Fearrey and McKechnie set to lead Dysart council

By Vivian Collings

Dysart council will have new acclaimed leadership for the upcoming term, and the new mayor and deputy mayor are bringing years of combined experience to the table.

Murray Fearrey was the only candidate for mayor in Dysart, and Walt McKechnie, current Ward 5 Councillor, was the only candidate for deputy mayor.

Both have been acclaimed to office for the upcoming municipal council term.

Fearrey said he decided to run to offer his years of experience to Dysart.

“I was kind of surprised that no one else came out, but they didn’t, so I’ll have to accept the responsibility and do the best job I can. With county council, I don’t think I’d ever seen this many people leaving at once,” Fearrey said.

Fearrey, long-time Haliburton resident, served on Dysart council for nearly 40 years.

He was reeve and later mayor for many of those years and said he had been acclaimed several times before.

“I waited for, I don’t know how many weeks, to see if someone else would step up for mayor this term,” Fearrey said.

McKechnie, former NHL player, has been in the Haliburton area since 1970 and has served as ward 5 councillor since 2010.

“There could always be a competition, and you have to be prepared for that. I feel I was quite prepared. I was ready to campaign if somebody else did run, but I’m very thankful and appreciative that I don’t have to,” he said.

McKechnie said his passion and dedication to the community is what pushed him to put his name forward for deputy mayor.

“I felt that with my experience, it was time for me to step up for the community,” McKechnie said. “I thought I’d be a good voice for them in not only Dysart but also at the county level.”

Fearrey and McKechnie share opinions on certain topics, but they also have their own ideas and visions.

One of Fearrey’s main concerns in the county is the shortage of healthcare workers.

“If you don’t have healthcare, you don’t have a community, in my opinion. It’s one of the services we desperately need,” he said.

He believes that providing more housing will help encourage doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to move to the area.

“The number one issue in the municipality is housing. I’m talking about middle-income housing that allows working people to buy a house. Combined with that, we are suffering from a lack of healthcare workers. I think we need to somehow focus on some more housing.”

McKechnie is also concerned about the housing shortage.

“Most councils, today especially, in a rural area like ours, would say the same thing: we need more housing, and affordable housing. We have some good projects that are in the books right now, and we have to try and get shovels in the ground and get things happening,” he said.

Both Fearrey and McKechnie were disappointed with the passing of the shoreline preservation bylaw during Haliburton County Council’s regular meeting on Aug. 24.

“The next council will have a chance to review that. I’m pretty disappointed. I thought it was going to come back to all the municipal councils [before being passed],” Fearrey said.

McKechnie said that he and many Dysart constituents he talked to were dismayed by the passing of the shoreline preservation bylaw.

“Many constituents I have talked to have heard that the shoreline policy was going to be deferred until next term. I think that the lakefront property owners did not have a proper say. … I can’t emphasize this enough that lake association presidents and members have not been kept up to date and informed as much as they should be. Lake property owners who do not belong to an association have also really been forgotten,” McKechnie said.

Another one of Fearrey’s concerns is the short-term rental issue that Haliburton County council has been discussing.

“I’m concerned about the short-term rentals. I hope it comes back to local councils to consider that,” Fearrey said. “I know the local people running the rental agencies have a lot to offer towards it, and I hope there’s lots of dialogue with them.”

McKechnie is looking forward to being involved in the short term rental decisions on a county level and conveying messages from Dysart constituents.

Another one of Fearrey’s areas of interest is improving the Dysart sewage system.

“We can’t handle much more housing without that,” he said.

He would also like to see improvements in sports facilities in the area.

“There’s not a decent ball diamond or soccer field in Dysart right now other than going to West Guilford. I think we’re not going to get young families to move here. And, I’d also like to work with the community. I’d like to get rid of the parking meters as soon as I can.”

McKechnie said he is wanting more sports facilities to be built to cater to both youth and seniors.

Road improvements are another important topic for the incoming Deputy Mayor.

“Roads are always an issue, but I think in the last four years, we’ve made some great progress. We’re very aware of roads of concern.”

Fearrey and McKechnie served two terms of council with each other from 2010 to 2018.

“Individuals are entitled to their own opinions. We have to make decisions based on what’s best for taxpayers,” Fearrey said.

McKechnie said he is looking forward to being on Dysart council with Fearrey this term.

“We have been friends for 50 years, but still have our own opinions. We will work hard together, just like all councils try to work well together. I really respect his dedication, commitment, and passion for the community,” McKechnie said.