Petrolia has a mayor’s race

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There is a race for the mayor of Petrolia.

Long-time critic of incumbent John McCharles, Jeff Johnston, has filed his nomination papers to run for the top job the town.

Johnson told The Independent just after filing that he wants to focus on the financial activities of the municipality during the campaign. He advocates working with community members to look critically at town spending to find savings.

“If we find a solid footing…we can work toward reducing costs,” says Johnston.

Johnston says tax increases, even of three and four percent are a burden on town residents. “For those that live on a fixed income, a 3.5 percent increase for three or four years with escalating water and sewer charges is too much.

“It’s not right to have to decide to pay your bills or eat. Whatever is causing the escalating bills has to stop.”

Johnston suggests the town should look at finding new revenue streams to help ease the tax burden. As an example, he suggest looking at building something at the community centre to generate revenue to off set its operating deficit.

Johnston entered the political arena in 2006 when the town began building the Oil Heritage Community Centre. He pressed the town for answers about contaminated soil from the site.

But the battle became personal when Johnston and McCharles often exchanged heated words at town council meetings. On one occasion, police were called to the building because of the aggressive exchanges.

Johnston and McCharles faced each other in court when they sued each other for defamation of character in 2011. The trial ended with the judge dismissing Johnston’s claim and ruling Johnson had made a “deliberate effort” to damage McCharles reputation.

For his part, Johnston says this election race is not personal saying he’s “not concerned” about the past. “If he wants to debate on how to stop escalating costs, I’ll do that…If he wants to sit and call me names – fine. That’s not the issue. It doesn’t matter who is in charge (the escalating costs) have to stop.

“We should use all town resources to make it better for all the residents…(and) to have all businesses open and not worry about escalating water costs.”