For those with something to say, South Dundas council members were all ears on October 17th.
Mayor Steven Byvelds, along with Deputy Mayor Jim Locke opened the “round table” discussion to the public at 7 p.m. in Matilda Hall. Also in attendance were Councillors Evonne Delegarde, Jim Graham, Archie Mellan, and Clerk Brenda Brunt.
In addition to council, 27 members of the South Dundas public showed up to voice their concerns, make requests, or simply say thank you for a job well done. Members of the public also had the opportunity to talk with council members one-on-one before and after the two hour meeting.
Byvelds began the meeting saying, “This is something I thought would be a good idea (for) the public to bring ideas, discuss concerns – it’s a better opportunity (to be heard) than coming to a council meeting.”
“I can’t promise that everything will be acted on, but (we) will listen.”
The first issue of the night came from a resident of Iroquois who requested council’s help in convincing Union Gas to bring natural gas to his home and to the homes of his neighbours.
Jim Graham volunteered to look into it and help out in whatever way possible.
Taxpayers Funding Alcohol
The next issue raised at the meeting took account with the council holding a retirement party paid for by taxpayers that included an open bar.
Byvelds responded: “We did have one recently – a dinner with an open bar at the Legion. (It) cost less than $1,000.”
It was suggested by Carl McIntyre “that this policy should be reviewed” as he did not think it appropriate for taxpayers to be paying for council’s alcohol.
Volunteers in South Dundas
The huge topic of concern for many that night was the status of volunteers in South Dundas. This topic was raised several times covering the expanse of insurance, money, paperwork, and more.
It was suggested by John Gleed that “something has to be done to improve the whole process in dealing with volunteers.”
He was not alone in this as several other members of the public rose to speak on the same issue.
He went on to say that “rather than helping, in a lot of cases roadblocks are being set up.” In this he was referring to the new policy guidelines as well as the abundance of paperwork involved in applications.
In terms of insurance, he said that “the truth of the matter is – the policy of downloading is incredibly negative to any activity that is going on. Staff can tell you it’s a myth, but it’s not.”
David Lapier raised issue with the fact that the insurance for the Williamsburg Harvest Festival, which normally doesn’t ask for monetary help from the township, had gone up more than $500 from last year’s price.
Several other dedicated members of the public were concerned with having their names on the insurance policies for these volunteer-run events.
People inquired as to council’s decision making process in relation to grant applications. They asked about the total amount in the budget and what portion was actually used for volunteer community events.
In the end, Byvelds said that council had “heard it loud and clear.” He acknowledged that people would like council to “make the process as simple as we can make it (and that council) find some funding for it.”
Byvelds and fellow council members also made it clear that they do appreciate the time, hard work, and passion put into these events by dedicated volunteers. Graham said, “nobody wants to deter volunteers in any shape or form because we can’t do it.” Mellan pointed out, “I think council appreciates the value of our volunteers (and our) community groups.”
“We will do what we can. If it (policy) has to be tweaked down the road, it’s tweakable.”
Boat Launch Fees
Roger Coulter raised issue with the fees charged at the launch ramp. He pointed out that the many other township recreational services like the beach, the park or the outdoor rink require no fees whatsoever.
“We have a lot of boaters in this township and it bothers them that they have to pay a launch fee as well,” he said.
There’s “a double launch in Cardinal (that) doesn’t cost a cent. Many (areas) don’t have cost for ramps,” he reported.
Byvelds said that the launch fees “generate a pot of money to (be) put back into infrastructure (like the) deck in Morrisburg.”
Grass Needs Cutting
An Iroquois resident raised issue with the lack of grooming being done on vacant lots. He requested that council mow the lawns of buildings they’re responsible for on a more regular basis. He also suggested that council deal with people who are not caring for their lawns properly.
Another Iroquois resident also brought the issue of overgrown ditches to council’s attention. Most notably, the ditch on Carmen Road heading toward the Lockes.
Parlow Road River Access
A Morrisburg resident was upset by a sign displayed on a property next to a water access point at the base of Parlow Road. The sign infers that the road and access point is private when, in fact, it is not.
Mayor Byvelds said that he was familiar with the property and the water access point in question and would look into the matter. He verified that it is public property.
Tourism in South Dundas
Hanne Rycroft from the Basket Case Cafe in Morrisburg wanted “some insurance that we’re getting a better tourist bureau.”
She pointed out that the bureau is often closed and, when it’s not closed it is often run by someone not trained or not concerned with tourism.
Rycroft also inquired about several tourism brochures that mentioned South Dundas. The one in question had two South Dundas businesses and Rycroft wanted to know what the process was for deciding who made it into the brochure.
Candace Menges of River Rat Treasures in Iroquois agreed that the state of tourism in South Dundas needs some assistance from council.
She brought attention to the lack of communication between the economic development officer and the actual businesses in South Dundas.
Hosaic Creek Beavers
Robert Byvelds, a dairy farmer East of Williamsburg, requested an update on the status of Hosaic Creek.
The Hosaic Creek Committe, along with the South Nation Conservation (SNC), released a report in 2010 calling for a solution to the overpopulation of beavers.
The dams built in the Creek are causing drainage issues for local farms and farmers.
Trevor Tolley pointed out that this is a natural drainage system that has been cut off by the beaver population. He said that while “SNC is staffed with people who are experts on a variety of aspects of Hosaic Creek,” the one thing they aren’t experts on is agriculture and “human beings” in this area.
Byvelds said, “You want drainage there; I don’t know if it’ll ever get to a point where you have drainage there.”
He did say that the issue hadn’t been discussed in a while and that he would look into it further.
Sewage Treatment Plan
An Iroquois resident asked for an update on the Sewage Treatment Plan.
She was told that a tender would be going out shortly.
Councillor Evonne Delegarde reported, “everything is still on schedule” for a March 2014 completion date.
John Devries wanted to talk about snow removal. He asked if it were possible for the service to begin “a little earlier in the morning for school buses and the milk truck.”
Councillor Archie Mellan said that “it will be looked at.”
The question of large item garbage removal was also raised, specifically freezers and fridges.
There is no pick up for these items, but there are drop off places available.
The resident in question was concerned with the lack of “user friendly” scheduling. There is a drop off in Iroquois between 8 a.m. and Noon on Fridays, but many people work during those four hours.
Council agreed to look into the situation.
It was pointed out, at this time, that electronics could be taken to the North Dundas Fire Department or to the House of Lazarus in Winchester.
Inquiry was made as to whether or not South Dundas had indeed hired a bylaw inspector. It was noted that many people park illegally in the Morrisburg Plaza parking lot, but nothing appears to be done about it.
Council confirmed that there is a bylaw officer, but that much of his time is consumed by “big stuff.”
Locke pointed out that “most bylaws are enforced by complaint.”
Old High School
David Lapier wanted to know “how (council was) going to set a limit on cost” in terms of “moving council to the high school in Morrisburg.” More to the point, he wanted to know what the cost would be for taxpayers.
Byvelds outlined the necessity of moving council from Williamsburg to Morrisburg saying “there’s not enough room; (there are) air quality issues; it really doesn’t suit; (and,) in 1998 it was a temporary move, a political move.”
“There’s no way to make that work. I would like to have the entire staff under one roof.” He pointed out that the bylaw officer’s “office” is in the middle of the hall while the fire chief is working in “a building that we’ve condemned.”
In terms of finances, Byvelds believes that the high school is “still going to be the best option in the end.”
He pointed out that it won’t “happen overnight (as it’s) a long-term process.” Right now there are “fairly reasonable rates” available for getting this done.
He suggested that people check out the Prescott Municipal Office if they wanted to get an idea of what things might be like when finished.
When asked if there would be an outdoor rink this winter, Byvelds said, “we’re working on it. It’s a necessity.”
Inquiries as to the status of surplus buildings rendered the following response from Byvelds: they’re “still on our radar.”
He informed the group that Delegarde had recently asked for a tour of the buildings because some of the council members hadn’t yet seen them.
He also said that council was concerned with making balanced decisions about what to do with the surplus buildings in each community.
Thanks for a Great Job
In addition to complaints and requests, the public also wanted to say thank you, acknowledging the work of council.
Carl McIntyre: “I think this council has done a great job. I’ve agreed with every decision you’ve made. I’m only here to talk about what hasn’t been done” yet.
Roger Coulter wanted to thank council for the bike and walking paths in Iroquois.