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MEET THE CANDIDATE: Centre Wellington Ward 3, James Mantelos

EloraFergusToday asked candidates in the upcoming municipal election to tell us a little bit about themselves and their platform
James Mantelos photo-crop
Centre Wellington Ward 3 candidate James Mantelos.

EloraFergusToday asked candidates in the upcoming municipal election to tell us a little bit about themselves and their platform.

Name: James Mantelos

Occupation: I have a diverse educational background with wide-ranging work experience. I possess an honour’s degree in economics/business from Trent University and a Bachelor of Education degree from Nipissing University. Some of my work experiences include banking, acting as an educational assistant, teaching and landscaping. 

I have been working for the last six years as a full-time direct support professional at Guelph Wellington Community Living. I have had work placements in Guelph, Ennotville, Fergus, and Mount Forest. My role is to support adult individuals with physical and developmental disabilities. Some of my tasks include administering medications, assisting with personal care/ hygiene, cooking, managing finances, attending medical appointments, and encouraging individuals to engage with their local community (example: delivering Meals on Wheels to seniors). In this position, I must work effectively in a team environment. I daily utilize conflict-resolution strategies (have completed specific training in this area), use problem-solving skills, advocate for the individuals I support and complete diverse tasks. I fully enjoy my role as a direct support professional and feel that I am making a positive difference. 

How long have you lived in Centre Wellington? I have lived in Centre Wellington for seven years and in Wellington County for a total of eleven years. As a child, I grew up in Toronto with my mother and my brothers. I am a triplet and my parents are originally from Greece. During university and teacher’s college, I lived in Peterborough and North Bay. As a young adult, I had the opportunity to work and to live abroad in Spain and England. Therefore, I have been able to observe and to experience what it is like to live in a variety of environments.  Now that I am married and have a family, I am thrilled to call Centre Wellington my home.  

Do you reside in the ward you are running in? Yes. I have been residing in Ward 3 for the past seven years with my wife, Joanna. We now have a 3-year-old son, Joshuah, who will be starting junior kindergarten in September. 

Why are you running in this election? I am running in this election because I am passionate about local issues, such as affordable living for all of our residents and the need for a hospice. I want to help make positive changes in our community, as I have first-hand knowledge of many of the issues and concerns facing families in the area. I have a young family myself and can relate to/understand the current strains that families are going through, especially post-pandemic. Therefore, if elected, I will be a new voice on Council who will always advocate for the best interest of local families and individuals of all ages.

In addition, I wish to be a role model for my son and to show him that having a connection and involvement in the community is important for the overall health and well-being of not only the community, but also to the individual. I want to demonstrate how to work hard in a team, how to set goals, and how to make goals a reality.

What qualifies you to represent your ward? I believe I am qualified to represent Ward 3 because I am a positive, approachable, proactive, and reliable individual who keeps well-informed of local news and projects. I have lived in Ward 3 for seven years and know numerous community members in the area. I have taken the time to listen to residents’ concerns and ideas, and what I have concluded is that they would like a representative who listens to their issues/requests and who provides appropriate solutions in a timely manner. I believe that I could successfully fulfill this role.

Why should people vote for you? People should vote for me because I am a kind, honest, and dedicated goal-oriented person who wants to help others and the community. I promise to provide a listening ear to all concerns and to produce results. In addition, I work effectively collaboratively, and stay on task to get things done.

Below, is a list of some initiatives that I would like to implement if I am elected:

  1. Freeze municipal property tax rates, building permit fees, and local water / sewer rates presently as we recover from the economic fall- out of COVID. (Note: 2019- 2.05 % property tax increase, 2020- 2.7% increase, 2021- 1.33% increase, 2022- 2.16% increase). Advocate for attainable housing and affordable rental projects in the area.
  2. Collaborate with ‘Save Our Water’ advocacy group and promote their initiatives. 
  3. Support a local, six-bed hospice at the Wellington Campus that is to be built on a two-acre parcel of land that was donated by The County of Wellington. 
  4. Propose to the County of Wellington and to the new Mayor to implement new blue bins and garbage bins with proper lids. 
  5. Encourage local business and job growth in all sectors.
  6. Improve accountability of fixing infrastructure (roads and sidewalks) by ensuring that projects are completed within an appropriate time frame for public health and safety.
  7. Continue to support our local hospital (medical / mental health services), tourism sector, libraries, and social services, such as the seniors’ centre, local clubs, parks, and arts/music.
  8. Strive to maintain and to preserve heritage buildings/sites and local history. Add new, updated information plaques that include history of diverse populations, such as local indigenous and black history.
  9. Keep the ‘small town feel’ by adopting sustainable growth that is well thought out and that protects our local environment.

What do you see as the main issues facing residents of the ward? Primarily, affordability is the main issue facing residents of Ward 3. As stated in other answers, cost of living and inflation is affecting citizens from all demographics in our township.

Secondly, it is evident that infrastructure, such as roads and sidewalks need repair in some areas of Ward 3. If elected, I will prioritize fixing problematic streets.

Thirdly, speeding on residential roads has become a dangerous issue. I would propose addressing this problem by installing speed cameras, solar-panel speed indicators, and other signage, especially near school zones and high population density areas.

Fourthly, it would be great to have an additional accessible park in Ward 3 to accommodate the growing population and to have another play space for individuals with disabilities.

Finally, Ward 3 is lacking a multi-purpose centre, which could be used for recreational activities, the arts, and as a multi-cultural centre. Having a multi-purpose building and outdoor space would help to build a stronger and healthier community. 

What do you see as the main issues facing residents of Centre Wellington on a broader scale? Currently, one of the main issues facing residents of Centre Wellington is how rapidly the population is increasing. From 2016 to 2021 the population has grown by 10.8 per cent in this area. A big portion of this growth are families with young children. For example, there were 100 kids registered for Fergus Elora District Soccer (4 years old and under) for Monday evenings. This is a lot of children! As a result of growth of a younger population, many local elementary and high schools are over capacity. This has made many families and educators concerned with overcrowding at schools.

I am aware there are plans to build a new public elementary school in the subdivision by Beatty Line. However, more needs to be done to look at the capacity strains on all schools in Centre Wellington, including at the high school level, as these younger children will eventually graduate to go on to secondary school. Therefore, I would imagine the area will also require another high school in the near future, or an addition on the current one.

What is the most important thing you want to see changed in Centre Wellington? One of the most important things that I would like to see is more emphasis in Centre Wellington is on the local environment, such as preserving and enhancing our beautiful green spaces, trails, and heritage landmarks. In recent years, much of the focus has been placed on development and growth. However, many local citizens have told me that they do not want to lose our “small-town feel” or appeal, which includes preserving and protecting our natural environment. Growth is going to happen moving forward, but it needs to be in a way that is responsible, sustainable, and respectful to the environment and to the citizens who already call this place home. I believe everyone desires and deserves to live in a safe and attractive area. 

What services need to be improved in Centre Wellington? One service that I feel needs to be improved in Centre Wellington is access to affordable public transportation. We are a growing community, and it is time that we consider implementing local transportation. For example, small cities such as Collingwood (population size of 24,811) have local buses. Currently, Centre Wellington’s population is 31,093. There are numerous individuals in our community who do not have access to a vehicle and/or do not drive. I am aware there is a ‘Ride Well’ service (public transportation using cars) that is run by Wellington County since 2019, but it is for the entire geographic area spanning from Puslinch South to Mount Forest. It is a great start to addressing this issue, but I feel more could be done.

I have several ideas that could address this problem. For example, there is currently a free tourist shuttle that goes between Elora and Fergus on the weekends during the summer. I would propose to use the tourist shuttle during the week to bus individuals to work in Centre Wellington and surrounding areas, such as to Guelph. The shuttle could also be used for transporting people on a more general basis. I believe the tourist shuttle is costing around $20,000.  If the same amount of money could be used for a three-month pilot project, I think this could greatly benefit our community. Another idea is to partner with Wellington Terrace and to use their mobility van to help transport individuals. 

Is Centre Wellington growing too fast, just the right amount, or not fast enough? On August 2, 2022, a survey was done concerning this topic on Elora Fergus news page. The results indicated that 80 per cent of respondents believe that Centre Wellington is growing too quickly. I totally agree with this opinion. Since 2016, the growth of CW has increased by 10.8 per cent, which is an average of over 2 per cent per year. I think we need to consider growth of half that rate at 5.4 per cent (1 per cent per year) over a five-year period to maintain sustainable growth and to keep our “small-town feel”. In addition, it is crucial that we have the right services and infrastructure in place to meet the needs of the community prior to further influx in population growth.

What can be done at the local level about the rising cost of housing? I have several ideas about how to tackle rising cost of housing in Centre Wellington.  First, I propose to freeze the cost of building permit fees on homeowners/builders. Furthermore, as I had mentioned previously, I would support a tax rate freeze on residential and commercial properties, as well as a freeze on water/sewer rates. I feel that by taking the above actions, this would help relieve some pressure off homeowners who continually have other rising costs to worry about. Also, landlords would be less likely to increase monthly rent, as property taxes and water/sewer rates would remain constant. As a result, these freezes would benefit homeowners, landlords, and renters and would help to address the rising cost of housing. The ongoing population growth in our area and thus increased tax base will help to offset the cost of freezing taxes.

Second, I believe we need to develop non-profit (co-op) housing and non-profit long-term care facilities in the area, as all members of our community deserve a safe and decent place to live. With rising cost of housing and inflation, it is now more critical than ever to help those who are most vulnerable in our community.

Do you support building a new $27 million operations centre? Yes. I do support building a new $27 million operations centre. Although $27 million sounds like a large sum of money, the plan is to build it in two phases. The first phase is set to cost approximately $16.5 million. The second phase (to be built 10-20 years after phase 1 is completed) will cost approximately $10.5 million. If we delay building an operations centre, the cost will likely increase over time; therefore, I feel it is wiser to invest in our future right now. 

Currently, if you look at an average house in the area valued at $1 million for 2,000 square feet, the cost of that house to buy or even to build would be $500 per square foot. The planned size for the operations centre is 54,000 square feet; thus, if you divide $27 million by 54,000 the sum is equivalent to $500 per square foot. 

Additionally, my understanding is that the other buildings are in bad repair and do not meet the needs of the community. The new building would conveniently centralize public works, engineering services, water services, parks and recreation, and information technology services. It would also allow for proper vehicle and equipment storage. The land for the 20-acre site has already been purchased at 965 Gartshore St. in Fergus for $3.9 million in September 2021. The town plans to keep two satellite locations in the West and East of Centre Wellington and to sell the other locations. It is evident that plans are already in motion for this project.

How do we make Centre Wellington an even better place to live? In my opinion, I think we can make Centre Wellington an even better place to live by working positively and effectively together as a team, and by welcoming even more communication with community members (such as through surveys, polls, comment boxes placed throughout town, etc.) who may have their own thoughts and ideas of how to improve the local area. Also, it could result in increased number of volunteers, as well as investment back into the community.  As previously stated, the population in Centre Wellington has greatly increased since 2016.  It is important that these new residents feel welcomed and a part of our community so that it does not become a “bedroom community”.  Individuals who feel included and heard are more likely to care about and to participate in making Centre Wellington even better.

In addition, going forward, I suggest that local development be considered more ‘holistically, as there are numerous factors that contribute to creating a vibrant and healthy community. It is thus crucial that we think broadly, divide our attention, and multi-task so that we can accomplish set goals and initiatives. By doing this, I believe Centre Wellington can be an even better place to live. 

Contact info? Email: jamesmantelos@gmail.com

Cell: 226-383-9038