MAYOR’S ANNUAL ADDRESS to COUNCIL
By MAYOR WENDY LEBLANC
JANUARY 14, 2014
(Check against delivery)
Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am pleased to be able to speak with you for the third time since taking office, to reflect on the past year and now to look ahead to 2014, the final year of our mandate. In reviewing the accomplishments of this Council during the past three years, we can be proud of how we have responsibly managed the growth of the community, how we have shown fiscal responsibility both in the present and for the future, and how we have made major impacts on the quality of life here in Carleton Place. The level of satisfaction of the residents in Carleton Place and their desire to volunteer and engage in community life are indicators that we are on the right track for making our community welcoming, liveable and affordable for all ages, interests, and family makeup.
At the same time, ours is a community that embraces the businesses that have chosen to locate here, that provides services to assist them, and that encourages growth and expansion.
These accomplishments are ones that reflect our collective desire to work for the benefit of the entire community.
Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritties of the past year, and I trust you will bear with me as I add a little levity to a serious situation:
We are all familiar with the old proverb that there’s nothing sure in life except death and taxes. Carleton Place can easily add a third certainty – cuts in government funding. And, while these three – death, taxes, and cuts in government funding – are inevitable, what the third one creates is a level of uncertainty when planning on both a yearly and a longer-term basis.
While I was thinking about writing this review, I chanced to look out the window and this card caught my eye. So, having already quoted the proverb about death and taxes, I gave in to the temptation of using two well-known British sayings that reflect how our municipality has managed this uncertainty – Keep Calm and Carry On and Mind the Gap.
For anyone who has ever visited London, Mind the Gap of course refers to being careful of the space between the platform and the door of the train in London’s underground system. While the platform always remains the same, the gap is variable owing to inconsistencies in the trains. In the same manner, ours and other municipalities, standing on the platform, are faced more and more with inconsistencies from the province. Over the years, all Ontario municipalities have come to expect grants from the province, yet as the province has had to deal with its own significant deficits, it looked to reducing grants as a means of saving money.
On of our biggest grant losses was, of course, the lowered amounts given to us through the OMPF funding which is tied to policing costs. Through the efforts on the part of staff, members of the Police Services Board, and even senior members of the OPP Contract Branch, we were able to address the significant additional costs in policing and keep this year’s property tax increase to under 2%. However, this came at a cost to all other departments whose budgets were held at a 0% increase.
In addition, the province has denied Carleton Place’s bid for various infrastructure project grants because it deems us to be a wealthy community and can pay for projects through local taxpayers’ dollars. We have responded to the province about the unfairness of this granting system as we believe the dollars should be distributed through an equitable formula as opposed to being allocated based on application analysis.
A significant concern is the financial destabilization of municipally-run and private daycares owing to the now school-based full-day Kindergarten programs. We are continuing communications with the minister and assistant deputy minister of education and are currently bringing together a coalition of mayors of Eastern Ontario communities to make representation to the ministry in February.
Each of these issues presents an uncertainty for our municipality. We’re standing on the platform. We know that there will be a gap but we don’t know how big the gap will be. Planning for bridging this unpredictable gap when it appears is where our strength as a community lies.
And that brings me to Keep Calm and Carry On. As we are well- aware, our Town continues to be viewed by other municipalities – and indeed, the provincial government – as a well-run, fiscally responsible community with strong infrastructure, solid financial and long-term asset management plans. It is these factors that give us the ability to weather the storms such as reductions in grants, increased unforeseen policing costs, and changes in provincial policies (all of which are out of our control) and it is these factors that give us the ability to progress in a stable and consistent manner. And, ladies and gentlemen as I have stated in the past but it bears repeating, this stability, this ability to carry on in a calm manner, is a direct result of the diligent and dedicated work of our Senior Staff, and I wish to once again thank them for their service to the community.
As I noted already, this is third annual review that I presented and each time, the item I have spent the most time discussing was Economic Development. And, rightly so, for a number of reasons. Firstly, most members of Council ran on an Economic Development platform. Secondly, community economic prosperity comes from effective planning, engagement and management. And thirdly, #2 doesn’t happen naturally. And this is where our Senior Staff and Economic Development Co-ordinator, Jasmin Ralph, come into play. Some of the highlights of her work in 2013 include the W.E.L.L. (Women Entrepreneurs from North Leeds and Lanark) program from Valley Heartland, centered here in Carleton Place; the construction of the Carleton Place Economic Development website, www. businesscarletonplace.ca; responding to numerous requests for information from businesses and entrepreneurs exploring locating or relocating in Carleton Place; meetings with business owners as part of her business retention and expansion plan and also to glean information to profile businesses on the website; installation of new signage at each of the business/industrial parks; attending trade shows promoting Carleton Place as part of the Ontario East Advanced Manufacturing Sector Team, and strengthening ties with our local and regional partners such as the BIA, Chamber of Commerce, Valley Heartland, CFDC and Launch Lab.
New retail shops, services and restaurants opened, particularly in the downtown core, along with new small businesses located in all three industrial parks. The value of the actual new builds amounted to $4M of growth.
Progress on the McNeely Avenue extension to Highway 15 received a shot in the arm with Lanark County earmarking $1.4 M towards design and construction costs as well as their adopting it as a County Road and committing to 4-laning it in the future. This roadway will open several hundred acres of valuable property slated for housing, parks and trails, schools and highway commercial development. Opposite this property and located just south-west of the Highway 15 – Captain A. Roy Brown Boulevard junction, is a 35 acre site identified for industrial uses. Progress in planning this massive project is steady, but it will be some time before local residents actually see concrete results.
Housing starts in 2013, amounting to some $13M, were lower than average, due mostly to the lengthy delays in the Highgate subdivision being able to get the shovel in the ground; this subdivision is now underway and we anticipate smoother processing of applications at the County level in future. Council viewed plans for both the large-scale Nu-Globe residential development and Jackson Heights, while DevCore is planning a stacked townhouse complex as well as a large residential development. Brigil has proposed a much-needed apartment building complex, and the attractive Cinnamon Suites condo apartment building on Coleman Street is now complete. Just east of the apartment block, Darma plans to construct a condo townhouse complex. Both Brigil and Cardel are close to build-out in their respective neighbourhoods. Finally, on the Institution side of growth, the St James Anglican Church congregation completed a significant combined parish hall and office addition to the church, both St Gregory’s and Notre Dame schools on the north side of town are expanding, and the Market Square pavilion received its roof. The majority of Council voted to sell the property adjacent to Market Square on Beckwith Street to Parkview Homes at full asking price and no concessions in the form of dropping development or other charges; the development will consist of ground floor commercial with apartments above.
Staff and Council took on the onerous yet interesting task of developing a new Official Plan and reviewing and renewing the Development Permit Bylaw. Some significant changes include the designation of four strategic properties in the community that, in the future, could become multi-use developments close to the downtown core; these are for the most part in the new Mississippi District which takes in the traditional residential and commercial heart of the Town. This initiative supports Council’s direction towards the long and short term goals for the revitalization of the heritage downtown area. Additionally, a number of environmental issues were addressed including cycling and pedestrian concerns as well as defining natural environment districts aimed at protecting several significant sites in the community including areas along the river, Arklan Island, Roy Brown Park and others. Updates to the Development Permit Bylaw reflect the changes to the Official Plan as well as tweaking areas in the original document of five years ago that staff identified as issues to be resolved such as improving community input as well as streamlining the process for developers.
In June of 2013, a major change in the recycling and waste management program came into effect with increased numbers of items accepted for recycling along with a change in the sticker system. The new program, a joint effort of five municipalities headed by Carleton Place, will result in an initial savings of over $100 000 and even more with the tonnage to landfill being reduced as well as grants from Waste Diversion Ontario. The program was well-received by the public and we anticipate some significant changes in the waste diversion rate when the waste audit is carried out in June 2014.
These were some of the larger issues that Council dealt with during 2013, and as in the past, I note that it is the smaller items that have the greater and more direct impact on the quality of life of the residents in Carleton Place. Many of these are special projects undertaken by individual councillors and, once again, I commend them for their work and also to the members of Council who supported them. This is where I will actually list accomplishments in no order of timing or priority:
- Council has pledged unconditional support to the Hospital Redevelopment Committee, and champions the redevelopment strategy through engaging the public, and advocating when opportunities arise.
- Major construction projects in 2013 included Lake Avenue West, Lisgar and Princess Streets
- The new Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority headquarters located in A. Roy Brown Park officially opened its doors in October – a feather in the cap of our community
- Bob White was named the 2013 Citizen of the Year
- Completion of the Market Square Pavilion roof came about as a result of the support of the BIA
- There have been increased number of vendors at the weekly Farmers’ Market with many accolades on the completed project
- Four well-attended Music at the Market events featured family-oriented entertainment
- Cruise Night featuring vintage cars was a fund-raiser for the Hospital held weekly at the Market Square
- Ironman Competition was well-received by the public
- We took part in OMAFRA’s First Impressions program with Manotick and will receive the results of Manotick’s secret visit to Carleton Place later this month
- McNeely Park on Nelson Street now has a fully accessible playground
- The Roy Brown Museum had just under 2000 visitors in its first year of operation
- The Good Neighbours Great Neighbourhoods Committee completed a thorough review of numerous bylaws, and made some 25 recommendations for changes to Council; the less contentious changes were endorsed by Council.
- The elevated path along the Mississippi Riverwalk Trail was rebuilt and made considerably wider
- Four young people from Carleton Place, sponsored by the Sister City Committee, took part in a student exchange with Comrie, Scotland
- Thanks to the generosity of The Carleton Place Canadians owner, Jason Clark, the arena has now been outfitted with comfortable attractive seating.
- Two new murals were added to the downtown core – Stompin’ Tom Connors and the Last Steam Train through town
- Most of the old Fire Hall/Youth Centre located on Mill Street was removed and the remainder renovated into a delightful building housing public washrooms; when completed, this new public gathering place will feature floral displays, seating, chess and checkers, all under sails for shade
- Approximately one dozen citizens interested in how municipal government works attended the third Carleton Place Municipal Academy run by Duncan Rogers and Catalina Blumenberg
- Jim McCready, chair of the Urban Forest Committee, received the Eleanor Henderson Good Ambassador Award for his local, provincial, national and international urban forestry work
- The steps and railing at the side entrance to the Town Hall were refurbished
- Council made the decision to move to electronic tabulation of votes in the 2014 election
- Carleton Place Daycare marked 30 years of exemplary service to the children and families of the community
- Our beloved librarian Janet French retired after over 25 years of service to the Town and Mariah Caswell became chief librarian in January
- The final paperwork transferring Carambeck Community Centre from the school board to the Town took place in late summer. Carambeck Community Centre is well used by the public especially in the evenings.
- Council voted to continue the addition of fluoride to the town’s drinking water
- A number of staff received special recognition during the past year: Linda Magill won the Prime Minister’s Award for excellence in Early Childhood Education as well as the Community Builder Award; Les Reynolds was named the Lanark County Fire Co-ordinator; Heidi Sinnett of the Carleton Place library received a 2nd place award in the cross-Canada TD Bank Summer program for children; Duncan Rogers was recognized by OMCTA for 32 years of service to the Town, and Brian Pountney for 25 years in the Water Industry. Director of Childcare, Jacquie Leach marked 25 years of service to the families and children of the community. Several staff members made presentations at conferences including Manda Blakeley at OEMC Conference, and Sharyl-Anne Andrews at the Walkerton Clean Water Centre.
Once again, these accomplishments reflect Council’s collective desire to work for the benefit of the entire community.
I am sure that there are many more items that could be added to this list and I apologize if I have inadvertently missed any. Many thanks to all groups or individuals, staff, council members and the public who through their contributions of time and talent made these projects come to life.
And finally, as we enter this election year, there will be members of the public and members of this Council who already have or will be declaring their candidacies for various positions around this table. This can be a wonderful time for the community to become engaged in conversations about the future of the Town. I trust that the next few months will see Council not only focussed on the normal Council work that still lies ahead in 2014, but will also see respectful dialogue between candidates vying for positions on the next Council.
I most sincerely appreciate the opportunity to serve this wonderful community first as Councillor and as Mayor, and, I can without hesitation concur with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty when he stated that ‘Public Service is the most satisfying and personally enriching career you will ever find’. I look forward to continuing to serve to the best of my abilities the citizens of Carleton Place in my capacity as Mayor.
MAYOR’S ANNUAL ADDRESS to COUNCIL