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Gravel pit likely cause for change in Woolwich Ward 3

Woolwich’s Ward 3, the site of three contentious gravel pit applications, was home to a large bloc of unhappy residents. Odds are if they got out to vote in large enough numbers Oct. 25, things wouldn’t go well for the incumbent. That’s just what happened, as four-term veteran Murray Martin lost to newcomer Bonnie Bryant.

The Maryhill woman won the support of 818 residents to 681 for Martin. The third candidate in the race, Doug Nichols, finished with 266 votes.

Martin was stoic in defeat Monday night. Weighing his chances earlier in the evening, he said he hoped his constituents had got enough information to make an informed choice. Still, he was aware the gravel pit issue could be a deciding factor – his opponents could speak freely, but as a councillor he wasn’t able to prejudge the applications before they came to council for a decision.

“That’s the way the people voted. What can you do?” he said shortly after the results came in.

“Maybe they’ve done me a favour,” he added, suggesting he won’t have to be caught in the middle of the issue anymore. And he gets to move on to another chapter in his life.

“I wish her well. I really do,” he said of Bryant.

The councillor-elect is going to need more than good wishes, however. With a few weeks to rest between the campaign and the Dec. 7 inauguration, Bryant said she is already working at getting up to speed – on Wednesday night, for instance, she was heading out to a recreation association meeting in Breslau.

“It’s going to be interesting, and I’m looking forward to it,” she said of the upcoming term.
One of the first priorities will be immersing herself in the 2011 budget, planning for which is already underway. Holding the line on taxes after years of large increases is essential, she said.

“People have told me they don’t want to see another big tax increase – they want a realistic increase. It’s our job to choose a number that people will be happy with.

“In the last four years, it’s been too high … not a sustainable number,” she said of recent rate hikes, which have included an additional two per cent levy for recreation facilities.

And, of course, there are the gravel pits to consider, though she doesn’t expect those reports to land on her desk immediately. She’ll be making sure all the necessary studies are in place before even considering the applications.

During the campaign, she said she was opposed to the locations of three pits near Conestogo, West Montrose and Winterbourne.

“We can’t drag this on – we’ve got to deal with it,” she said.

How she deals with it will be monitored by Nichols, who took a more pragmatic view of the gravel pits during the campaign.

He said he was disappointed by the loss because he won’t get to be part of the process, one where he sees the West Montrose pit being scaled back, but the other two large applications likely going ahead.

“It could have been pretty exciting this time around,” he said, noting he’s unlikely to make another run at political office. “This chapter is closed, as far as I’m concerned.”

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