By Chris Pickup

After a back-patting opening session from Haldimand mayor Ken Hewitt and staff, several issues were brought up by residents at last night’s community meeting in Cayuga. 

CANNABIS STORES

One of the most divisive was whether to opt in or out of cannabis retail stores. The county is leaning towards opting in although the final decision will not be made until Monday.

“I beg of you to consider the social impact on our community,” said one attendee, in asking for opt out. “Take a stand for the community… take the high road.” Those who wanted cannabis could go to Hamilton, he added. 

Others agreed. One man with teen children noted “If it’s legal, how can we convince them it’s bad for them?”

Councillor Tony Dalimonte indicated it would be a lot worse if addicts  couldn’t get local access to the legal product and went on the streets to unknowingly be given fentanyl-laced product with the very real potential to kill them.

Someone said while sales were restricted, older kids could buy for younger ones. However, it was pointed out that sort of thing is already happening around school zones and wherever youth congregates. 

It was alleged privately owned stores gave owners the incentive to make  money, but Hewitt noted the stores are required to follow tight AGCO rules.

A businessman noted “Employees could smoke pot at night and might have it in their system the next morning.” One comment to that from another attendee was that the entire trucking industry is in crisis. They can’t get drivers because drug tests are needed for insurance. It’s a high economic cost.

There’s still time for people to have their five- minute say in a public session at Monday’s council meeting.

GRAVEL ROADS

One couple questioned why a road (King George St in Cayuga) on the gravel road conversion list had been jumped ahead of their road, even though it had been behind them on the list.

Hewitt’s answer? “If you purchase a property on a stone road, don’t come back seven years later and ask why the road’s not paved.”

After a polite explanation they had lived on the road for considerably longer than seven years and had been waiting patiently for their turn, they reiterated their question, noting there was only one house on King George.

CAO Don Boyle said King George was paved as part of the Cayuga trail, which elicited another question from someone else as to whether it had been included in the trail budget and for how much. No answer was forthcoming.

DOWNTOWN ‘IMPROVEMENTS’

A resident observed the new sidewalk in Jarvis looked as though it had been constructed by “a pair of drunk monkeys”.  This was a disappointing end result for Jarvis, he said, and similarly in Hagersville and Cayuga, where the county had spent a lot of money all at once. 

TOURISM AND PARKS

A resident said she saw a real opportunity on Cayuga’s waterfront and Village Green. She wanted to see better parking and improved boat ramps to draw people in, and festivals on the Village Green. 

Councillor John Metcalfe agreed, and named several restaurants and stores in the downtown that could benefit from tourists.

Clayt Spears wanted to ensure the Lions Parkette at the corner of Hwy 3 and Cayuga Street would be protected next to the new library. The parkette, with a Lions arch and wrought iron benches was initially installed in honour of Cayuga Lions Club when it disbanded some years ago.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

There’s a real shortage of affordable housing in Haldimand, which more than one resident would like to see the county do something about.

Hewitt said the county as a whole needs to define “what they want us to be as local government”. If people want to add subsidized housing, the money has to come from somewhere, he said. 

“It’s a balancing act – one we’re going to be talking about,” he added. It’s a question of whether the county makes providing subsidized housing a priority, or whether it’s supporting partnerships, as they have done in  Dunnville.

Dan Boyle said they would be consulting with the Haldimand-Norfolk Housing Authority, which oversees subsidized housing in the two counties,  to see what they can do.

CROSSWALKS AND TRAFFIC CONTROL, TRANSIT

These two topics raised at this meeting were discussed at Tuesday’s council in committee and will be addressed along with concerns raised in separate stories.