Uncertainty Over Walkerton BIA Amid Mass Board Resignation

Letters of resignation from all 8 members of the Walkerton B.I.A. dated December 1st, 2016. (Blackburnnews.com File Photo © 2016).

The future of the Walkerton Business Improvement Area (BIA) association remains uncertain following the mass resignation of all eight board members late last week.

It happened just prior to the association’s annual general meeting on December 1 and it came as a surprise to many.

Allegations of bullying and harassment by a local business owner have been cited as the reason for the abrupt resignations and according to those letters of resignation, the majority of the board say it’s something that’s been going on for a number of years.

“Myself, five years [on the BIA board], other board members are five years as well that we’ve been dealing with the threats and harassment and the bullying from particular business owner in town and we’d finally had enough,” says Dwayne Kaster, Walkerton BIA president. “It got to the point where it was hard for us to continue to do business.”

Kaster says the problem lies with Council constantly turning the other cheek and not doing anything about the alleged abuse referenced by the Walkerton BIA board members in their letters of resignation.

“The big problem that we have right now is that council never stood behind us,” adds Kaster.

Darren Holm, owner of Holm Graphics and the Walkerton business owner at the centre of those allegations of bullying and harassment, does not deny the fact that he was upset and has been for quite some time.

His major concern with the board is how they’ve been operating and according to Holm and documents obtained by CKNX News, there are some issues surrounding past bylaws and in connection with the Ontario Municipal Act.

“They’re promoting businesses from outside of town and outside the county that are competitors to the actual BIA levy paying members here,” says Holm. “They have taken on associate members from outside of the county even; a competing company with mine and I objected to having to pay a full levy and then the competition can come in for $150 and basically get equal benefit.”

A BIA and a chamber of commerce are two very different entities and Holm says there’s no separation or delineation between the two where the board is concerned; and that’s part of his ongoing issues with the board.

As for the allegation of bullying and harassment, it is something Deputy Mayor Dan Gieruszak is aware of as he is the council representative on the BIA board.

Holm says “they’re exaggerating at every corner.”

He doesn’t deny that he’s been upset and written a few choice words in past letters.

“Saying that I’m the reason they resigned, Dan Gieruszak is upset with me because I’ve been critical of his involvement with the Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority and how they created problems trying to get the Gay Lea expansion going,” says Holm.

At the end of the day, it’s a feud that’s been ongoing for a number of years.

The Walkerton BIA website states that staff will continue to work on behalf of the business community with the goal of establishing a new board down the road.

Nomination forms are due in by December 30 at 12pm.

An election date will be announced in the near future.