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Former North Huron reeve takes issue with Howson Dam committee

Former North Huron reeve Neil Vincent. (File photo)

Delegation was denied by committee, says Neil Vincent

WINGHAM – As debate over the Howson Dam and Bridge continues in the community, former reeve Neil Vincent is sharing his views after being denied a chance to speak as a delegation to the committee.

Vincent served as North Huron reeve from 2006 to 2018, and admits that the aging Howson Dam was in bad shape during his time on council, but other priorities overshadowed the need to repair it.

“We knew it wasn’t in good shape, but every year at budget, it just lost,” Vincent said. “It couldn’t have been a higher priority, it was basically just cosmetic.”

Vincent had planned to speak as a delegation at the Jan. 22 meeting of the Howson Bridge and Dam Committee, hand delivering his delegation package to public works director Sean McGhee on Jan. 10, with the understanding that it would be forwarded to clerk Carson Lamb. However, when Vincent’s delegation wasn’t included on the agenda for the meeting, he was told he failed to properly fill out a delegation form, despite Vincent’s understanding that it wasn’t necessary.

“I was one of the ones that put that in place, what we asked for is that there be written notification,” Vincent said. “In the ad in the paper, it did not ask for that.”

When asked for a comment, committee chair Kevin Falconer said Vincent has never made a delegation request, or filled out the proper form, nor has he reached out to him in any way.

Vincent said his information was clearly marked as a delegation request, and there was no contact from any municipal staff with more than a week before the meeting date.

“There was all kinds of time if they wanted to be open and honest about it,” he said. “I feel that they just didn’t want me giving information.”

Vincent also takes it personally when he hears comments in the community over what should have been done with the dam in the previous term of council, but knew from a structural report in his last term as reeve that the dam was beyond repair.

“The feelings of some others I was on council with was that we hoped it would fall down on it’s own and save us the cost of decommissioning,” Vincent said. “By taking the old one out and building another one, $10 million would be the starting point, not a finished point.”

Vincent adds that most of the support for keeping the Howson Dam and repairing it is coming from seniors that remember growing up with the dam and pond, but that the money needed to fix the dam would be better spent on other aging infrastructure in Wingham.

“What was a thing of beauty 40-60 years ago, just isn’t any more,” he said. “It’s just wore out, it’s done.”