Council reflects heading into election year

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

December 22, 2009

Moving forward with two new arenas and engaging in discussions with Six Nations about issues of mutual interest were two of the biggest accomplishments for Haldimand County in 2009, according to Haldimand Mayor, Marie Trainer.

Other highlights for Haldimand this past year included the purchase of a new aerial fire truck to better protest the west end of the county.

Haldimand worked with local Lions Clubs to help build a new skate park in Hagersville and make improvements to the Jarvis Ball Park.

The Rotary Trail from Caledonia to York was completed with county funding. Haldimand's new master trails plan will guide the development of walking and bike trails in the future.

Other joint projects with downtown businesses as part of the county's Community Improvement Plan has spurred thousands of dollars in work to improve building facades and streetscapes within the county's downtown corridors, Trainer said.

The overall value of new construction is up $7 million compared to 2008, she pointed out.

"People are building houses and are going forward."

Haldimand established a new farmers' market in Caledonia and the new "Harvests of Haldimand" program encourages people to shop locally by promoting agriculture, Trainer said.

"Restaurants are catching on to that and are going to farmers' markets and working together."

There are many positives to build on and Trainer said she plans to run again for mayor in 2010. "One last time."

The county can assist development and industry in the future by not being a stumbling block, she said.

She added that the county is also trying to improve its appearance with other infrastructure programs including urban overlay.

That program is greatly needed in Dunnville, according to Lorne Boyko.

Dunnville's downtown core benefited from tangible upgrades that were completed earlier this year. Although construction was a disruption to local businesses, people have been overwhelmingly complimentary about the results, he said.

"I think they like the general improvement of it, how it's tidied everything up and how it looks so charming."

Most of the expense was underground in water and sewer pipes that hadn't been replaced in 75 years.

Some sections of streets in Dunnville have been resurfaced and there are many more to go. Many sections haven't been touched in 30 years and are in obvious disrepair, Boyko said.

"Throwing a few hundred thousand dollars into that would go a long way into making those streets something that I think the residents expect and deserve and would do a lot to the self-esteem of the communities."

The biggest accomplishments of council are often the small things according to Coun. Don Ricker.

Two new arenas and much needed upgrades to road infrastructure can be measured against council members simply getting along and the phone not ringing, he said.

Most of the county's municipal drains are in ward five and the county now has plans in place to address necessary upgrades.

"To me that's a huge accomplishment that we've done in the county because now if somebody has an issue we can tell them exactly when, where and how," he said.

Ricker acknowledged that some major budget struggles lie ahead.

Millions of dollars will be spent on arenas, fire halls, libraries and water and waste water.

Coun. Leroy Bartlett pointed out that council has kept tax increases low compared to other municipalities while still making necessary infrastructure upgrades.

Gravel road conversion to tar and chip is not going as fast as he'd like it to, but Bartlett says it's hard to justify more money for the program when people are struggling to pay the bills in the midst of an economic downturn.

More than 50% of gravel road conversion will be done in ward four over the next five years, a schedule that is encouraging to Coun. Tony Dalimonte.

Residents have benefited from upgrades to roads and to the Hagersville arena and farmers' market parking lots, he said.

One of the biggest accomplishments for his ward has been convincing the Ministry of Transportation to start with the study phase for the Highway 6 bypass.

"It's the first of many steps, but it took a lot of convincing," Dalimonte said.

Bids for work to expand water and waste water capacity in Hagersville came in high, but Dalimonte is confident staff can bring the tender back in line to continue with planned expansion to enable construction development.

"There has been some residential development including Stone Cove Estates townhomes off Main Street and single family homes over in the Plouffe subdivision," Dalimonte added.

Moving forward, Haldimand must concentrate on job creation and bringing more business to Haldimand, according to Coun. Buck Sloat.

From an industrial standpoint, Haldimand suffered tremendously in 2009 with the U.S. Steel shutdown. A total of 1300 employees lost their jobs as a direct result and the ripple effect spilled over into many sectors.

"There's still a lot of work that needs to be done in Haldimand and Caledonia," Said Coun. Craig Grice.

Grice also lauded partnership programs to help improve the appearance of the downtown cores and the initiation of the county's streetscape program that will be developed further in 2010. He hopes that council can work toward doing something with the DCE property and move forward with development in Caledonia as a result.

"Bottom line is as long as there's some type of development on DCE, joint or not, the problems there will be resolved for residents of Caledonia because house values will go back up and other development can continue," he said.

Do you plan to run in the 2010 municipal election?

Trainer - yes (for mayor)

Bartlett - undecided

Sloat - undecided

Grice - yes (ward three)

Dalimonte - yes (ward four)

Ricker - undecided

Boyko - yes (ward six)