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Catching up with county mayors: Puslinch's James Seeley

In this series, the seven mayors of Wellington County look back on 2021 and what's in store for 2022
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Puslinch mayor James Seeley said he's hoping for better commitment from the province on the Morriston bypass.

PUSLINCH – While the province has announced they are building new highways, Puslinch mayor James Seeley is looking for a more firm commitment on a future phase of a bypass around Puslinch in the coming year. 

In a year-end interview, Seeley said the province has prioritized the Bradford bypass and Highway 413 but don’t have a firm construction date on the third-phase of the Morriston bypass.

The province announced re-commitment to the project in summer 2020 and there are plans for initial phases of construction, which include changes to Hanlon Expressway interchanges, to begin in 2022. 

Seeley said the township is disappointed the province hasn't fully committed to a construction start date on a new road that would go from Highway 401 to Highway 6 around Maddaugh Road, which moves a majority of traffic that normally passes through Puslinch. 

“That’s a huge economic benefit, in my opinion, to the Kitchener-Waterloo and greater Guelph area, Hamilton area for improved transportation of goods and manufacturing goods,” Seeley said. 

“There was a coalition that we’re reviving as we speak. We’re going to re-pledge our case to the province.”

Seeley said the province’s re-commitment was mainly from private sector lobbying, and this coalition is connecting the private and municipal sectors to reaffirm support for this bypass. 

Issues around roads and transportation aren’t uncommon in Wellington County. Seeley said speeding concerns are likely the number one complaint any mayor might hear about from residents. 

He explained most concerns are on county roads and as part of their roads committee, he and other members are pushing to get the roads master action plan going. 

Priority for him in Puslinch is establishing community safety zones, where speeding fines are doubled, in Aberfoyle and he’s supportive of establishing photo radar in the same area. 

However, he said people need to change their driving habits generally and drive like they live there.

“They’re speeding in someone else’s community, they may not speed in their own community,” Seeley said. “I feel that we almost need the province or some sort of educational component to get to everybody and say ‘everybody slow down.’”

As chair of the Top Aggregate Producing Municipalities of Ontario association, Seeley said they are looking to advocate for further changes to the way aggregate operators are assessed. 

Puslinch is home to many gravel pits, and Seeley said they are good operators, but MPAC assessments gives them a discounted tax rate which puts a burden on residents. 

“They’re making a lot of money selling their aggregate, they definitely have the means to pay the taxes,” Seeley said. “That’s not their fault, it’s MPAC misinterpreting in my opinion some of the legislation and how they’re applying that legislation is detrimental to Puslinch.”

Putting this pressure on to change assessment is a main goal that will benefit municipalities with gravel pits and others who may have them in the future when other areas dry up. 

One of the highlights over the previous year to the mayor was the township’s recognition in an MPAC publication highlighting their shift to online building permit system. 

He also noted the township received federal and provincial funding to revitalize the Puslinch Community Centre grounds and the old Morriston baseball diamond  with new lighting and other upgrades. 

These improvements are expected next year and Seeley said he hopes people can take advantage of them next summer.