Strong Township Mayor Candidate Runs on Anti-merger Platform | Spare News
Albert ‘Bert’ Lilley is one of four people vying to become Strong Township’s next mayor.
Lilley is married with two young children and moved to Strong about five years ago from Alliston.
Lilley has extensive business experience, including 17 years as COO/Branch Manager for an international company and believes this experience will serve him well as mayor.
Several issues prompted Lilley to seek a seat on city council, including poor road conditions in the municipality and the ongoing debate over Strong’s merger with the Village of Sundridge and the Township of Joly.
Lilley told The Nugget he doesn’t believe the merger is necessary and adds that the Strong residents he spoke to feel the same way.
Lilley agrees that there is a positive argument to be made that in amalgamation some of the money is saved because the triplication disappears when three city councils become one council and any merger would also result in the disappearance of duplicate municipal jobs.
However, Lilley says it’s what follows years later that worries Strong’s residents.
Lilley says Sundridge has paved roads and a water and sewer system, but Strong doesn’t.
He says that under the merger, the first few years are fine, but once the grace period with no tax increases is over, the concern of Strong residents is that they could see huge spikes in their taxes to cover the costs of Sundridge’s ongoing water and sewer infrastructure and roads. while Strong may not see any of these infrastructure developments.
In other words, Lilley says the cost of Sundridge’s infrastructure is split between three municipalities instead of Sundridge paying for that work itself as it currently does.
“That’s the kind of feedback I got from voters,” Lilley said.
“Merger is not the solution at this point.”
Lilley thinks Sundridge is pushing for the merger “because he needs Strong’s voters to add to the (tax) pool to increase the spending budget regionally.”
Lilley says road conditions in Strong are an ongoing problem.
What he has noticed is that the roads are fixed but there is not enough consistency in their maintenance and that needs to change.
“We really have to look at how our roads are maintained,” he said.
As for economic development, Lilley says Strong has no industrial base to build on.
“There are only small businesses, home businesses, local entrepreneurs and tourism,” he said.
He says tourism took a hit once the four lanes of Highway 11 were completed and travelers no longer passed through the Sundridge-Strong-Joly area.
Lilley says the all-weather outdoor community hub being prepared for Strong is a great project and will attract people from surrounding areas, but adds that the municipality needs to do a lot more to attract tourists.
He says the more tourists the region can attract, the healthier local businesses stay and can contribute to the tax base.
Lilley says part of the tourism strategy is to ensure that Lake Bernard remains a healthy lake, because not only is it home to many shoreline property owners, but the lake is also a major tourist attraction, so it’s important to keep free of invasive species and pesticides.
Jason Cottrell and Jody Baillie, both Strong’s councilors, and Tim Bryson, current mayor of Joly, are also running for mayor.
Incumbent Mayor Kelly Elik decided earlier this year not to seek another term.
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