Acknowledging the past with an eye on future with Mayor Mayhew

·4 min read

Heritage Trail signs and historical murals that went up in 2021 are also telling of the future as long as Alan Mayhew is mayor for Southwest Middlesex, and he does plan to run for one more term.

“Though we are an amalgamated municipality, I would like to leave the place names of our regions. I don’t ever want to lose the name of Melbourne, Middlemiss, Wardsville, Appin, Pratt Siding, Glencoe,” said Mayhew.

“I want to leave those place names there and with some identity.”

After a term dominated by historical emergencies like the pandemic and major flooding, for which the mayor thanked work crews and staff for keeping people safe and rebuilding after roads were washed away this past fall, he hopes to continue seeing Southwest grow in a safe way.

“And safe has many connotations, it’s not just crime” explained Mayhew.

“Safety transcends into the drinking water, the road network, the waste management, the sanitary sewer, the storm water management.”

With infrastructure like the Tri-County Drinking Water System operating at less than half of capacity having plenty of room to grow, Southwest Middlesex is working on its community plan this year to expand smaller areas while acknowledging Glencoe’s role as the commercial hub.

The growth will help bring in tax revenue, but also brings a higher cost of services.

“The inflationary aspect of running a municipality is a killer,” said Mayhew.

Nowhere is that more obvious in the exploding cost of planned arena work in Glencoe. Even with curling rink work pulled from the project, the estimated cost jumped in two years from $2.7 million to $4.4 million. The provincial and federal grant application was resubmitted with the removal of the curling rink work.

“Do we maintain our level of service, or do we reduce our level of service? That’s a question that all council have to ask themselves in inflationary times. A higher level of service is proportional with higher level of taxation,” said Mayhew.

“And that’s why development is so important; it gives us tax stability to increase our assessment. For every new house we get in our municipality, there’s another approximately $2,800-$3,000 worth of taxation that we glean from it.”

He added growth is also key to having students in schools, parishioners in churches, and clientele for businesses.

And while Mayhew wants to see growth in each community, just what kind of growth can be contentious. Recent multi-family housing in the form of duplexes were challenged by neighbourhood residents in Glencoe.

“Not every decision of council is politically popular. Sometimes as a mayor and as a councillor, you have to make decisions that sometimes you have members of the public not in agreement of. But for the benefit of the municipality and for the benefit of future ratepayers in our region, we have to make some tough decisions that sometimes are unpopular,” said Mayhew, adding housing is not one size fits all.

“We have to have housing that is geared to many income levels, not just a select few. We know the ramifications of the old adage ‘not in my backyard.’ Sometimes we have to look beyond those. We are respective of people’s opinions, and very often compromise is made,” said Mayhew.

The mayor added that as long as the communities of Southwest Middlesex were agriculturally-based, they would keep their small town feeling.

Along with inflation, life during the pandemic also made the digital divide much more obvious. Mayhew said the challenge of relying on technology and the internet was hardest for rural areas and those like more senior residents who were not used to needing it.

The mayor sent a long set of accomplishments from the past year to highlight. An incomplete list includes administering 800 drains, a storm water master plan for Wardsville, reviewing the expensive work of remediating the two landfills, the new daycare in Glencoe, and the $1.4-million replacement of the Glencoe Main Street water line.

How all this is view historically is to be determined, but the mayor did express his gratitude to residents showing patience with the unprecedented growth, challenges and states of emergency.

Chris Gareau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Middlesex Banner

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