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MTO’s Seven Years War may be nearing end

OXFORD STATION, Ont. -- A few lonely signs to the south of Kemptville are the only monuments to a battle raging alo...

OXFORD STATION, Ont. — A few lonely signs to the south of Kemptville are the only monuments to a battle raging along a quiet stretch of Hwy. 416.

But for Alex and Susan Desjardins those signs speak volumes, telling a tale of a government’s heavy-handed abuse of power.

It’s been seven years since the Desjardins launched their campaign for justice against the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) relating to the four-laning of Hwy. 416. Of all the property owners dealt with in the project, the Desjardins’ case is the only one remaining unsettled. The issue boils down to the ministry offering a total of $22,500 — $7,500 has already been paid — while the Desjardins claim a fair price for the nine acres of expropriated land is more like $125,000.

Currently without a lawyer to handle the ever-expanding file folder, they hope to entice a fourth to the drama and they’re looking for a mucker. Someone not easily intimidated by high-powered provincial bureaucrats.

Part of the dispute is over 77,000 cubic metres of sand skimmed off the acreage for use in building the 416 and an adjacent service road, now called Smith Rd. It’s worth $60 a load, Alex explains, and no compensation has ever been provided.

“We bought our property in the first place because of the valuable resource represented by the large sand deposit,” he tells local media.

Alex makes a living off his land, market gardening in the summer and selling firewood in the fall and winter, including 150 cords of cedar a year to feed the rare wood-burning oven in Grahame’s Bakery in Kemptville.

“We’ve faced numerous broken promises, bad faith and inconsistent proposals from MTO officials,” adds Susan.

After the lengthy fight, the couple may have finally caught a break. The ministry is anxious to transfer maintenance of Smith Rd. to the municipality in which it lies, but can’t do so until all claims relating to 416 construction have been resolved.

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