February 2013 Article in the EMC
A few weeks ago, a group of students from Arklan Community Public School visited the Town Hall along with teacher, Heather Strachan, as part of their Social Studies program. Both Town Clerk, Duncan Rogers, and I were impressed by their knowledge of local government and the depth of their questions.
One particular question stood out for me, and I’ve thought about it – and my answer – numerous times since. Ten-year old James Horne asked, ‘What is the hardest part of your job?’ Now, it didn’t take me long to answer, ‘Making sure you make the right decisions and doing what’s best for the Town’. That truly is, of course, why we were elected, and the residents of the Town should expect nothing less.
Quite frankly, some decisions that we make are relatively straightforward, and do not require a great deal of research and study either by Council or Staff. However, many issues are exceptionally complex and have long-term implications for the future well-being of the community. Last year, for example, we dealt with the decision to extend McNeely Avenue linking Highways 7 and 15. What propelled us into making that decision was the fact that increased traffic was putting pressure on the 7 and 15 intersection. Further development along McNeely Avenue may have been limited until the town developed a solution satisfactory to the Ministry of Transport. A myriad of studies were conducted through the environmental assessment process before the extension of McNeely Avenue was given the green light. It then became imperative that the cost-sharing for the extension was worked out fairly among all the players – land owners, developers, various levels of government, and the Town. At the County level, following a presentation by our CAO to County Council members and staff, we successfully lobbied for the County to agree to take over the extension as a County road (the existing McNeely Avenue is already a county road) and to pay for additional lanes when growth requires. In conjunction with all the other issues, Staff worked to acquire an additional 35 acres of Employment Land west of Highway 15; this area will open for development when traffic lights are installed at the new intersection. I have really only skimmed the surface of the scope of this project, but it is an example of the complexities of the decisions that are made by your Council, be it planning for current and future sewer and water needs, lobbying for a new hospital, or scrutinizing the annual budget .
Complex issues require complex solutions. They also require an in-depth understanding of complex consequences that result from decisions. This is where a dedicated staff and council working together for the betterment of the community, make fiscally, socially, and environmentally responsible decisions to ensure that the town’s present and future is strong, secure, and sustainable.
Thanks, James, for your question. Sometimes, I wish we had a simple answer!