A dog park, an argument, and speed photo radar

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May 9 Council meeting nothing short of dramatic

The regularly scheduled monthly meeting of North Dundas Council on May 9 was heavy on business, with an agenda package of over 300 pages. The meeting opened with a presentation from Debbie Ziegler and Annie Carrier-Gagnon, who pitched the benefits of having a dog park locally. The pair are among 10 committee members from a group called North Dundas Community Dog Park, which is pushing for a dog park to be built in Chesterville. 

While the proposal was being discussed, a member of the audience called out: “How much is it going to cost the taxpayers?” Mayor Tony Fraser responded swiftly and firmly, saying: “Excuse me, that’s the only time, and this is the last time. Any outbursts, and you will be asked to leave. We don’t support that. We do not support that at all. Those questions will be answered, but we do not accept barking from the audience, or people speaking out of turn, this is not that type of meeting. This is a regular meeting of Council, you are aware of that and if you do it one more time you will have to leave the building!” The Mayor then firmly asked the audience member twice “Understood?” which was answered with an acknowledgement. 

The discussion quickly got back on track, with members of Council expressing their support for the idea of a dog park. Councillor Gary Annable remarked: “Nobody loves a dog more than I do!” Mayor Fraser addressed the question about costs later in the meeting, stating that there would likely be a cost of about $35,000 to fence the property, with fundraising and donations possible. Once Township staff provide more detailed information to Council, a final decision will be made. If the project proceeds, it will likely move ahead “well into 2025”. 

Council moved quickly through routine business items related to planning matters and internal policies, and also had a discussion about potentially changing the way user fees work for the Township’s outdoor recreational spaces such as baseball diamonds and soccer fields. 

Later in the meeting, a resident – whom Mayor Fraser identified only as “Gary”, asked “can we speak about gravel roads?” The Mayor responded swiftly once again. “Everyone can sit and stay for another 10 minutes and we can have a discussion after,” said Mayor Fraser. He continued to be firm with the resident, asking “Gary, do you ever stop to let someone finish a sentence?” When the answer came back as “no”, the Mayor replied: “No, well then there’s no sense in talking to you.” The Mayor and the gentleman named Gary exchanged heated words, with the Mayor insisting that the discussion would take place after the meeting. Gary – who was shouting – pointed out that multiple residents with concerns about roads showed up to speak about the issue, and so he questioned why as taxpayers they could not address their Council. Mayor Fraser stated once again that the conversation would take place after the meeting, to which Gary replied “you won’t”, and the Mayor got the final word in, calmly saying “I will”. 

Closer to the end of the meeting, there was another interruption, with Mayor Fraser repeating his firm stance, saying: “Gary can you just hold your tongue for about 2 more minutes, and we’ll be right there, okay? Just try it.”

Council spent a few minutes discussing Councillor John Lennox’s proposal from the previous meeting regarding Automated Speed Enforcement cameras. Councillor Lennox pointed out that the average speed on a particularly troublesome stretch of Main Street in Winchester is 72 km/h despite the 50 km/h zone. He strongly argued for a speed camera to be active during set hours when children are walking to school. “This is a community safety zone, kids are walking, if you speed, you’re getting a ticket,” he said. Counties Council is in charge of streets that double as county roads, including Main Street and St. Lawrence Street in Winchester, and the upper tier Council previously shied away from Automated Speed Enforcement. Local Council agreed to put the issue forward once again to Counties Council for reconsideration. 

When the meeting adjournment motion was introduced, the resident named Gary from earlier shouted “no!” The Mayor proceeded with reading the motion as Gary shouted things such as “you’re not going to let us be heard!” Council members unanimously voted to adjourn the meeting amidst the shouting. Councillor Lennox turned off the Mayor’s microphone, likely as a gesture of de-escalation as the Mayor and Gary continued to exchange words while other Council members packed their items. 

The meeting ended after about 2 hours 15 minutes, which included a brief closed session and a break. Generally speaking, only items on the agenda can be discussed in regular Council meetings. One of the residents who showed up to speak on May 9 – who wished to remain anonymous – confirmed in a phone conversation with the Times that the group did not attempt to have their concerns put on the agenda in advance of the meeting, and were instead hoping to be heard on record by virtue of showing up as a united group. The resident confirmed that a private discussion about roads issues did take place between the group and all five members of Council “after the cameras were turned off”. 

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