While South Dundas council may have handled more than its fair share of controversy in 2013, its mayor is looking ahead to 2014; positive about what has been accomplished, positive about projects in the works and positive about the new year.
The 2013 year end interview with local media took place December 18 at the Mayor’s office on the third floor of the new South Dundas Municipal Centre in Morrisburg.
“We are definitely sitting in the highlight of the year,” said South Dundas Mayor Steven Byvelds of the South Dundas Municipal Centre.
“We have rebuilt this into a very useful space, not only for South Dundas council and staff, but for the St. Lawrence Medical Clinic,” said Byvelds.
This SDMC building project, along with South Dundas’ partnership with the St. Lawrence Medical Clinic team to renovate the former Catholic school in Iroquois into a new clinic, means that South Dundas is now home to two new medical facilities.
“That is an important asset in a time where it is challenging to keep medical staff within our borders,” said Byvelds.
Although not yet complete, Byvelds reported that the new Morrisburg library portion of the project should be finished early this year. It will be housed in a portion of the former Morrisburg Clinic space.
On top of this huge project nearing completion, Byvelds is proud to have been able to be part of major progress on working towards rectifying infrastructure issues that have needed addressing for decades.
He acknowledges that the work taking place around Lakeshore Drive certainly wouldn’t have been possible without $2 million worth of provincial funding that South Dundas was fortunate enough to receive.
That funding, along with the funding for the new Iroquois waste water treatment plant, have allowed significant infrastructure improvements.
“A lot of good stuff happened with that money,” said Byvelds.
The new Iroquois waste water treatment plant is expected to be commissioned within a couple of months.
Also, coming to council early in the new year, are plans for the expansion of the Williamsburg recreation building that will return library space to Williamsburg and also provide a useful facility for the community.
With 2014 being an election year, like most municipal politicians, Byvelds hopes for a ‘boring’ year, but he will not shy away from making decisions because of the looming election, which will take place in October.
“I know that any issues that are simmering won’t disappear, and when the time comes, we will deal with things the best we can.”
No matter the issue, Byvelds always adheres to the same process. “You listen, you learn, then you make the decision, and that in part is where your own philosophies come into play,” he explained.
“Most times, change is the biggest challenge, but change is inevitable. Change is challenging for me too, but I know that change has to be managed. It can’t be radical. It has to make sense. I don’t like change either, but globally it is something we need to deal with. If you do nothing, then you are going backwards, and I’m not prepared to do that.”
Even a tough open forum meeting in the fall where much of the public backlash over various issues was directed at Byvelds, has not swayed his philosophy.
Admittedly a tough experience, Byvelds still called the process a useful one, as people had the opportunity to voice their opinions.
“In an election year, my role is to lead properly,” said Byvelds. “I need to demonstrate leadership, showing the community what it takes to run a municipality from the mayor’s chair.”
He sees 2014 as a year to settle down, get things wrapped up and put South Dundas in a position to allow its new council to pick up the ball and make the decisions going forward.
Byvelds would not divulge his intentions for the 2014 election. He plans to make his intentions known in late summer. His only prediction for the new year, was that South Dundas residents will see a zero or very modest tax increase in 2014.
The budgeting process will take place earlier in 2014 than it has in the past, a change that Byvelds has been eager to see.
At this point he is focusing on the roads system. “We are a rural municipality and roads are important,” said Byvelds. “I would rather spend money on roads wisely, making things last beyond their useful life than ignore them.”
“Provincial funding has dried up, so how we manage our own affairs is very important,” he said.