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Residents pack Aberfoyle hall for Puslinch candidates meeting on Oct. 4

by Mike Robinson

ABERFOYLE - It was a full house at the Puslinch Community Centre here on Oct. 4 for an all candidates meeting.

Ken Williams, president of the Optimist Club that hosted the event, said he was pleased to see the large turnout for the debate and hoped to see a large turnout at the polls.

He asked for “all punches to be above the waist when it comes to questions from the floor and in the responses from candidates.”


Dennis Lever

Incumbent mayor Dennis Lever began, “Puslinch is in great shape. In the last four years, we have accomplished a lot.”

He noted “the Morriston bypass was finally approved after languishing for decades.”

He added a proposed Cambridge east corridor will no longer run through a corner of the township.

Safety issues have been addressed resulting in traffic signals at the corner of Ellis Road and Townline, Lever said.

“We have real long-term budget planning that sets money aside for future projects. No more 18%, 11% and 12%tax increases, which were experienced before.”

He asked “what does the future hold? I want to see us to continue to invest in our parks and sports facilities based on usage.”

He noted the township purchased property behind the community centre in 2012 for a soccer field - in conjunction with a walking trail.

Lever said “we all need to ensure our youth have an opportunity to participate in activities which will get them outside and away from keyboards and video games.”

He noted the township continues to keep a close eye on local water usage to ensure no long-term impacts.

Though there has been much discussion regarding Nestlé Waters, Lever said it is just one of the water takers in the area.

He said services will continue to be reviewed to ensure residents get the best value for the money spent.

James Seeley

Seeley stated, “As mayor I believe in a leadership style that is inclusive of my peers and their values and is not autocratic.

“I will hold the community opinions in the highest regard and as your mayor I will be an active contributing member who deeply cares about local heritage.”

Seeley spoke to the elimination of the proposed water and sewer project - “It is an expensive project costing approximately $100-million.”

He pointed to a resolution that directed township staff to contact industrial/commercial businesses to determine their interest in municipal water and wastewater.

“Under my leadership, this will be eliminated,” said Seeley.

He also spoke about proposals by the municipality to divest itself of certain parklands. He mentioned a previous resolution of council directing staff to speak to residents of the Fox Run Park area regarding the costs of grass cutting and possible sale of open space lands that had been dedicated as parkland.

“Under my leadership, our parks will never be sold. They will be there for generations to come,” he said.

Seeley also spoke of the potential for $3-million to be spent on revamping the sports facilities on the Puslinch Community Centre grounds.

“I want to support the athletic communities in our township ... but my priority is to stop spending this large amount of money, connect with the residents and have an open door policy to always be available to you, the residents of this township.”


Jessica Goyda

Goyda, a lifelong resident of Puslinch, called the township “a place I love deeply.” It is also a place where Goyda lives with her husband and two young children. It is her love for the community that made her want to make a deeper contribution.

“Wanting to make a difference and knowing how to make a difference do not always run hand-in-hand,” she said.

Goyda spoke of one experience which undeniably changed her way of thinking.

While pursuing her Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Guelph, she also had a dream of opening a restaurant on Watson Road in a building where as a child she would ride her bicycle and buy Popsicles.

In 2015, she and her husband decided to pursue the dream, “but our hopes and dreams were quickly challenged as we faced what seemed to be an endless list of obstacles to overcome.”

“Rather than give up on our dream, we collaborated with people, modified our plans, made compromises .. held a public information night to get input from local residents, worked with township staff and did a lot of out-of-the-box thinking to achieve something we believed would be for the betterment of the community.

“We couldn’t be more proud to have opened Union Market Square.”

She considered the experience to be what small town rural life is all about. Goyda said this would be the same approach she would take to being a councillor.

“While there will be challenges we will face as a township, we will collaborate with those who have expertise, listen with our ears wide open, and along with people who live and work in our community, we can achieve great things.

“I feel I have a contribution to make, ideas to share, and a passion and commitment to do the right thing.”

Goyda wants to be a positive role model to help create a bright future “for our children and their children to come.”

Steven Dorgo

Dorgo said when he tells people he is from Puslinch, people are aware of the antique market, the Aberfoyle Mill, Bryan’s Auctions or Emerald Lake.

“But often I’m met with the comment ... where’s that?”

Though Dorgo grew up in Cambridge, he’s lived in the Crief area for the past seven years.

Dorgo ran a small business and inherited the family stall (third-generation) at St. Lawrence Farmers Market in Toronto, where he sold meat from pigs he raised in Puslinch.

At the same time, he studied at the University of Guelph, where he graduated with a degree in economics and business.

Having worked in the advance polls in the past provincial election as a tabulator, Dorgo was curious to see what was going on with township issues.

“After doing some reading, I didn’t like what I’d seen.”

In particular, he opposed the proposed money involved with the sewer and water study and the parks and recreation master plan. He argued consultants were overselling statistics to justify their recommendations.

Dorgo contended the sewer project was clearly intended to move towards urbanized development with exorbitant costs imposed on local residents.

“This is Puslinch and we are a rural community. We all chose to live here.”

He said residents are okay with driving to Guelph or Cambridge for certain services.

“I have the self-awareness to know we don’t have to be everything to everyone. We just need to focus on the things that make Puslinch great,” he said.

To Dorgo, that means allowing residents the freedom to make Puslinch a quality rural destination.

He pledged to offer “wise and fiscally responsible spending, (to) keep taxes low, respect the current way of life, seek out faster internet service, listen to residents about local issues.

“You have to decide who you want in planning the future of this township.

“I am ready to put my degree to use. I am 26 years old, I love living the rural lifestyle, willing to listen and ready to work for you.”

Ken Roth

Incumbent Ken Roth said he is seeking his third term on council. Having mostly lived in small communities, Roth said he and his wife enjoy living in such a diverse township.

“We’ve called Puslinch our home since 2002,” Roth said, adding his business background provided him with the experience to formulate decisions based on facts and research.

He said this creates stability of services and property taxes.

Roth stated the previous and current council, “have implemented and continue to and improve all service levels ... the criteria for the long-term plans is to safeguard sustainability, now and in the future.”

He explained completion of various township master plans required community input.

“We are doing everything possible to maintain the viability of Puslinch Township and its residents,” he said.

Matthew Bulmer

Incumbent Matthew Bulmer said when he was campaigning this year a woman asked who he was. He explained he, his wife and two children lived on a farm along Watson Road.

The woman replied  “that’s nice, but who are you as a person? What are the guiding values that direct you as a municipal councillor?”

After a long and uncomfortable pause, Bulmer said he replied with the word “stewardship.”

Bulmer explained the word reminds him at budget time that he’s been entrusted to spend other people’s hard-earned dollars for their long-term benefit.

“While it is important to understand the cost of service, good decision making requires that I also understand the value those things have to the community,” he said.

He continues to advocate for policies to benefit both the residents and the community.

“I do know that being a good steward is not easy. The issues we have to deal with are seldom black and white ... which means I have to be good looking at the grey.”

To do that, Bulmer said he needs to be open to the knowledge of the residents and be willing to learn what is needed.

Bulmer recognized “the extra effort is worth it, to ensure the people I serve know they have been heard and even if we disagree, know they are respected for their contribution.

John Sepulis

Incumbent John Sepulis noted he was appointed two years ago following the passing of councillor Wayne Stokely. He and his wife have lived in Puslinch for the past 29 years.

Sepulis, a retired professional engineer, said he has the time to step forward and give back to the community.

He has served as chair of the planning development advisory committee and committee of adjustment.

He is also a member of the Lake Erie source water protection committee representing this portion of the Grand River.

Sepulis said with his background as former general manager of the TTC, he has a unique skillset that includes being comfortable with technical documents regarding planning, financial, policy and legal matters.

Sepulis said he championed numerous issues affecting Puslinch residents.

“My approach to council is to be proactive, understanding the issues, looking at innovative ways to address costs, keeping taxes down and keeping costs to a minimum,” he said.

“We need to find other sources of revenue such as developing industrial land and actively seeking funding from all levels of government - all to stretch our hard-earned tax dollars further.”

He stressed having adequate groundwater is vital and he advocated for improvements to recreational facilities and for better provision of natural gas and internet services.


Don McKay

Though acclaimed, the incumbent county councillor spoke briefly to the crowd.

He thanked the organizers of the meeting and also his wife Barb “for the support she’s given me over the past eight years. We’ve had lots of pillow talk whether I was going to continue on for another four years.”

McKay said it was an honour to represent Puslinch residents in Ward 7 over the past eight years, adding he looks forward to the next four years.

He stated the County of Wellington is responsible for many core services such as county roads, solid waste, planning, social services, policing, libraries, seniors, and much more.

McKay said the major portion of the Puslinch tax dollar - 65% - goes to the county.

“You deserve to have an experienced, knowledgeable, and accountable representative to make certain that money is spent correctly.”

McKay said that over the past four years, the county has worked to keep tax increases under three per cent.

He concluded, “Over the next four years, I’ve committed to developing partnerships, controlling growth while protecting the environment and heritage, sustaining and improving services, being fiscally responsible, and ensuring Ward 7 is well represented on county council and working closely with all municipalities to make Wellington County a great place to live, work and raise a family.”

October 12, 2018


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