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One month after he vetoed a resolution withdrawing municipal support for an engineered landfill proposed in his community, Alleyn and Cawood Mayor Joe Squitty got what he wanted.
Council voted 4-2 in favor of supporting a study examining the feasibility of the project on Mar.6, overturning a dramatic vote from Feb. 6 where two missing council members and an abstention allowed councilors Charlene Scharf and Ricky Lafleur to adopt a motion to rescind support for the project.
Squitty exercised his mayoral privileged and vetoed that resolution, setting the stage for a second vote Mar. 6. This time councilors Gerald Stevenson and Carl Mayer, absent a month earlier, voted to support the project study and helped ensure municipal support for it remained intact.
The flip-flop, and the split among council members, reflects the divisions wrought within the tiny community by the controversial proposal which would see much, if not all, of the Outaouais region's garbage dumped at a site just west of Danford village.
Council meetings are no longer simple, small, and sleepy assemblies where plans for the community's annual Mud Run and the state of local roads are leisurely discussed, they have become packed, tension-filled affairs where the landfill is the only item on the agenda to earn attention. Members of the public regularly crowd into Danford Lake's little library to grill council on the issue, and questions concerning the landfill now have their own place on the agenda-the very end where council led by Squitty has imposed a half hour time limit on discussion.
These landfill question periods have become predictable exchanges between opponents of the project led by a local citizens coalition, and Mayor Squitty who repeats his case for supporting it, while promising the public will have an opportunity to voice its concerns when the province convenes consultation hearings on the environment (BAPE) later this year.
This approach isn't sitting well with opponents who charge council is not reflecting the will of the majority in the community and have repeatedly called for a referendum on the issue.
"I don't know how you got elected," one man said at the Mar. 6 meeting, "making decisions that affect all of our futures with a mega dump opposed by 90 per cent of the people."
Andre Carriere, chair of the citizens' coalition opposing he proposal, expressed frustration when he asked Squitty why the mayor won't meet with opponents, won't call a referendum, and why municipal staff resists requests for information concerning the project. This last question was raised after lawyers hired by the coalition were denied a request to view planning bylaws at Alleyn and Cawood's municipal offices Feb.23.
"We asked our lawyers to come and obtain information for us," he said. "Rightfully, this is public information, these are public documents. What are you trying to hide, what's going on behind the scenes?"
Squitty said staff weren't given enough notice to provide the lawyers with the information they requested and promised the municipality would be more forthcoming if they had enough lead time.
The crowds at Alleyn and Cawood council meetings continue to grow to the point where April's meeting be relocated to the more commodious Bethany Hall. The split over the issue has also become the source of hard feelings in the community, with some locals complaining that landfill opponents are "outsiders" who don't really care about the welfare of Danford Lake.
"When this is over, either way, these people are going to walk away and go "oh well" said Priscilla Kublak, who would be happy to see more economic activity and less confrontation in the community."We've watched this community dying in stages. Our young people are always leaving, and some of them would be very pleased to stay and work in the community. We don't want anything that's going to hurt anybody and we don't want to argue in the (Danford Lake) hotel. We don't want to argue in the street."