A year in review: Haldimand Council

By Mike Renzella

The Haldimand Press

HALDIMAND—With a new year beginning and a new Council just settling into their seats, 2023 is looking to be another year filled with momentous change here in Haldimand. The Press spoke with Haldimand’s Council for their thoughts on 2022 and a look ahead to 2023.

Mayor Shelley Ann Bentley

“A new year often marks a new start for many, and with several new faces on Council, 2023 will be a fresh start for Haldimand as well – a start that begins with setting priorities,” said Haldimand’s new mayor. “(2023) will be a great opportunity to come together as a new Council and map out what Haldimand could look like over the next four years. For me, that’s a focus on what I’ve heard from our community: supports for local small business, increased communication and transparency, infrastructure improvements, and agricultural protections, to name a few.” 

She said her month-and-a-half of experience in the role of mayor has been a “wonderful experience” so far, with Bentley recounting the many events she has attended, learning how to use the in-chamber computer software, attending training sessions with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, and touring the County’s water and wastewater plants as highlights of her time in office so far.

Following a comprehensive orientation process and meetings with department heads to get up-to-speed, “Council will initiate a priority setting session to establish Council’s key goals and objectives for the term.”

Bentley said her focus will be working to develop a “cohesive and collegial Council and positive relations with staff, and improving communications with local residents, businesses, and community organizations.”

She touted the County’s new Experiential Tourism program, which recently received nearly $100,000 in Provincial funding, as something that excites her for 2023: “This is a really amazing program that will bolster our local tourism experiences and draw new visitors to our community, which we know is crucial to keep our local economy thriving.”

“Leadership is not about being in charge, it’s about taking care of those in your charge, and I take that responsibility seriously. There will always be new challenges to face, but with care and compassion at the forefront, I know that Haldimand’s future is bright. I’m proud to serve such a dynamic community and look forward to hitting the ground running in 2023.”

Stewart Patterson – Ward 1

Patterson called working with residents one-on-one and bridging that communication with County staff as “one of the most rewarding experiences that I am proud of.” 

He called it a “balancing act” to work within all required legislation while always being “responsive to the needs of residents…. Gathering information and putting the proper stepping stones in place to resolve constituents’ concerns is definitely a WIN-WIN in my books.”

In addition to navigating ongoing challenges related to COVID and the continued rollout of increased internet access across the county, Patterson listed Haldimand’s continued financial stability as the County’s biggest win of the year – particularly in the face of rising costs.

  In 2023, he hopes that Council can work together with upper levels of government to “enhance initiatives such as the Jarvis-Townsend walking trail or Selkirk Lakefront Park. Getting in touch with the right people and keeping it top of mind is important to push projects ahead.”

  Patterson is continuing in his role chairing public meetings for planning applications and will take on a new role on the Haldimand Norfolk Housing Corporation.

He is eager to see the County’s new recreation plan blossom this year: “Reviewing community insights to see how we can deliver programming that aligns with community needs and wants will be exciting.”

He concluded, “I hope everyone finds time to enjoy our beautiful community in 2023. We have so many great trails and outdoor spaces, businesses, restaurants, and events to take in, along with the most amazing residents leading the way to showcase what we have to offer.”

John Metcalfe – Ward 2

Metcalfe listed “the initiation of the Selkirk Park, the rehabilitation of the Talbot and Munsee intersection, the pedestrian crosswalk at Talbot and Thorburn, the speed reduction of Lakeshore Road in Ward 2, the parks land rehabilitation of four parks in Cayuga, the installation of two speed notification signs in Fisherville and Cayuga, and no more stone roads in Ward 2, all are tar and chipped,” as this year’s biggest accomplishments in his ward.

As for successes at the County level, Metcalfe touted the commitment to new affordable housing in Dunnville, stable tax rates, the official opening of the new administration building in Cayuga, and the continued high speed internet rollout at major wins.

Metcalfe will step into a new role this year as the County’s new Deputy Mayor, replacing retired Councillor Bernie Corbett. He will also serve on the Housing and Social Services boards.

“I know this council will work together for the best interests of the county,” summed up Metcalfe. “All the best to the residents and stay positive, there are good things to come.”

Dan Lawrence – Ward 3

Lawrence is happy with the new, lit pedestrian crosswalk at Argyle and Sutherland streets and the construction of new traffic signals at McClung and Caithness streets (due to be operational in January), touting the safety improvements as a big win.

  He is proud of how County staff and Council worked together to keep property taxes at 1.9%: “When you compare that to other municipalities, Haldimand is near the top with respect to fiscal responsibility without cutting services.”

Lawrence is “extremely excited” to see construction commence in the coming months on a new EMS station on the north end of Caledonia. He is also excited that Norfolk County will tap into Haldimand’s planned water treatment plant in Nanticoke, “all at their expense. In years to come, this will not only serve Norfolk’s water source need, it will help drive our water price per household down with more users coming on.”

  As previously expressed, Lawrence remains frustrated with the MTO and their inaction on local concerns, namely the Argyle Street Bridge, adding, “For almost two decades, the Province has put it off and … the fear of the bridge collapsing with fatalities ensuing is becoming more than a possibility.”

Lawrence vows to continue to push for the bridge’s replacement: “I will not give up or let it go, as frustrating it can be at times.”

In 2023, Lawrence will continue as Chair of Community and Development Services, which he said “keeps me closer to the pulse of many community groups.”

He concluded, “Please volunteer within the community. There are so many organizations in need of help…. Caledonia has always been graced with selfless giving people and there is always a need for new faces.”

Natalie Stam – Ward 4

New to her role after replacing former councillor Tony Dalimonte, Stam said the election provided her great experience to hear directly from residents.

“Working for the people of Haldimand has been lovely. Staff have been so supportive and helpful, and I’m looking forward to working with the other members of council as we plan for the next four years ahead. It’s been a busy time of learning, as expected, and on top of digesting information as an individual, I’ve appreciated the time we’ve had to begin to get to know each other as councillors and foster good working relationships.”

  She touched on some of the biggest challenges facing her ward and the community as a whole: “Traffic safety, as well as preparing for and dealing with growth, are resounding issues. As we complete a Master Servicing Plan in the upcoming year, it will give us a good idea as to where we have room to grow, and where potential pinch points are.” 

Stam hopes to focus on fixing traffic issues that “don’t have us relying on the responsiveness of the MTO,” in addition to “moving forward on a plan to attract more doctors to the area, so that’s something I’m sure we’ll be working towards as a council in the very near future.”

Stam will take on a role sitting on the County’s Agricultural Advisory Committee, something that excited her as a “rural dweller,” where she will make connections with local farmers and ensure their voices are “heard and respected.”

She is looking forward to seeing engineering plans and community consultations take place for the in-development Library and Active Living Centre at Grant Kett Park, a project initially spearheaded by Dalimonte.

She hopes her constituents “cherish the blessings of your lives this holiday season, and every day afterwards. May you experience abundant joy and peace.”

Rob Shirton – Ward 5

Shirton called the completion of the County’s new Official Plan Haldimand’s biggest win of the year.

He commented on the proposed Nanticoke development from Empire Homes with up to 40,000 residents, which ended up being a defining issue in both 2022 elections, stating that its approval would be a “big win for the long term in Haldimand.” He cited the build out of a new water and sewage plant as a major perk of an approved proposal.

He listed speeding and overcrowding at Port Maitland Park, including parking issues, garbage, and “late night stay overs” as major challenges in his ward. He hopes that better internet coverage in the area will lead to more County control over parking.

In 2023, Shirton will serve as Chair of the County’s Corporate and Social Services board and will also serve as a board member for the Grand River Conservation Area.

With the new Council still in the process of discussing their priorities, Shirton hopes an indoor pool in Dunnville comes to fruition, but realizes that a slowing economy and rising inflation rates may impact such plans.

He wished a prosperous 2023 to all his constituents and encouraged anyone with a concern to reach out to him.

Patrick O’Neill – Ward 6

O’Neill, who replaced retired councillor Bernie Corbett last fall, called 2022 a very exciting year: “The campaign taught me so much about my community and I’m looking forward to continuing that education in the coming year.”

He continued, “I’m honoured to be able to represent Ward 6 on Council and my assigned committees and I would like to thank the County staff and fellow councillors on all of their support so far.”

O’Neill is ready to get to work in 2023, continuing the “grassroots approach” he says helped him win the seat. 

“I plan to spend a lot more time in the community meeting with Ward 6 residents, business owners, and our community groups to learn more about how we can work together to create prosperity in Dunnville.”