The first open council meeting in months shone little light on the issues behind the troubling turnover of mayors this year in Sayward.
But it did provide ample evidence that all is not well in the small north Island community.
Sayward’s July 14 council meeting took an ugly turn when a council member stood up with clenched fists after a heated exchange with one resident, and another resident was told to leave the meeting after another set of questions led to flaring tempers.
One thing that was evident at the council meeting – the first held since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March – was that Sayward residents have a lot of unanswered questions.
The meeting was held at the Kelsey Recreation Centre and acting mayor Norm Kirschner — who recently became the village’s fourth mayor since March — and fellow councillors declined to comment on or respond to most questions that the audience asked.
Residents questioned the council about the lack of virtual council meetings during the pandemic, financial audits for 2019 not being made available to the public, the ousting of the previous acting mayor after a brief two-week stint, and more.
Residents also asked about recordings and minutes of the meetings that were reported missing from the village office. They were told that the RCMP has been investigating the matter and no further comment was forthcoming.
The village has also been without a CAO since Lisa Clark left in March, shortly after long-time Mayor John MacDonald retired and his replacement Joyce Ellis followed suit a week later. The council said that while all employment issues will be discussed in-camera, they had approached head hunters and were waiting for a candidate to sign the contract.
To add to the woes, due to delayed work on the Newcastle Creek dam the village may have to return the grant money they recieved.
Residents also expressed displeasure about being kept in the dark for months about an ongoing real estate project by M.K. Adama Enterprises in Sayward. For months, untimely blasts rattled the foundations of houses in the village and the residents said they were given no information or “direct answers.” Citizens were also concerned as to whether the project would affect Sayward’s frail water system and septic treatment facilities.
A village of 311 residents, Sayward’s local government saw four mayoral changes within a span of three months.
Starting with the resignation of MacDonald on March 13, to the vote of no confidence against its previous acting mayor, Bill Ives, in June, residents of the village have witnessed rapid and unexplained changes.
Currently, Kirschner presides over the council after being appointed on June 24. He will remain in charge until elections are held to appoint a new mayor.
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