Kalynn Sawyer Helmer
WINCHESTER – Township of North Dundas Mayor Eric Duncan sat down with The Record to take a look at 2017 and the year ahead.
“This year flew by, it was just a very quick period but was very productive. I think one of the reasons is because we had a lot on the go. I think if we look at capital projects and different activities, like Meet Me on Main Street and Canada 150 activities, there was a lot going on that made the year go by quite quickly but on a whole, I couldn’t be happier with how things are going and the direction that things are going in,” said Duncan.
A few positives on the building and infrastructure side of things are the many building modernizations of local businesses and community areas and some much needed roadwork. “We had a busy year in terms of getting county road work done and fixing up different buildings. It has been important to put some money into our buildings and our arenas and the modernization of those. Not just in 2017 but in recent years. I think of Chesterville as an example. The arena there is a perfect example of a beautiful before and after with a significant amount of money we put into [the arena] to modernize and update it. We are very proud of that. We have some more work we are going to be doing in 2018 in the arena as well, in terms of some new doors and redoing the lobby and that type of thing so we are quite excited about that,” he explained.
Duncan also looked to the work on Chesterville’s roads as a continued positive for the county. “In recent years we’ve put a lot of work in to pave all the main streets in Chesterville except for one, Queen St. We’ve done Main St., County Rd. 7 through Chesterville has been repaved, we did South St. at the township level but we have been doing work this past year on all the engineering to totally redo Queen St. It’s about a $1.6-million project and in 2018 we are looking forward to doing that. That is going to be a total rehabilitation of that road from County Rd. 43 right to MacEwan’s gas bar in the downtown of Chesterville. That includes a repaving, redoing all the curbing, all the stormwater and the sidewalks will all be brand new, so I think that will be a nice before and after for Chesterville,” he said.
On the population front, the census was released this year and Duncan said North Dundas shows a lot of positives. He explained the county is seeing modest growth which is very good considering the many rural municipalities that saw declines on the census. One of the factors keeping North Dundas in the ring is the many new businesses that opened in 2017. “At one point we opened seven new businesses in seven weeks in the fall. We were ribbon cutting every week for a while which was great. The Chamber of Commerce and the business community are working well together, better than I’ve ever seen them work, which is great and makes it enjoyable to do the job whenever you have such positive energy and people working together,” he said.
The community has had a great year and Duncan was very pleased with the two main Canada 150 projects. The first being the one-time $25,000 beautification fund that matched funds for village and hamlet aesthetic upgrades. “We were very happy and impressed with Chesterville in particularly on that beautification front. The Rotary Club and Lions Club, they partnered with us, we provided the matching funds and they added some further decorations [around the village] so special kudos to those two service clubs, they did a great job and made the village look beautiful so we are very happy with that,” said Duncan.
The second Canada 150 project was more successful than anyone could have imagined. Meet Me on Main Street started as a one-year special event, but with such a huge response from the community Duncan said plans are already in the works for 2018. “The response from the public with attendance and people coming from out of the area and locals attending was really positive. We did around $25,000 to $30,000 in revenue for the local food businesses which was huge,” exclaimed Duncan.
On County Council, Duncan said he was proud of the many projects coming down the pipes from economic development. These projects will work on job creation and tourism. One in particular is a regional Community Improvement Plan coming in 2018. The plan will focus on agribusinesses, tourism and other economically beneficial expansions, especially hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts. Businesses are expected to see the applications become available mid-2018.
The regional CIP along with two major roadwork projects, Chesterville Queen St. and Winchester Main St. west, are Duncan’s main objective before leaving office. He will transition out of office in 2018 and said he hopes to leave his successor a good starting platform with projects to build on. “I don’t know what I’m doing next which is a big part of the excitement but I am taking a break from elected politics for a while. I’ve been lucky that my experiences have opened up some other doors, I haven’t looked through those other doors yet but we will see what happens and go from there. There’s a lot of things I will miss about [being mayor]. The people I get to work with and the files that I get to work on, but I’ve always said that people shouldn’t be in one job forever. I’m stepping away at a time when people are asking me why I’m stepping away as opposed to why am I running again. It’s a change for sure but something that I want to do and need to do for myself so we will see what the future holds,” concluded Duncan.