Bond leaves Charlton-Dack with many improvements

CHARLTON-DACK - Merrill Bond is ending 12 years with the Municipality of Charlton and Dack, eight of which were served as reeve.

He clearly stated in an interview that he did not want to step down, but did so because of health issues.

He is hopeful his health will improve enough that if an opening does occur on council in the future, he may be able to apply as a candidate to fill the seat.

In a telephone interview, Bond said when he first came on as a councillor 12 years ago, the municipality had serious financial issues.

Shortly after that, Dan Thibeault was hired as the municipal chief administrative officer.

Bond is pleased with the progress that has been made at the municipality since Thibeault came on staff. He also commended deputy clerk-treasurer Gisele Belanger for her contributions.

Through Bond's time on council, work has been taking place on improving the municipality's financial picture, roads, and water treatment plant, among other projects.

Bond also saw improved water service and fire protection brought to the municipality's subdivisions of Bradley and Clarksville. A study has also been completed to add fire protection in Charlton and government funding for that project is being pursued, he commented.

The Bradley and Clarksville water improvements were the result of a five-year effort to enter an agreement with Englehart, resulting in Englehart water being flowed to the nearby subdivisions.

From his early years on council, Bond could envision the potential benefits of shared services with neighbouring municipalities, and that has now been accomplished with the neighbouring municipality of Chamberlain Township. "I mentioned it to Dan and he said he thought it was feasible and away he went and he came up with an agreement and it's been working very well."

Bond also introduced the concept of a municipal survey in which ratepayers are asked to rate services in the municipality. The resulting guideline has benefited the municipality, he said.

Bond, with the assistance of Thibeault and Belanger, sat down together to discuss notice that the province would require municipal council candidates to obtain 25 endorsing signatures each. "We decided that wasn't right in the North," said Bond. He went to Toronto and personally addressed provincial representatives to explain why that would be difficult for small northern municipalities. He was successful in getting the requirement removed for municipalities with less than 4,000 electors.

There have been challenges along the way for the municipality, which Bond and his staff and council have had to face. They include the collapse of the roof of the community rink, caused by a heavy snowfall, and the sale of the fairground, carried out without the knowledge of the municipality.

After a few difficult years, a new outdoor winter rink and summer ball court have now been completed.

Charlton is situated at one end of Long Lake and the community's shoreline is becoming increasingly developed with the enjoyment of the lake in mind.

Through the past 12 years, Bond has served on a number of boards and committees. He has sat on all committees of the Timiskaming Health Unit over an eight-year period, and he has been chair of the Central Temiskaming policing committee for nine years. He has sat as a municipal representative to the library, as well as represented the municipality for planning, fire services, economic development and on the Temiskaming Municipal Association.

The municipality has become a centre for Canada Day celebrations, attracting people from surrounding municipalities for a major fireworks display. The event has been growing to include vendors and games.

"I always felt you have to consider the whole of the district of Temiskaming," he said. "We are part of a bigger picture and you have to be involved if you want to be part of the district."

He anticipates that an upper tier government will eventually be coming to Temiskaming. "It's the coming thing, whether people like or they don't. I just feel that if we don't, we're going to lose our identity up here. That's the way it's going to have to be to survive."

He said he has enjoyed looking after his community, and attributed the success to his team of staff and council members.

Darlene Wroe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker