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Council denies bid to return Al Marshall to CPAC

Contentious past actions likely helped scuttle plans to reinstate outspoken critic despite committee’s wishes

Outspoken environmental advocate Al Marshall’s on-again, off-again relationship with the Chemtura Public Advisory Committee has warmed up again, but Woolwich council is having no part of it.

The majority of committee members voted to welcome Marshall back into the ranks, but councillors voted against those wishes in a split decision August 6.

Marshall, a long-time participant in the groundwater contamination saga, has been appointed to and removed from CPAC in each of the last two terms of council. His most recent stint with the group came after a new council elected in 2010 overhauled the committee, but it was short-lived due to his often-abrasive style. After his removal, he continued to attend public meetings, and now serves on CPAC’s soil, water and air technical team (SWAT).

Committee chair Dan Holt said Marshall’s knowledge of the subject matter and the history of problems in Elmira’s groundwater make him a valuable resource, adding Marshall has become less confrontational even in the last couple of years.

Given the changes, the majority of those on the committee, some of whom had issues with Marshall in the past, are willing to invite him back, said Holt. That council chose to ignore CPAC’s recommendation frustrates him.

“Alan brings a whole lot to the table in terms of his expertise and his knowledge of the history,” he said on Wednesday, reacting to the previous night’s vote. “CPAC endorses and stands behind Al. We were very disappointed with that decision – council did not honour our decision and wishes.”

While Mayor Todd Cowan and Coun. Allan Poffenroth were in favour of Marshall’s reinstatement, councillors Mark Bauman, Bonnie Bryant and Julie-Anne Herteis voted against the idea. Bauman is council’s current liaison on the CPAC, and Herteis was its chair for a short time.

For Cowan, council’s decision flies in the face of the committee’s better-informed opinions.

“We need to respect the wishes of CPAC. I’m going to take their recommendation,” he said as the issue came to a vote Tuesday night.

The decision made, Cowan voted against two other CPAC-recommended appointments to the committee on principle. Both Graham Chevreau and Susanna Meteer, fellow members of the SWAT team, were approved as members, however.

While disappointed, Marshall said he felt CPAC’s stance was something of a win-win situation for him, acknowledging that he has in fact mellowed out in recent years.

Continuing to attend meetings and interact with CPAC members, he’s had a more relaxed presence, which didn’t go unnoticed, he said Wednesday.

“Basically, CPAC members have gotten to know me, both in private and in public. They’ve seen me in action. They’ve seen me prick the balloon when Chemtura, CRA [engineering firm Conestoga-Rovers & Associates] or the ministry are misleading CPAC.”

Just having his name put forward by CPAC and being welcomed back into the fold is a big step, even if council didn’t cooperate, Marshall said.

“I feel the process was a win-win for me. I was nominated by CPAC – I am totally pleased and feel vindicated.”

Marshall said he will continue to be involved with the environmental watchdog group despite the decision.

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