This year marks the halfway point of this term of council and looking back over the first part of the term, South Dundas Mayor Steven Byvelds is fairly satisfied.
“We’ve come a long way,” Byvelds told reporters at the year-end interview at council chambers in Williamsburg December 14. “We have a lot of projects on the go.”
Old high school getting a new lease on life
One of these projects, the $4 million renovation of the former Morrisburg Collegiate Institute, will mean that this year’s interview will likely be the last to take place at council chambers in Williamsburg. The mayor already plans for the 2013 interview to take place in the mayor’s office of the new municipal building in Morrisburg.
For Byvelds, the highlight of 2012 has definitely been getting the reconstruction of the old high school started, as it has been in the works since before the start of this term of council.
“A lot of people are saying this project was the right thing to do, while others wonder why we would bother with that old building, but that’s okay,” said Byvelds, who is confident in the end this building will prove to be an asset to the community on many levels.
Not only will it bring municipal administration under one roof, it will bring a medical facility under the same roof. Byvelds believes the end result will be a building that the community can take pride in.”
“Personally, I’d just like to see it done,” said Byvelds, who is ready to mark that project off his ‘to do’ list.
Waste water projects fully funded
The construction of a new waste water treatment plant in Iroquois is ongoing, and fully funded. Although it is running a little behind schedule, the mayor said there is no worry that it won’t be completed in time to take full advantage of the available funding.
Along with that project, the funds are also in place for a project to address some of the long-time sewer issues that over overburdened the villages sewer systems during heavy rainfall events.
“Once these key pieces of infrastructure are done, we will be well suited for our journey forward,” said Byvelds.
With the infrastructure of South Dundas seeming well looked after, South Dundas has also made great strides theoretically.
Planning for the future
Community and economic development planning processes were completed, the Morrisburg Waterfront plan has been submitted to council and they are looking forward to the Iroquois Waterfront plan in the near future.
“These processes gave residents the opportunity to express their feelings and what that gives us, council and staff, is direction,” said Byvelds, explaining that it helps them when they are trying to decide which projects to prioritize as most important to the community at large.
Few challenges in 2012
Categorized by the mayor as challenges for 2012 were the Morrisburg dock being condemned, the proposed sale of the 400 acre Williamsburg forest and the decision to proceed with the Morrisburg Collegiate project.
With the dock and the ‘400’, when council made decisions that negatively impacted people, they were quick to let council know. And, Byvelds said that council was willing to listen and to make the necessary decisions to attempt to rectify the situations.
One time that council has had difficulty addressing the concerns of residents has been when the group opposing local wind turbine projects surfaced.
“The South Branch Wind project has been on the books a long time,” said Byvelds, explaining that the project predates this council and that while there are area residents who oppose the project, there are other residents who have invested significantly in this project.
“This council had no say in that project, but we will have a say on any future projects that come to us, seeking our support,” said Byvelds.
The decision to proceed with the renovation of the old high school proved to be a difficult one for council, and was definitely an instance when Mayor Byvelds found it necessary to provide some leadership and make his stance known.
Looking ahead to 2013, Byvelds hopes for the successful continuation and completion of the ongoing projects.
Budget predictions for prudent spending
First and foremost in the minds of he and the other council members in the new year is the budget process.
Byvelds won’t make any predictions about the budget, only saying that they as a council plan to continue as they have in the past, being as prudent as they can be when it comes to spending.
He said that they as a council are waiting to see where staff numbers come in and then to proceed with the decision-making process from there. “If we need to whittle it down, we will. That’s our job.”
“Council’s objective is to be as constrained as possible, and to be realistic with what we spend taxpayers money on.”
“Council’s attitude has been that we need to bring South Dundas forward, to spend conservatively, but not to be too conservative. The idea is to do the right things at the right times,” said Byvelds. “It’s important to seize opportunities when they present themselves.”
Satisfied, but still striving
Byvelds said that this council has gelled quickly from the day they were elected and that the all of the decisions regarding council business are made at the council table. “And, that’s a good thing for South Dundas,” he said.
He said that council has done well at being approachable and available to residents of South Dundas with concerns, and sees that continuing.
“Everyone has an opinion, and it is up to us as a council to listen to those opinions.”
Reflecting on council in general, Byvelds said, “We can always be better, and we always strive to be better.”