Mayor reflects on 2008
Posted By Karen Best / The Chronicle
Mayor Marie Trainer switches directions turning back to the past after just recently peering at the future through Haldimand County’s 10-year capital spending plan. When she thinks about 2008, she sees challenges and some successes and hopes to see more in the new year.
Challenges and hope are central themes in Dunnville’s and Cayuga’s pursuit for new arenas. Together this adds up to huge dollars, says Trainer. "Of course we can’t build unless we get provincial and federal grants and it would have to be one at a time," she points out.
In preparation for a spring report with arena recommendations, finance staff are analyzing options including borrowing money. With taxpayers already shouldering the $22 million Grandview Lodge debt, further loan payments lead to a hike in property tax bills.
"It’s going to be a challenge," says Trainer. "I know they are needed. With the (building) evaluations, it’s looking like Cayuga is most in need and then Dunnville."
Over the past year, the local economy was on the radar. To foster its health, council approved creation of an economic and tourism division to focus on business, tourist trade and agricultural development.
Along with the agricultural advisory committee, these are positive initiatives to support existing businesses, points out Trainer.
With updated processes, the planning department is ready to roll out the red carpet to developers and to assist them with matters under municipal control. The county faces its own challenges with not near enough money to do what council wants, Trainer says.
This is a huge area with lots of roads and a small population to draw taxes from, she notes. More property tax revenue might be created by investors who have expressed interest in opening new businesses and some owners are expanding their enterprises such as Haldimand Motors in Cayuga.
Bruce Power’s proposed nuclear power plant could be the project packing the biggest economic wallop for Haldimand County. Two million dollars a year will be paid in property taxes. After the plant opens, $180 million is expected to be injected in the local economy according to a consultant’s report.While Trainer recognizes the significant potential of the plant, she has reserved her judgment on the project until she reads environment assessment studies and reviews answers to questions posed by residents. In the end, if the plant is a go, she wants all safety precautions in place in a way that make people comfortable. At open houses hosted by Bruce Power, many people asked about radiation, spent fuel rods and potential for disaster.
At the same time, a lot of people are very positive about job opportunities, she adds. Businesses grow other businesses, she says of certain spin offs of the plant. Before the reactors will be activated, a natural gas fired power plant will be operating on Nanticoke farmland. An environment assessment on the Competitive Power Ventures project has been completed and construction may begin in 2011.
"We’ve been saying we want to be the energy hub and I think it’s shaping up with gas, wind, coal and biomass," says Trainer.
In the current economy, some existing county businesses are okay but others continue to be impacted by native issues, says Trainers. Some closed their doors and others laid off employees. Fewer shoppers are coming to the county including natives, she points out. Some people are afraid to come to Haldimand County for fear that is the day the roads will be blocked, says Trainer. "I get that and from people who should know better," she adds of the stigma.
At the same time, word is getting out to many others that it is okay to come to Caledonia, Trainer reports. Taking a country wide view, she says Canada’s banks are in good shape and believes the three big car makers should build gas-efficient vehicles people can afford.
With the sale of cigarettes on First Nations reserves, Canada has lost $500 million in taxes in a year. The economy and all taxpayers have to make up for that and yet development is stopped and workers lose jobs, notes Trainer. "It’s quite a vicious circle for us," she adds.
In a December interview with The Chronicle, Trainer weaves in many references of Six Nations. For her, it is a relief that no one has been shot or killed over the Caledonia situation. For well over a year, she worried that tragedy would strike when debris was tossed from a bridge over the Highway 6 bypass. From April 20, 2006 to this day, total policing is not provided on Sixth Line, which is on the southern border of the former Douglas Creek Estates subdivision, she points out. On Feb. 28, 2006, about 10 people from Six Nations moved on to the site claiming it had never been sold or surrendered. In April 2006, Ontario Provincial Police entered the property, made several arrests and backed out when hundreds of people from Six Nations arrived. That the day OPP promised to stay off 6th Line. While OPP do respond on the road now, a lot of county residents are too nervous to call police, says Trainer.
Six Nations police decide who investigates crime and are still in charge of the road, she adds. Meanwhile, property owners near DCE are angry and frustrated about the same old mess on DCE and the looming threat of a hydro tower on wheels just off the edge of Argyle Street South, says the mayor. The tower has been used in at least three barricades over the past three years.
On Dec. 2, Trainer and Coun. Craig Grice and chief administrative officer Don Boyle met with Ontario aboriginal affairs minister Brad DuGuid. Human impacts and the county’s $56 million recovery plan was discussed. The mayor reports that the minister was willing to work with his federal counterparts to see an emergency fund set up to help people when man made emergencies damage property values. While she liked DuGuid, she can’t help but be skeptical about receiving an update in the new year. It’s just one more meeting and nothing will happen, she says.
In Haldimand County, some people, including Trainer, often mention development and Six Nations in the same breath. She points out that land set aside for housing projects are already within urban boundaries in Caledonia, Hagersville and Cayuga. "These are logical expansions and it would be good to see them go forward," she adds. On Dec. 18, some Six Nations men stopped a Hagersville townhouse development. Such action impacts the ability of people to pay provincial and federal taxes which are used to settle claims, she points out. Trainer reports that Six Nations band chief Bill Montour sent developer John Voortman a letter acknowledging the possibility of a land claim. The band chief also made it clear that his council did not sanction occupation of the site, states the mayor.
Meanwhile there’s no news about the county’s official plan adopted by council in June 2006. Trainer says the county is waiting for comments from the Mississaugas of the New Credit band council. The official plan is a policy document that directs development and land use in a municipality. "It’s very frustrating that a First Nation is allowed to more or less close down anything we try to do," says Trainer."We are following provincial and federal laws and are careful to do things properly and we’re still being stopped and that is not fair."
Even so, Haldimand County officials have extended their hands and their ideas to local First Nations. More than a year after council established its First Nations relationship committee, members initiated the first meeting between them and Montour. The agenda included discussions about water and sewer issues, says the mayor. Politicians from both communities met three more times this year. Trainer notes that Montour was unaware of the big water pipe project proposed in Nanticoke and a new water treatment plant with the capacity to provide water to Six Nations and to communities further up river.
The chief indicated he wants to work on with the county on this and other issues of mutual interest, she adds. When leaders from both communities make joint presentations to the provincial and federal government, there will be a greater chance of success, believes Trainer.
Overall, she is pleased with the newly formed relationship. The chief and the mayor agree they were not part of the 1784 Haldimand Proclamation. It granted six miles on both sides of the Grand River to replace Six Nations territory lost due to their allegiance with the British in the American Revolution. "It’s not for me to solve (land claims) and it’s good we realize that," she adds.
Meanwhile Trainer stands firm in her belief that negotiations on land claims and rights of Six Nations must resume. "We’re not going to get anywhere by not talking. I hope that both sides will be more realistic," she states. Trainer hopes the provincial and federal government will make a New Year’s resolution to help Haldimand County with its $56 million recovery plan revealed early this year.
One of the plan items was an $11 million Hagersville sewage plant upgrade. Both the provincial and federal government are taking a serious look at grant applications filed by the municipality, says Trainer. "I get the impression they are going to do something for us," she adds. Even though she is optimistic, Trainer is also disappointed with a year of waiting. "We thought with our special circumstances we would have got more attention sooner but it seems to be a long drawn out process," she says.
Meetings and reports aside, it is the people who make Haldimand County a wonderful place, says Trainer. Many employees working at Grandview Lodge have spent decades on the job and are providing continuity in caring service to residents, she notes. This is one of the best long term care facilities in all of Ontario, she boasts. After a recent review of lodge operations, an evaluator was amazed with how the home was run and with the high level of involvement of the public and volunteers, reports the mayor.
After 15 months on the job, county chief administrative officer Don Boyle has affected a change in attitude across the whole county, says the mayor. Staff morale greatly improved after employees learned about each other’s jobs and were recognized for their on-job achievements.
"There is a lot of positive vibes and I see that everywhere," says Trainer. Council members are more amicable and are working more diligently for the good of the county, she adds.
For a year, highly trained Haldimand County firefighters and paramedics have worked for the same boss, emergency services manager and fire chief Rob Grimwood. Trainer says the amalgamation of the two responding services is a resounding success. A long time supporter of defibrillator purchases, she is thrilled that units are installed in all county public buildings where employees are trained to use them.
Upon hearing that firefighters prepared their automatic external defibrillator to shock Caleb Verlint, she says saving one life is worth the money and training on this equipment. Now recovered, the five year old was revived by two men who performed CPR after a Dec. 10 vehicle accident.
Trainer’s outlook on 2009 is optimistic. She hopes to see grant money for the Hagersville sewage plant upgrade and to see relationships continue to grow with Six Nations and the Mississaugas of the New Credit. Turning the calendar page also means more Bruce Power public meetings and more information for residents, she adds. With economic and social improvements coming in 2009, next year will be a good one for Haldimand County residents, sums up Trainer.Article ID# 1372328 http://www.dunnvillechronicle.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1372328
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Mayor reflects on 2008