WINCHESTER – A pair of acclamations for this fall’s municipal election in North Dundas means the focus for voters will be on who fills the three councillor positions around the council table. Current Mayor Tony Fraser was unopposed in his nomination for a second term. Councillor Theresa Bergeron sought the deputy mayor’s nomination and was also unopposed.
The retirement of current deputy mayor Allan Armstrong and councillor John Thompson mean there will be at least two new faces at council after the October 24 election.
The Leader contacted all six councillor candidates in North Dundas to discuss who they are, why they are running, and what issues they think are important in the next four years.
Annable is a retired business owner from Winchester, and the only incumbent councillor seeking re-election to that same position. Over the past four years, Annable said he is proudest about the progress made on renewing roads, securing $3 million in funding for the new community park in Hallville, and for the addition of a new well to add to the water system in Winchester.
Looking ahead to the next four years, he said there is a challenge to add more water capacity to the municipal water system.
“We’re still going to have to search for water. The well we got tapped into now is only going to bring us up to where we should be,” Annable explained. Residential growth in the township has seen building permits increase 120 per cent in the past five years increasing the strain on the water system. Water tower repairs in Chesterville and Winchester, constructing another reservoir, adding a new lagoon for Winchester, and expanding the water line on Main Street in Winchester connecting to the new Wellings development are other needs just for the water systems in North Dundas.
“We’ve got a lot of big ticket items to get through in the next four years,” he said.
When asked why he should be re-elected, Annable said continuity.
“I will be the only one other than Tony [Fraser] who knows the back history of a lot of these things,” he explained. “I think that’s important to have some continuity and that’s why I decided to run again.”
Healey has lived in North Dundas for seven years. He works for Bell Canada, and is a rental property owner as well. In his personal time, he is a volunteer firefighter in North Dundas and former president of the Nation Valley ATV club.
Among the issues Healey feels are important in this term of council is overall progress.
“It seems like North Dundas hasn’t adapted or changed like the communities around us,” he told The Leader. “We have a lack of water. We have a lack of economic development growth. We’re stagnant for lack of a better word.”
Housing is one issue he wants to tackle if elected – rental or low-income.
“Rental housing is at a stand still in North Dundas,” Healey explained. “That’s why people in that 20-24 year old range are moving to Ottawa. It’s killing our future [in North Dundas] because people moving to Ottawa aren’t going to move back here.”
Housing ties into a larger economic development issue, that also includes addressing the water issues in the community.
“It’s all about growth. We have to provide water, and housing, and jobs, because that’s what makes a community.”
Healey said that his background in small business, communications, and on the fire service are all assets he would bring to the council table if elected.
One additional challenge he said for council in the next four years is dealing with changes to the certification process for volunteer firefighters, and the cost of those changes to residents.
“Our numbers are already suffering, and now the province is saying we need 200 more hours of training,” said Healey. “Now the cost of that to the township is going to be $2-5,000.”
Retired for seven years from the Canadian military and currently a civil servant in the Federal government, Lennox was inspired to run for council after a recent trip to Eastern Canada.
“Every small community, no matter the size, has their own community centre with an indoor pool and other facilities, and it’s not about keeping up with the Jones’,” he said highlighting the need to move a community forward.
Lennox told The Leader that there needs to be change in North Dundas at the council table.
“There seems to be a lot of repeat of early-2000 issues – very reactive,” he said. “[Council] obviously need fresh faces, fresh ideas, fresh spirits to come on board to kind of revitalize and push us forward.”
Among the issues he identified in North Dundas are the water system issues, and the need to plan long term.
“We have to look at what other municipalities have done and see what we can do,” he said.
Lennox said he is not running for office for the paycheque and will instead take only $1 per year as his salary. The remaining council pay will go into a fund to help support small businesses in North Dundas by covering permit fees on a first come-first served basis.
“Where businesses, if they want a permit for a sidewalk sale or to get some visual improvements for their business signs, they can come and apply for this grant out of this salary,” he explained.
If elected, Lennox said he wants to represent the residents and will bring their issues to council, even if he doesn’t agree with them.
“It’s my responsibility to bring it forward as former miltary I believe in service before self,” he said. “I accept the greater good, the strength of the community outweighs the need of the few.”
He said that compromise and effectively collaboration are tools he brings to the council table.
“I’m one of these people who will go to council meetings, even before I was working as a reporter,” Morley said.
She is a writer, teacher, and a former journalist with the North Dundas Times.
“North Dundas is growing at an unprecedented rate,” she said. “We had a 20 year plan for the township and we exceeded it in a couple years over the pandemic. We have a unique opportunity to decide what kind of community we live in.”
Morley explained that despite amalgamation being over 20 years ago, North Dundas has many communities that should be supported, “it can’t just be amalgamated away.”
Communication between council and residents is an issue Morley identified as something that needs to be addressed.
“We ran out of water and sewer units at the end of 2021. Council hasn’t been sitting on their butts, they have been working on things, but no one in the community knows what they have been doing,” she said. “If I was living in Winchester or Chesterville and turned on my tap and the water was brown, I’d be stomping my feet saying ‘hello, what are you guys doing about our water?’”
She also criticized the number of in-camera sessions held by the current North Dundas council.
Addressing affordable housing and food security are top issues for Morley.
“There is a significant amount of people in North Dundas who are precariously housed,” she said. “You talk to a lot of people and they say ‘oh well we don’t have a homelessness issue’ because they don’t see panhandlers.”
She added that dealing with food security goes hand-in-hand with housing issues and that she wants to promote more small-scale agriculture and small business.
If elected, Morley would like to expand the number of council committees to draw in resident expert talent.
“We have experts in agriculture, business, education, and planning. Just by virtue of what they do in their lives there is a huge capacity for volunteering,” she explained. “There are some very active committees in other municipalities nearby. We need that.”
For 10 years, Matthew Uhrig was editor of the Winchester Press and reported on North Dundas council. Now two-plus years removed from that role, he decided it was time to run for a seat on the other side of the table.
For Uhrig, his family and the community are his core reasons for seeking office this year.
“This is the community I live in. This is where we’re going to continue to live. This is where my kids are going to grow up. This is where they are going to seek or not seek opportunities and I’d like there to be opportunities for them,” he said. “I don’t want to see a continued dwindling of chances for them because the job market has tightened or the business community has shrunk.”
Uhrig told The Leader that his perspective as a 36-year old father of two young children is different than that of those on council now, and is a benefit for the next council if elected.
“Lots of young families are moving to North Dundas,” he said. “They’re asking ‘what is there for us here?’ – That is a good question, what is there here?”
Dealing with municipal infrastructure is the biggest challenge he sees for the next four year council term.
“We have an insufficient source of drinking water for our two serviced villages. Right now development is at stand still. There isn’t room on the municipal system. That’s not an easy fix.”
He said it is going to take significant spending to find a long term solution to the water issue, and to the township’s landfill issue that has been over-capacity since 2014.
Dealing with economic development to attract new businesses and support existing businesses in the township is another area Uhrig says is a priority, as is examining if the current recreation department offers value for money.
“I am running because I see merit in all North Dundas, not just its individual villages but a mandate for the entirity of North Dundas,” he said. “I want to bring what I can and what I know to the council table. I want to be a voice there, a new voice and a new vision. It is a time of transition and will continue to be one.”
The Leader contacted candidate Stefan Kohut for an interview – no response was given by publication deadline. Voters in North Dundas will go to the polls October 24.
Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Morrisburg Leader