Residents of the small village of Dunnottar, just north of Winnipeg, along the western shores of Lake Winnipeg, voted to reject a proposed low pressure sewer system project in a referendum that was held on Friday, July 20.
The “no” vote carried the day with 901 votes against building a sewer system, to only 377 “yes” votes.
The result effectively shelves the project until after the next municipal election in 2014.
There was also a by-election held at the same time for which the results saw Lynne Guicheret easily defeating Yvette Sundseth with a total of 880 votes to 392.
The village, comprised of the three resort communities of Matlock, Whytewold and Ponemah, is home to about 300 full time residents. Part-time cottagers, who come mostly from Winnipeg, double or triple the village’s population during the spring, summer and fall months.
Historically, those living here permanently get along well with their part-time neighbours. However, the row that erupted over this hot button issue regarding sewers, disturbed the idyllic calm of this beach resort town, pitting neighbours against neighbours; part-time residents against those who live here full time.
The fight was over whether the village should spend $10.2 million on installing and operating a low pressure sewer system. This would replace the existing method of waste disposal that one sees (and smells) every week when the septic trucks come through town to pump out the numerous holding tanks throughout the village.
Individual home and cottage owners would have had to pay to hook up to the new sewer system which was vociferously opposed by many residents. For some full-timers, a new sewer system was long overdue, while many part-time cottagers say it would have been an added cost they just can’t afford.
Along with the “no” victory in the referendum, it was no surprise to see the by-election results for a vacant seat on the Village of Dunnottar Council, with Lynne Guicheret, who was against a new sewer development, defeating Yvette Sundseth, who supported the project.
For the record, I am a permanent resident in the area, but my property is in the Rural Municipality of St. Andrews, and borders alongside the Village of Dunnottar community of Matlock. So, I didn’t get to vote on Friday, as I am not a resident of Dunnottar. But, I am close enough to the action to observe how some of my neighbours in Matlock responded to this debate.
I know many on both sides of the issue were upset with how this had divided the community. They didn’t like the signs everywhere you look, and they didn’t care for the bad blood that was stirred up.
Unfortunately, there were a few others who seemed to relish in it. These are the same folks that jump at the chance to “declare war” on their neighbours for any list of a number of reasons.
From my end of the neighbourhood, what’s interesting is not so much the particulars of the debate, but it’s how the debate unfolded and how it managed to envelop the town in such a negative and acrimonious fashion. It highlights, in my view, a particularly unflattering characteristic of this community (and of other small towns), which is often displayed by a small number of its residents.
It’s why I wasn’t surprised when this sewer debate quickly deteriorated, on both sides, into a nasty, dirty scrap in the gutter. After printing one letter to the editor after another, each one becoming progressively more rude and indecent than the previous, a local newspaper declared a halt, a couple of weeks ago, to printing any more letters on the subject.
At the advance poll last week, an 82-year-old man was verbally accosted while casting his ballot. It was reported that he was visibly shaken after the unfortunate incident.
For most residents, Friday’s vote couldn’t have come soon enough. Many wanted to see this issue voted on once and for all; and still, many more would like to see an end to the negativity that crawls out of the sewers (or holding tanks) whenever an issue is being debated.
The other day I read a quote by Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, which seems appropriate here. He said, “In true dialogue, both sides are willing to change.”
Now that the sewer vote is done and this chapter is over, one can only hope that this experience might encourage this community to aim for a ‘true dialogue’ when this issue, or any other issue, comes up in the future.