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More questions than answers: Sturgis residents frustrated

Residents also raised issues of minutes not being posted online, lack of communication between the local daycare committee and council, and the recent resignation of the town’s mayor.
Town of Sturgis council and administrator faced some tough questions that they couldn't answers for due to legal reasons during the public meeting held in Sturgis. Council members in attendance, from left, were: Councillors Perry Keller, Dale Bashforth, Daniel Wasylenchuk and Kim MacLeod; Amanda Masley, administrator, and Lorri Matthewson of Solomon Matthewsen Consulting. (standing)

STURGIS — Residents from the Town of Sturgis rallied to face off against its town council with many questions that they wanted answered at a public meeting in Sturgis on a bitterly cold Jan. 15 evening.

The meeting helped residents voice their concerns about the dismissal of a long-time town employee and the lack of transparency in the town’s minutes.

Approximately 200 signatures were gathered in a town-wide petition after former assistant town foreman, Brad Secundiak, was dismissed by council.

“Town residents have been unhappy with council’s discussions for a long time and it was time for us to come together, rally and get some much-needed answers. We were very unhappy with them dismissing Brad Secundiak after 14 years of work. A group of us got together and decided we needed to do a town-wide petition,” explained Dean Harris, a resident and organizer for the meeting in Sturgis.

The town council hired Lorri Matthewson of Solomon Matthewsen Consulting to speak for council after she had instructed council that, for legal reasons, they were not able to answer any questions brought up by residents about why Secundiak was dismissed.  Council members who were in attendance were: Perry Keller, Dale Bashforth, Kim McLeod and Daniel Wasylenchuk. Councillors Aileen Lubiniecki and Randy Sommerville were not in attendance. Amanda Masley, town administrator was also in attendance.

The council’s response frustrated many in attendance and the group vocally addressed more than the concerns of Secundiak’s dismissal and the lack of transparency of minutes. The questions were heated as council could not speak to the accusations and questions delivered by residents.

"We are all in this community together, volunteering, trying to do our best to keep our small town thriving and we really found because of this issue, we're very divided. It is time to step up and take a more active role in our community and hold council accountable and volunteer for our Town to make it great again," stated Harris.

Brad Secundiak did not attend the meeting but in an interview the next day said he was overwhelmed by the community support during this time of his dismissal. He said it has caused a lot of stress, emotional mental anguish and financial uncertainly.

“I loved my job, I was raised to be there for people, help out without any recognition. I served this community, volunteering and doing my job to the best of my ability. When I was first told of my dismissal, it was a huge shock to me and my family. We are working through it and things are a little brighter with me starting a new job in Norquay on Feb. 5. My position as the fire chief on the Sturgis Volunteer Fire Department and Fire Cooperative has not been affected yet but it remains uncertain. I am just so appreciative and overwhelmed, and thankful for everyone’s support.”

During the meeting, members of the public also raised separate issues to council such as minutes from recent council meetings not being posted online, a lack of communication between the local daycare committee and council, and the recent resignation of the town’s mayor. The topic of concern was raised for town foreman Shawn Howard, who is the only remaining maintenance worker and has been faced with working without a day off since Secundiak’s dismissal.

"Council should be living in a fish bowl, the whole community should be able to see what they're doing, every move they make and everything they say. It's not that way right now, sad to say,” said Harris.

Despitea lack of answers at the meeting, Harris said the public meeting was a step in the right direction for the community to come together.

"Just the fact that we had about 120 people, whatever the number is, here tonight, that’s totally amazing. It was great to see such a great turnout but it is really too bad that council could not address any topics,” said Harris.

“Residents came out in this kind of weather because they had a passion. They had a complete passion to know what's going on and to be able to voice what's going on, to voice their displeasure, that's part of the healing process to say what’s wrong and work together to make Sturgis a great place to live again."

Harris said he has received various calls from people in the community who wish to run for council come election time. “We are all looking forward to this fall’s election that is sure to bring about much needed changes in council and possible administration,” said Harris.

Amber Bartch, who owns and operates a business in the Sturgis boldly spoke up, questioning many topics of concern while others in attendance sat back.

“The community has rallied and did well with letting council know how we feel," said Bartch. “Council has fallen short and it is evident by all in attendance that we all are very frustrated the way our community is run. The problems are huge and Brad’s dismissal and lack of transparency of the minutes are just part of a bigger set of issues. Often the administrative office is closed during regular office hours, the lack of communication between the office and businesses, and the lack of an open door policy is frustrating. This meeting is a positive step in making our community great again.” 

Since the meeting, some community members are taking the next step of forming a committee. “The goal of the committee is to continue to work towards getting answers from town council regarding issues of the town’s administration and council falling short on their obligations to town and the betterment of our community now and in the future," stated Bartch.