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Niagara Falls
Tuesday, February 20, 2024
Back in class: Council in training sessions as new term is set to start
The new town council is spending its first two weeks in training. Richard Harley

Town council is laying some groundwork before it gets back to business next week with its first meeting of the new committee of the whole. 

The group of nine have been training during closed meetings since their term started in mid-November and are scheduled to wrap up Dec. 16, according to a training schedule shared with The Lake Report by town staff.

“Everybody seems to be picking it up,” Coun. Erwin Wiens said.

Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa agrees, saying he gets “a good vibe” from the group.

The council training covers a variety of topics.

Private consultants Aird & Berlis LLP, StrategyCorp Inc. and Redbrick Communications have been employed by the town to help prepare the councillors.

Law firm Aird and Berlis LLP will be presenting on Dec. 8 on the rules of closed session meetings, Zalepa said.

StrategyCorp conducted a seminar on Dec. 6 about how to organize your workload as efficiently as possible. Redbrick Communications led a session on effective public communication on Dec. 1. 

“We have integrity commissioners coming in and just covering the basics of how a council should run,” Wiens added.

He acknowledges that his enthusiasm for the training may be thanks to his previous time on council. 

“Stuff makes a lot more sense to me than it may have four years ago,” he added.

However, his enthusiasm is shared by first term councillors Nick Ruller and Adriana Cater Vizzari.

“Everybody is very supportive and encouraging,” Vizzari said in an interview.

She said she didn’t have specific concerns coming into council but “assumed there’d be a learning curve.”

While Ruller, the town’s former fire chief, feels he has enough background to position himself well for the role, he said he has a lot of humility as he enters his first term.

“I’m not too proud to ask for clarity.” 

All three councillors appreciate how the town’s staff helped to organize the orientation.

“Overall, staff have been great,” Ruller said, adding chief administrator Marnie Cluckie provided “a very comprehensive new council orientation program.”

The first committee of the whole meeting is Tuesday, Dec. 13, and the first council meeting will be Dec. 20.

The town has not released the agendas for those meetings yet.

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