North Dundas: Forward focused for township’s success
Eric Duncan kept his name off the ballot in 2018, but he didn’t get a free ride through the year as he and his council balanced support and fury with the municipality’s largest processor. New mayor Tony Fraser isn’t immune to the challenges of the past, but has fully focused on the future.
WINCHESTER – Tumultuous may be too strong a word for Eric Duncan’s liking, but it is one that expertly sums up his final year at the helm of the Township of North Dundas.
The 31-year-old was on the outside looking in for the first time in more than a decade, choosing an early retirement (more of an ellipsis than a period at the end of a sentence, however) from municipal politics over having his name on the ballot in the fall’s election.
Could he be back in the game some day? Some believe it to be assured, but only Duncan truly knows at this point.
Although, before the calendar days counted down to the end of his mayoral duties, there was one significant conflict that sprung up, proving the life of a municipal politician is never dull.
“It was a bit unique in knowing that I wouldn’t be on the ballot, so one of the goals I had was making sure I closed off some files we’d been dealing with for a while, or at least moving them along enough for the next council,” Duncan said.
Revolt against the largest employer in the township was no doubt the newsmaker of the year in Duncan’s mind.
“Without a doubt the biggest issue likely was the Parmalat issue, on a few different things, like their growth, on the odours and on the traffic plan – that was one there that really came to a head, but I think we made some good progress on that,” he said.
Much like an avid weather-watcher, Duncan knew the tide was about to turn – and not in the processor’s favour.
“I knew [the issue] was coming. We’d been having conversations with Parmalat, and in the small town aspect of it, I live right by the water tower, so I literally live and breathe the issue. And I know by the amount of traffic you see on Main Street that it was going to be an issue on Gladstone,” Duncan said. “I wasn’t surprised, but I was disappointed like everyone else that Parmalat didn’t get ahead of it a little bit. Glass half full though, the town meeting did go well and it gave a chance for the public to have their say… It also allowed Parmalat to be accountable and give their side.”
Change at the plant, or at least plans put in place for change, have been swift. Before winter weather arrived, trucks started leaving Parmalat along a rear access route onto Liscumb Road and the dissolved air flotation (DAF) system was brought online, lowering the plant’s reliance on its lagoon holding ponds.
As well, Gladstone Street residents got what they’d been after for years with the imminent erection of a sound barrier wall along the western edge of the facility’s property.
“[Plant director] Bruce [Shurtleff] has been good to deal with, and he’s fixing a lot of things that he was dealt when he walked in the door,” Duncan said. “I’m cautiously optimistic that next spring and summer will be better in terms of the odour.”
In the end, the now former mayor believes the tensions that had been heightened have simmered – if not for good, at the very least, for now.
“I was more nervous about relationships in the town, people on both sides of the issue. Those who wanted immediate action and those who didn’t want to attack the major economic driver of the town,” Duncan said. “I think things have smoothed over a little bit as we see Parmalat take some action.”