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the station

Hub Staff

Support for Andy and Debbie Hess, owners of Train and Station at the Port Elgin Main Beach, was apparent at the June 25 Committee of Whole meeting in Council Chambers.

A total of seven speakers took advantage of the Open Forum to express their love for the business, their support of the Hesses and their frustration with Council and Town staff.

One speaker cited mixed messages between the Town’s ongoing expressions of support for the Hesses and spoken desire to keep the Train and Station operational, and the Waterfront Master Plan.

Another at the podium said the Train is part of what makes Port Elgin unique. “It’s part of being a community, it’s part of working together... because that’s what Port Elgin is supposed to be about.”

A young boy took to the podium and said that his 88 year old “poppy” wants to ride the train when he visits. “My nana rides it, my mom rode it when she was a kid, my sister’s only 3 and needs more turns,” he said.

All the while someone in the gallery was blowing a train whistle between speakers amid applause.

Wayne McGrath said he was there on behalf of Andy and Debbie Hess. Reading from correspondence to McGrath from the Hesses, he said they offered to put a five year plan at the end of the same lease but were told the old lease is off the table. “We offered to keep the train running along with numerous building improvements,” McGrath read.

McGrath said that if an agreement wasn’t reached soon the Hesses would not be able to open the business for the 2018 season. From the correspondence, McGrath read, “We have already lost over six weeks of business, if we do not have a lease by the first of this week and we cannot be open for Canada Day long weekend that will be game over for the Station this summer, probably forever.”

The correspondence also stated that “with all this unfortunate stress we have had to endure it might be best to sell and move on but we would open this summer and offer to sell the train with the business and leave it in Port Elgin.”

In an email to Saugeen Shores Hub, Andy and Debbie Hess said that they would need to know by today, June 26, if they are to open for Canada Day weekend. “If we are not open this weekend there will be no train this summer,” read the email.

To our knowledge, at the time of publishing, an agreement had not been reached.

“You need to decide tonight, folks,” McGrath said to councillors before stepping away from the podium.

The final Open Forum speaker asked Council for “honesty, transparency, compassion” and to repair the situation. “Sure they have a few things they might need to do to make it better but they deserve a fair lease,” said the speaker. “Your voters deserve a family oriented beach with activities directed toward safe, fun and a family atmosphere. I urge you to stand up for what is right,” she added.

In his delegation to Saugeen Shores Council, Anthony Melidy cited by-law 59-2017, one that was created to establish a code of conduct for members of Saugeen Shores Council.

Melidy said he has been coming to the beach for years with his kids and while his affinity for the train was clear, he said he wasn’t there to save the train. “I’m here to save the beach, it’s people like Andy and Debbie who make us come back,” he said.

Melidy too cited the Waterfront Master Plan and said that through his research he realized just how integral the train was to the Port Elgin beach experience. “What could be more unique than a steam train,” he said, then asking, “What would be better than a steam train? A steam train run by Andy.”

He made reference to recent news reports that the train may be sold, as was expressed at Council May 28 and called it a “fairy tale."

Melidy questioned the integrity and honesty of staff and council and expressed concern with the idea of changing the beach from a family friendly atmosphere to more of a party atmosphere. He made reference to drinking, marijuana use, and sex; and asked if the Town was prepared to add additional staff and policing.

Interrupting Melidy, Councillor Neil Menage stood as a point of order and cited the Town’s procedural by-law. “Our procedural by-law requires that delegations present material in a respectful and temperate manner,” said Menage, adding that going off on “tangents” was not respectful in his opinion. “Neither are the continual references to members of Council and staff lying,” he added and asked through Mayor Smith that the delegation stop those references.

“I’m going to ask you to stick right to the presentation,” said Smith. “It’s here for the public,” he added.

Melidy agreed to oblige and continued but quickly made reference to members of Council being deceitful. Twice more Menage rose and the Mayor asked Melidy to stick to the delegation. Melidy then left Council Chambers without finishing his delegation and Council moved onto the next item on the agenda.

See: Town of Saugeen Shores chooses the train again

See: Residents and tourists rally in support of the Train and Station

See: The Town says they want the Train so why a rally to save it

See: Town recommends one year lease instead of five for The Station

June 26 Editor's Note: The Open Forum speakers, other than Wayne McGrath who is mentioned above, were: Lori McHardy, Griffin Versteeg (accompanied by Lila Jackson), Bruce Coghill, Joan Johnston, Steph Stewart, and Patty Bowman.  

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