WINCHESTER – In the aftermath of the first-ever public meeting held by Pamalat in the village, the reaction was split evenly down the middle.
Many of those in attendance Thurs., July 5 have been frustrated for years and live in close proximity to the plant, and it was unlikely that a single meeting would suffice to placate their concerns.
Others, both those who are lifelong residents and those that are newer to the area, saw the meeting as well organized and thoughtful.
Marnie Fossitt, a Gladstone Street resident, was most disappointed that the truck traffic issue wasn’t taken more seriously.
“I felt that particularly the safety issue about our street, maybe it was a question for the municipality, but if they can’t get that road built then I feel they have to re-route it or do something else when it is a dead end street. It is a very big concern for me. I do have some hope that the odour and that will dissipate,” she said.
Fossitt hopes the issue will be addressed by those seeking office during the municipal election.
“I wish that they would take that on as a real issue on their campaigns as they continue on and look for votes. It’s very important. I don’t want to see somebody die. There was a fire up that street a few years ago and if it had been the way it is now, who knows? Fifteen minutes could make the difference between a home burning down or not,” she said.
Nick Thurler, who owns and operates a dairy farm and dairy transport business under the Thurler Farms Inc. banner near South Mountain and is also a board member of the Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO), has a unique insight into the situation.
“I thought the meeting went very well. I think Parmalat did a good job talking to the people. It was well overdue,” he said.
Thurler agreed the Parmalat truck entrance needs to be moved to alleviate the problems on Gladstone Street sooner than later.
“It needs to go that way. There’s too much traffic there. That road was never meant for a truck route and they know that. They’ve talked to us about that before,” he said.
Asked whether she thought any of the changes would be implemented, Fossitt wasn’t optimistic.
“In all honesty as much as I want to have a lot of faith, I don’t have a lot of faith. It’s like that Dr. Phil quote, ‘the best indication of future behaviour is past behaviour.’ I don’t have a lot of hope but I want to have hope,” she said.
Thurler was confident the changes proposed would be implemented as soon as possible.
“They’re committed for the long run and I think they’re very sincere. Like they said, they’ve got a budget. When they need something they’ve got to go to France to put the project together and show what they need. Sometimes it gets accepted and sometimes not. But right now, I believe it will get done,” he said.
Fossitt also echoed the opinion of several people at the meeting feeling that there was also an opportunity missed.
“I think one thing we were really remiss in doing was to ask for a follow up meeting and have a date. I think that is something we should have done and that was a mistake because that would have held them more accountable,” she said.
A poll question posted on the Winchester Press Facebook page asked, “Did Parmalat’s town hall meeting address your concerns?” The response was slightly in favour of the “no” side, but reaction was mixed.
“I’m curious to know what the council members reaction is and I’m wondering what responses if any that they might have had and what if any plan they have to aid the good taxpayers of this town? I suspect they want nothing to do with it and that’s why this situation has allowed to develop to the point that it has,” wrote Greg McIntosh.
Susan Jones Maheux had a different view.
“I was impressed. Parmalat made a good effort to explain their situation and what they are planning to do to fix some problems. A few people went up to the mic and asked questions. It was good to hear. Hopefully these issues can be resolved sooner, rather than later,” she wrote.
Terry MacLellan wrote “I hope every one holds Parmalat accountable for what they plan to do and make sure they follow through. This has gone on far too long and those fumes are toxic.”
Sue Clavet also wasn’t satisfied with the answers provided regarding the truck traffic.
“I was quite disappointed that they didn’t seem to take the issues with the truck traffic seriously. This is a huge safety issue. With 100 trucks going in and out, that’s 200 trips a day on this little dead end street. These are big transport trucks that don’t have the clearance to make these turns, they drive up [on] sidewalks, hit hydro poles, the barriers into Parmalat, they drive on the opposite side of the roads to make the corners. The local traffic have to always get out of their way. I’ve been in a car with someone making a turn onto Gladstone Street and coming face to face with one of these trucks, we had to drive up on the sidewalk to get out of his way even though he was in our lane,” wrote Clavet.
With the meeting now in the books, many people have taken a wait-and-see approach. However, the longer the issues persist, the more questions will arise. Should this meeting be the only one Parmalat chooses to hold, the residents of Winchester are prepared to cause a stink of their own.