MORRISBURG – Although this is a municipal election year, South Dundas mayor Steven Byvelds will not yet say whether or not voters will see his name on the ballot in October.
“We as a council still have a lot to do between now and the nomination period which starts May 2, 2022,” said Byvelds at his annual year-end sit-down interview with The Leader. He said from now until nomination day municipal workings will have his full attention: “We have a lot of work to do in four months.”
Byvelds will declare his intentions regarding the election when the nomination period opens. “On May 2nd you will know which way I will go, but not before,” he said, adding that in his mind that is fair, not only to himself, but also to South Dundas residents and to those potential candidates who want to put their names forward for election.
Reflecting on 2021, Byvelds characterized the year as “busy.”
“It’s been a busy year. It’s been a busy three years – busier than I ever anticipated. Busier than my first term as mayor.”
In spite of the continuing global pandemic, Byvelds and this council were able to stack up a considerable list of accomplishments of which he is proud adding that this group never hesitates to tackle any problem head-on.
He is pleased to see both of South Dundas’ two water tower refurbishments completed.
“They had to be done, and they look good now,” he said, adding that he is glad that this council made the decision to move forward and not have a figurehead not representative of the community on the tower. Out of the decision it allowed them the opportunity to build a relationship with the Akwesasne community that wouldn’t have happened without those discussions. “It shows that sometimes good comes out of having controversial issues,” he said.
Another significant project of which he is proud this council has been involved with is working with Swank Construction on the Dutch Meadows subdivision. “If we want our municipality to grow, we have to be there to help,” he said.
As much as the Morrisburg roundabout and street-scape project was a Counties project, and a project that was initiated by the previous council, Byvelds says the project is certainly one that both the Counties and South Dundas should be proud of. “The previous council did the legwork and we finished it off. Hopefully by next June/July when all the fine details are done it will be something that everyone in South Dundas will be proud of.”
At counties council Byvelds said that his accomplishment in that role that he is most happy about is finally getting the County Roads 8-18 project completed. “It’s something that I’ve been working on for many years and it’s something that will benefit the residents of South Dundas for years to come.”
Byvelds’ list of 2021 frustrations is much shorter than his list of accomplishments. “It’s just been getting things done. We need to make sure staff understands that the council wants to get things done,” he said. His plan going forward is to set this year’s priorities through budget deliberations and from there set timelines to ensure things get done.
Staff reorganization, ongoing throughout this term of council, should be for the most part complete in the first quarter of 2022 and Byvelds is hopeful that process will help things flow more smoothly.
His other frustration is one that is not uncommon – not having enough money to do everything that should be done.
Infrastructure needs in South Dundas are many between roads, bridges and water/sewer.
What Byvelds wants are good plans to guide addressing infrastructure needs. “We need to be looking ahead all the time and adjusting what we need to do,” he said.
What good plans also do, according to Byvelds, is keep residents informed of upcoming needs, and it also makes applying for funding easier.
“It helps to have major projects in your back pocket,” said Byvelds. “If the government says they are going to fund an infrastructure project, if you have something ready, it’s easy to apply.”
Other than the Morrisburg arena entrance, South Dundas at present only has the Taylor Road Bridge and Carman Road waterline replacement projects as potentially near shovel-ready.
Asked, if money was no object, what would be his ‘pie in the sky’ dream for South Dundas?
Byvelds said it would be more work on the waterfront, specifically mentioning a museum and restaurant building on the Morrisburg waterfront.
“It would draw people to South Dundas and people off their boats. It could do a lot of good. We don’t know how good we have it with the waterfront we have,” he said.
Although this was his answer when asked to dream, he went on to say: “I think it’s one of those get ready projects that I would be willing to invest in.”
He would like to see more housing developments in South Dundas – developments which include all levels of housing affordability.
With that, he adds that South Dundas needs to be a welcoming community to attract a bigger community base which will allow those bigger dreams to be achieved. “We want to be that community where people want to be,” he said.
This year South Dundas is undertaking a new recreation plan and the first quarter of 2022 will be the consultation period. Byvelds said that getting as much public consultation as possible is necessary, even though during the current pandemic climate it will be practically impossible to have full blown public meetings. What he wants is for the people of South Dundas to shape their own recreation plan.
“It’s not my plan. It should be your plan,” he said. The only way to ensure that is ample participation. He added that people outside of the centres of Morrisburg and Iroquois should also get involved. “It’s your community too,” he said. His hope is to end up with a plan that addresses the needs of all ages and uses as much of the available recreation amenities as possible.
Up first this year for council will be budget deliberations that will shape the remaining term of this council. He said it will be about balancing the municipality’s infrastructure needs with the inflation that has affected us all. Those deliberations will take place in mid-January.
Overall going into the new year Byvelds wants people to know this – “We’re doing our best. That’s all I would ever ask from any council.”