenced the public budget meeting in Golden Lake where there was not only no discussion by council but no opportunity for the public to ask questions. Questions, which had been submitted in advance, were not even answered, she noted.

“They could have saved the expense of carting everything to the meeting,” she said.

She said in many meetings motions are passed and recommendations adopted and there is no discussion from members of council, so she does not know how – or when – decisions are made.

Last Tuesday night, following the meeting in the council chambers, no one approached her about her letter, she added.

“I don’t know if I will be put on the agenda,” she said. “They would not tell me anything, but I did hear something about filling out a form.”

She is hopeful she will hear from someone and be put on an agenda soon.

“I just want to tell them what it looks like from the other side of the table,” she said.

Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader