Council reflects on 2021, looks ahead to 2022

By Mike Renzella

The Haldimand Press

HALDIMAND — With 2021 behind us, The Haldimand Press spoke with the members of Haldimand County Council to find out how they felt about the past 365 days and where the County might be headed over the next year.

Ken Hewitt — Haldimand County Mayor

“2021 was a particularly challenging year for business owners, educators, families, churches, social clubs, virtually everyone and everything was exposed to the ever-changing approach to COVID. The stress and strain put on individuals and corporations were at all-time highs,” said the mayor in a statement to The Press.

“Haldimand County certainly was no exception. I take pride, however, in our staff and their professional approach in helping us all find our way through these tough times. I am fortunate to be a part of a strong team in Council that has led with consistency and with strength on the advice from senior management. I believe that we have made the best decisions to serve our communities, balancing the needs of the public with the safety protocols downloaded from the Province.”

Stewart Patterson — Ward 1 Councillor

Patterson is excited about a new park under development in Selkirk following a land donation from a local family, and proud of the revitalization of the Townsend Lake and Walking Trail: “This area had become overgrown and in need of repairs for several years,” he said of the project, which refurbished the bridge and lookout point and paved the walkway.

He also mentioned a newly installed sanitary line between Jarvis and Townsend that could lead to expanded residential and commercial growth in the area.

As for challenges, Patterson is concerned by the amount of damage storms caused over 2021, listing eroded roadways and plugged culverts: “With the climate changes we are experiencing not just in Haldimand but throughout the world, it has potential to drain reserves and impact future budgets. This will need to be taken into consideration going forward.”

Patterson will seek re-election this fall using the same platform that got him elected in 2018: “Make no promises that you cannot keep. Be straight with people and get back to them with an answer whether good or bad.” 

John Metcalfe — Ward 2 Councillor

Metcalfe hopes to see movement on the revitalization of Bob Baigent and Village Green parks, as well as the parkette by the library, and lastly the new green space being designed on the grounds of the County’s old administration building.

He touted the County’s recently approved 10-year Master Plan for Development, and the ongoing effort to convert all county roads from stone to tar-and-chip, saying he expects 99% of the work to be finished by year’s end.

Metcalfe said that changing COVID-19 guidelines led to challenges for the County: “We had to make some hard decisions at Council… the rules changed from the Feds to the Province to us.”

Metcalfe will be running in the upcoming election: “There’s some projects I still want to see finished up… hopefully this next term I’ll be able to deliver on some of those.”

Dan Lawrence — Ward 3 Councillor

Lawrence praised County staff for “keeping the infrastructure projects in place”, referring to road and street construction projects that were finished in 2021 despite a COVID-caused strain on resources: “If we don’t have great staff doing their job it makes our job as councillors very difficult. I can’t say enough about our boots to ground staff out in the field.”

He also praised the impending social housing project in Dunnville, saying Council made the commitment to that project to address the housing crisis that is impacting communities across the province right now. 

Lawrence said transportation issues, both related to ongoing protests in Caledonia as well as the aging Argyle Street bridge remain a top concern of his in 2022.

He said ongoing road and train blockades in his Ward “really magnify the safety issues of some of our infrastructure, some of our roads and bridges… that infrastructure took a huge pounding,” further explaining how heavy vehicles taking alternate routes have caused “deterioration to that infrastructure that will need some attention in the future.”

Lawrence will seek re-election this year: “It’s been a great experience. It’s a privilege and an honour to represent the people of Caledonia.”

Tony Dalimonte — Ward 4 Councillor

Dalimonte provided a list of things he was proud of in 2021, topped by his role in spearheading the upcoming Hagersville Library + Active Living Centre, which is close to reaching its $1.1 million community fundraising goal. 

He also listed the reconstruction of King Street West in Hagersville, the construction of a new five-storey condo on Main Street North, working with the owner of Barin’s Kitchen on the grand opening of the new restaurant, and blocking the use of Haldibrook Road as part of Hamilton’s new master truck route.

Dalimonte said that the Council dealt with the financial ramifications of COVID by “reducing budgeted items to keep the tax rate down, providing interest relief for those residents who could not pay their taxes on time, and providing staff support to local businesses.”

In 2022, Hagersville will receive two new signalized pedestrian crosswalks at the intersections of Main Street North and King Street East: “This will provide pedestrians with a much safer alternative to crossing heavy traffic areas during peak hours.”

If re-elected, Dalimonte will ensure the completion of the Library + Active Living Centre, while working with Council to manage “tremendous” residential growth, and working to attract new commercial development in the Hagersville urban area.

Rob Shirton — Ward 5 Councillor

Shirton called 2021 a “trying year”, forecasting a choppy 2022 as well with COVID still “lingering.”

He listed the tar-and-chip conversion and expansion of hi-speed internet in Ward 5 among the positive news stories from the last year. He said that this year’s budget considerations will be “impacted as a result of COVID the past 2 years.”

Shirton’s election platform will revolve around getting an indoor pool at the Dunnville arena, something he calls “long overdue.”

Bernie Corbett — Ward 6 Councillor

Corbett, who will not seek re-election next term, said that the recent extension of residential boundaries in Dunnville and the conversion of a portion of the land at the Frank Marshall Industrial Park to residential use will both drive growth in the community.

He listed the completion of the River Front Park and Farmers Market, a new Connecting Link section on Broad Street, and major work done on Moote Road and the Oswego bridge among his highlights from 2021.

Corbett said that the $12 million approved in principle for the Dunnville housing project is just one such project being considered which “will eventually provide more housing opportunities.” 

As for 2022 challenges, he lists the ongoing struggle to get more police officers patrolling the county, addressing increasing insurance premiums caused by “fires, flooding, and tornado damage,” and balancing the 1% rate increase that will be added to the County’s budget should the affordable housing project go through: “Every effort will be made to keep our taxes at a reasonable rate.”

Nominations for the 2022 municipal election will open in May, with votes being cast in October and the new Council convening for their first meeting on November 15.