Popular wisdom suggests that democracy relies on the voices of the individuals being heard by those in charge.
But a series of emails from former resident Michael L. Harvey to the Town of Midland sent in 2020 and 2021 were left unaddressed, according to correspondence shared with MidlandToday.
In the initial letter dated September 2020, Harvey contacted the town with concerns regarding the “dilapidated condition of the gravel shoulder and/or lack of a safe bicycle lane south of Midland Point Road” along Harbourview Drive. Harvey provided an anecdotal account of a co-worker stopped by police due to the inability of riding safely in the direction of traffic.
Harvey did not ask anything within the September letter, stating, “I am unsure what reasoning the Town of Midland had” and offering a suggestion to level the gravel shoulder. The letter was sent to executive director of environment and infrastructure Andy Campbell, and copied to Mayor Stewart Strathearn and Ward 3 Coun. Cher Cunningham.
A follow-up letter to ask for acknowledgement of receipt was sent in October 2020 to Campbell, Cunningham and Deputy Mayor Mike Ross but not Strathearn. A similar request was made again in November 2020 to all four recipients, calling the lack of response “appalling and unprofessional.”
According to Harvey, another email was sent to the town in 2021 along with another anecdote of a senior on a wheelchair using the road, “due in fact there is no sidewalk or safe shoulder for her to travel on.”
Within the correspondence of February 2022, Harvey asked the town of Midland for a reason to the safety concerns. However, Harvey also admitted that he no longer required a response due to moving away from town.
“As per the above,” wrote Harvey, “we decided to keep our business in Orillia and grow our manufacturing from there instead of Midland as the lack of response for even a small matter solidified our decision.”
MidlandToday reached out to the town for comment.
“It’s a classic fail,” replied Mayor Strathearn, expressing regret that Harvey’s letters had been sent to so many people on council and staff without any response.
“The real issue here is: nobody got back to him, including me. All I can say is, I don’t know why I didn’t get back to him or others didn’t get back to him, but somehow it’s happened.”
Neither Campbell, Cunningham nor Ross returned a request for comment.
However, Strathearn noted that during his 2018 campaign for office, increased responsiveness from the town was one of the main concerns raised by residents.
Moving forward, Strathearn said, “I don’t think we’ll be totally absent of this sort of a situation, but we can certainly look to see how we can keep it to a minimum.”
As well, Strathearn stated that the public engagements within the parks and trails master plan and strategic transportation master plan processes would have provided Harvey with knowledge that the section of roads brought up in the emails had been previously identified as an area for improvement.
Angela Grenier, customer experience office (CXO) manager, provided the following response via email. “We take all correspondence from our residents and businesses seriously and will check our records for anything directed to the attention of CXO.
“We do not manage correspondence received for Council members nor their responses to any correspondence. I would be happy to follow up with Mr. Harvey regarding his concerns.”
Members of council had previously acknowledged the possibility of concerns getting lost in the mail, as experienced by a frustrated Gawley Park Beach resident last summer regarding belligerent boaters on the small beach. Mayor Strathearn responded directly to the complaint upon its belated discovery.
The E-service customer service request portal on the town of Midland website was designed to streamline the customer service experience by providing a ticket to each submission, as tracked by staff to its conclusion. However, the CXO launched in March 2021 is not without its drawbacks.
During a presentation by Grenier to council last year, Coun. Cunningham brought up the question of non-digital tracking of customer interactions to ensure follow-ups not “fall through the cracks”.
During the 2022 budget discussions for the town last month, Coun. Bill Gordon noted that the E-Service system contained “anomalies and issues that we’re still working on.
“There’s still some odd things – just things I’ve experienced, I’m not repeating anecdotal complaints that I get, which I’m sure all of council gets these – but things where I’ll get a (personal) ticket closed out after six months, and I didn’t hear anything about it,” said Gordon. “I know the work was done because I didn’t drive over that hole in the ground anymore.”
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