By Chris Pickup

This present council has been infuriating, demeaning, dismissive and at times downright rude to its constituents, but on occasion also the source of much unintended hilarity. 

And then there are the “noddy”s (with apologies to English children’s author Enid Blyton and her spring-necked toy character) on council who nod uncritically and repeat ad nauseam to the public, incorrect comments made by staff.

Let’s take a quick look back at some of the comments made over this past term.

“You could put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still just a pig. That building’s a pig.” Ken Hewitt on the subject of the present municipal building on the courthouse grounds.

“Development helps the community … aggregates in Hagersville are slowing growth.” – Hewitt re Gardens Communities housing development that was planned to breach Lafarge Quarry’s provincially mandated buffer zone. Growth of what? Jobs or unrestricted housing?

As you lose a part of your heritage you lose part of the fabric that helped  build the community that stands around it. Caledonia is losing the Old Mill now, I don’t know, next year, two years from now or maybe even twenty, I have no idea  … we’re gonna lose our historic bridge. So, it’s one more piece where we continue to lose our history and it’s disappointing from the standpoint that by bringing the Grand River, it’s an historic river, but it’s only an historic river in context to what goes along beside it, what goes over it, and what has gone on it.  But we constantly lose that historical piece so how long are you going to have an historic Grand River, because the water isn’t historic, it’s new water every single day.  So there’s my disappointment that we end up having to remove, we have to remove a designation that we will lose a very historic piece of Caledonia.”  – Craig Grice confusedly (maybe he had a liquid lunch?) crying crocodile tears at council over the demolition of Caledonia’s old mill while cheerfully voting to destroy the central fabric of Cayuga by gutting the historic courthouse grounds of its museum and log cabin, and selling the land to housing developers.

““How do you expect us to pay for the new Admin Building if we don’t sell this property?” Bernie Corbett referencing the sale of the courthouse grounds to developers.

“Are we spending like drunken sailors? I say no.” – Ken Hewitt, referencing constituents’ complaints of the cost of the $30 million new Cayuga Administration Building, and eliciting much mirth on the subject of drunken sailors.

“With respect to why, um, the selection of the Village Green, um, why we thought about that spot, and I admit that would have been a nice spot, um, why that was um, um, decided not to go there, um is that at the end of the day, um, after we built a 6000 square foot, ah, library, provided the necessary parking, um, one, there’d be very little, well basically there’d be very little, ah, green space left, um, and, ah, you know that people want to talk about, um, saving, ah, green space is, that’s basically what their decision was. I know I made that comment to people, um, individually, I made it around this Council table, ah, years ago, and that’s simply the reason why the Village Green was not selected as a spot.”  – Fred Morison’s recorded response to a direct question on why the new Cayuga  library was not built on the Village Green. And no, he doesn’t stutter. This is apparently his thought processes while frantically searching for a response he knows, and it was proved, is not valid.

“Wait until it’s finished and we’ll deal with any problems then.” – A desperate Bernie Corbett after receiving a deluge of complaints from residents about the new Dunnville waterfront park plans.

My question is, and it’s about the demolition cost and I know this isn’t maybe a practice, (but) is that building an opportunity that you can do a practice fire on? Seriously. Like, what better experience than to try that building.”Rob Shirton offering his opinion on a method of demolishing the pollution and toxin-riddled Cayuga Hotel right in the downtown business core on Hwy. 3. Really.

“We won’t cut down any trees” multiplied by about a dozen times on various occasions to the point of hysterical laughter by council onlookers.  – Fred Morison re destruction of courthouse grounds.

“We’ve got a project that is five years old, outstanding for five years, and we’ve never kept the costs up to date. I understand… it’s not staff’s fault that the prices are what the prices are. Where the problem is, is we’ve got to come up with a mechanism to update something better than waiting for five years for the prices to be outdated, because when it comes to council and we have to go to the public and say, listen, we’re going to need this much more money to complete a project it doesn’t look good for anybody, and in fact it’s probably not the best way to do it.” Leroy Bartlett on the surprise $1.2m extra budget cost of the new Cayuga library, even after the design was downsized.

I have consulted a lawyer and am not in conflict of interest. This bizarre special statement Fred Morison made in a council meeting, completely out of the blue and apropos of nothing, raised a ton of waving red flags just begging to be investigated. Perhaps this was the source of the allegations made in a complaint to the county’s Integrity commissioner which is still outstanding.

“Some people resist change. Sometimes we have to force things through to  make progress.” What’s ‘progress’ anyway? Apparently the 150-200 Cayuga residents who forced Fred Morison to hold a public meeting where they voiced their opposition to demolishing the Haldimand County Museum, and were totally ignored by council, are viewed by Hewitt as dinosauric old fogies.

“I am not pleased with the 75% increase. I am voting against this, sending a message.”  – Bernie Corbett regarding the increase in the costs of hazardous waste collection. Quite what that message was  Intended to convey was not clear unless he was recommending the county leave residents high and dry with their hazardous wastes since there was only one compliant bid and 95% of the overage was related to increased costs in labour, supply, and disposal and recycling

“Hagersville’s downtown core has just been upgraded, and the businesses and residents were badly inconvenienced during construction. The present display is looking a little tired, and Christmas lights are very expensive.” – Tony Dalimonte pressing his case for $50,000 funding from Hagersville CVF for new Christmas lights, despite the fact the county gives annual funding to community BIA’s to provide such things. The rest of the councillors gave him a rough ride but eventually voted for it

“What’s the cost to Haldimand council? It’s an exercise in futility. This is what it used to be like with the OMB. It’s the same kind of process. Someone can put up their 250 bucks and drag out a decision or go before the OMB and hold up all kinds of development on something with very little merit. There’s members of the public who think it’s prudent to spend taxpayers’ money on things frivolously, stupidly, idiotically for absolutely nothing. It’s frustrating, we work fairly hard, staff really hard, and we’re not spending taxpayers’ money without good solid thought. It drives me nuts.” Leroy Bartlett’s rant basically saying taxpayers have no right to question the ethics of individual councillors. This followed the county’s Integrity commissioner’s report, which after thorough investigation, found a recently filed complaint had no merit. Not addressed was the fact the complainant had had no access to the information used to exonerate the councillor in question.

IN THE COUNTY STAFF AND NODDY CATEGORY

“Market Square is unpatented land so the County doesn’t really own it.” – CAO Don Boyle, whose remark was uncritically repeated ad nauseam by various councillors until a frustrated resident got to work and found the patent in the county’s own files.

Another option would be for the developer of Beattie Estates to redesign the south end of the project to incorporate the entire arterial corridor… however that is viewed as the least desirous option ….  It would result in the loss of valuable development land within the urban boundary.– staff report on Beattie Estates ring road, arguing for expropriation of private property rather than putting the onus on Beattie developers.

“The Museum is landlocked.” Craig Manley in pushing the gutting of the Cayuga Courthouse grounds of the Haldimand museum and log cabin and sale to a developer, after the present administration building is demolished.  This brought enthusiastic nods around the council table. Manley was eventually forced to admit he “made an error”, but the untruth persists in parts of the community.

“That building goes!” – staffer Craig Manley hissed at Edinburgh Square Curator and head of the museum advisory committee Nancy McBride, with reference to the log cabin on the courthouse grounds. McBride and her advisory board had met with Fred Morison a few days earlier in a closed meeting. She was at council to support the new Cayuga museum/library, after which council promptly voted to give the museum more space. Perception anyone? Anyway, on her way back to her seat she muttered as a final aside that she really thought the log cabin should stay where it is, which prompted Manley to swing around in his seat in full view of council audience in apparent fury.

“The size of the museum in the design is the same size that the museum uses now as well as the genealogy centre.  Really what was removed was some open space, I mean sort of in the lobby where you could hold sort of a juried art display, that kind of thing.  And there was some other reduction in the programming room, that kind of thing.  But certainly the functionality of the library, the genealogy centre, and the museum remain exactly the same.  It’s more of the sort of the public and programming area that’s reduced.” – staffer Hugh Hanly, commenting on the Cayuga library/museum  design changes made to keep extra budget costs down to $1.2 m. Less is more you might say.

“A lot of things in the project were done on the fly. I think we’ve learned a lesson.” CAO Don Boyle commenting on why the Dunnville waterfront project had ballooned from an initial budget of just south of $1 million to just south of $2 million.

“Empire Homes is now the norm. One acre lots?  … that ship has sailed and long gone.” Staffer Mike Evers on housing density and provincial demands. We can only hope the new provincial government will loosen the rules up some.