South Dundas mayor Evonne Delegarde is much more interested in looking ahead to 2015, than looking back at 2014, as we head into the new year.
Much of 2014, for her, was focused on the fall election where she ultimately achieved her goal of becoming mayor of South Dundas: South Dundas’ first female mayor.
Speaking with media days after being sworn in as mayor, she had already noticed that things are a lot different as mayor than they were as councillor, a position she held for six years.
“There’s definitely more pressure as mayor,” said Delegarde. “It’s totally different.”
She said that in preparing for a council meeting, she has always been pretty well-read and well prepared for the issues at hand, but she is nervous to be at the head of the table. “Part of the job in this position is to get all the facts. I have to listen to everything so that I can make decisions that are in the best interest of South Dundas. We all have to do that, with every issue,” she said.
“We have to try to think with our heads and not our hearts. That’s a challenge. We all grew up here.”
As soon as she was elected mayor, she noticed a big difference in the number of comments and inquiries that she is fielding. “On average, I probably get about three or four inquiries everyday. I get more calls now than ever before and numerous emails.”
Despite the increased workload, she plans to continue with her part-time job at the Sears in Iroquois.
Being at the head of the council table, Delegarde says, “I know that I may have to provide more direction for council.”
She wants the process to be a little less formal than it has been over the last four years.
Delegarde sees the next year as a time to work at mending relationships and opening the channels of communication.
“We have to get staff, and everyone working together again. That’s a goal of this council as a group,” she said.
She will hold regular office hours open to the public at the South Dundas Municipal Centre in the mayor and council office on the third floor, likely twice a month, the Friday before a council meeting.
“This is not a one pony show. We want people to tell us what they are thinking. As a council there is no possible way we can know everything. We need people to tell us, and to feel free to speak to us about their concerns,” said Delegarde, who will encourage the other council members to make use of the office too.
Delegarde wants to see the municipality be more proactive than reactive in how they deal with complaints, and the complaints to be tracked to ensure they are dealt with in a timely manner.
Over the last year council and staff have been working on five draft bylaws, and Delegarde would like to see those drafts dealt with as soon as possible, having already scheduled a special council meeting in mid January. Those bylaws include parking, signs, exotic animals, entrance and sewer use bylaws.
One of the first big tasks or council every year is the budget.
Delegarde acknowledges that the budget will be handled a little later this year than it has in the past, but in the coming years it is her aim to get the budget completed as early in the new year as possible.
As far as a tax increase, she is not making any solid predictions, although she was quick to point out that the cost of the South Dundas Municipal Centre alone means that six percent more is needed. But, acknowledges there have been significant savings in other areas that help offset some of that cost.
“We want minimal increases, but it’s hard to do with no increase,” she said.
For her, village roads are a priority.
In the coming year she says that council will decide whether or not open question and answer sessions will become a part of the regular council agenda.
She plans to stay on top of landfill issues and succession planning, as staff retirements are likely over the next four years.
Areas for review, according to Delegarde, include the rehabilitation of the Morrisburg Plaza, an inventory of municipally owned buildings and land, and the whole user fee system.