Deputy Mayor Michael Cameron would like to see Merrickville-Wolford council take a more active role in shaping the future of the municipality. In an interview with the North Grenville Times last week, the Deputy Mayor expressed concern about the significant infrastructure needs of the municipality, including the upgrading of roads and the expansion of the wastewater treatment facility that will be needed as the urban area continues to grow.
“Those are not small dollars in order to keep the interest and the building going on to move towards more financial stability for the municipality,” he said.
Population growth is something that the Deputy Mayor believes is crucial for the municipality to remain financially viable. However, he says council needs to come up with a vision to direct that population growth in a way that benefits the municipality. This means not just investing in Merrickville developments, but also in the Wolford area, which be believes has been neglected for a long time.
“You go back and take a look at what’s transpired over the last 22 years of amalgamation. Eastons Corners has lost a gas station, a couple of stores, and, just recently, we lost the school,” he said. “To me, that translates into lack of interest from the municipality investing in these hamlets in order to grow them.”
Deputy Mayor Cameron has long been an advocate for upgrading and maintaining roads, especially in the rural area, as an economic driver for the municipality. “I just think it’s the most sensible investment that we can make. It creates an interest out there in the business world if a municipality is investing in itself.”
In order to look after the municipality’s infrastructure needs, he believes that the municipality needs to be more active applying for grants that might be available from the provincial and federal government. He was disappointed when he was told that staff take care of looking for and applying for grants, and that a list could not be provided to council for consideration. “In order to chart the future and the direction of the municipality, it needs to be a consideration of council, and staff cannot move forward on any of that unless it has directive from council.”
Deputy Mayor Cameron believes there has been a lack of direction and vision for the municipality for decades. He says that, throughout his many terms as Mayor, Doug Struthers has had ample opportunity to direct conversations around the council table to create that strategic direction and vision for Merrickville-Wolford. The Deputy Mayor’s concern is that, without that foresight and leadership, the municipality runs the risk of being amalgamated into one of the surrounding towns. He remembers what happened to places like Kanata, Barrhaven, and Stittsville, which used to be rural communities and were taken under the City of Ottawa’s umbrella. “If council doesn’t step forward and start to direct our future, this is going to happen to us,” he says. “It’s not a matter of if amalgamation is going to happen, It’s when amalgamation is going to happen. All the upper tiers of government eventually make financial decisions, and amalgamation is a quick fix for them.”
By sitting idle for 22 years, he is afraid that they have lost the opportunity to shape the future of Merrickville-Wolford. He would like to see council take the reins and develop available land into country estates and 10-acre hobby farms, to keep the municipality true to its roots. “We don’t need to be like everybody else. We need to be more unique, as we are now,” he says. “Keep that uniqueness, and keep that Merrickvile-Wolford heart within the municipality.”
Deputy Mayor Cameron encourages the residents of Merrickville-Wolford to get loud and make their wants and needs heard. “We, as a people in our municipality, need to become more vocal,” he says. “We need to start standing up and telling council, telling the mayor, what direction they want the municipality to go.”
Council was elected to be the voice of the people, and Mike Cameron believes that, in order to respect the needs and wants of their constituents, they need to have more discussion around the table about the future of the municipality. Right now, he sees council acting reactively, rather than proactively, which he says is no way to set a course for the municipality and protect the taxpayers.
“It’s an absolute must that council starts to take a more stern hold of the reins in directing the municipality and its direction. Otherwise, I’m feeling like the wheels are going to fall off and we’re going to be sitting here bewildered and wondering what happened to our municipality.”