If you attended the Mayor’s Levee, Jan. 5, you received a small brochure that listed some of this council’s accomplishments to date, as well as our collective plans and priorities for the remaining year of our term. It’s worth reiterating some of those notes.
Keeping the public informed was identified by this council as a strategic priority in our first strategic planning session at the beginning of our term. This flyer was produced by our new Communications Officer as part of that ongoing transparency and accountability. We want to let you know what we’re doing on your behalf.
Many of the things municipal government deals with don’t get reported in media. In part that’s because they are seen as procedural, internal or part of an ongoing process, or sometimes simply as unimportant. But they are all important to you, our residents and ratepayers. You should know that your council is working for you in all areas and interests, not simply those that get headlines.
A lot of our decisions are based on long-term initiatives and goals, and often the public only sees the final stages, not the lengthy process that arrived at them.
I am reproducing some of the information in the brochure below, but a full report about the strategic planning session will be coming to council in the next two weeks, with this and more material included.
The list of accomplishments this term is broken into three categories:
Strengthen our economic position
- Collingwood Regional Airport improvements;
- Port of Entry status obtained for Collingwood Regional Airport;
- Strategic partnership with PowerStream (hydro utility);
- Georgian College opened Collingwood campus;
- Wasaga and Blue Mountains transit link services initiated;
- Road infrastructure improvements;
- Completed several servicing projects;
- Reviewed the Official Plan to conform with the Growth Plan;
- Initiated new economic development partnerships (ongoing);
- Increased and enhanced PRC facilities,
- Public Works buildings, and OPP detachment to extend usability and lifespan of buildings.
The latter entry refers to a long-needed upgrade and expansion of our Public Works facilities – the new property and building purchase at less than the appraised value! The new site also provides additional space for snow storage – important in winters like this one! This purchase also allows our PRC department to use the older Works yard for much-needed storage and equipment maintenance, as well as provide office and workspace for employees.
Under our contract with the OPP, the town was required to provide adequate and accessible space for the police. The old building- shared with the Fire Department – became too small and cramped for both services to use efficiently. There were not even sufficient washrooms and change rooms. We had a legal obligation for complete these upgrades, and could not postpone them.
Council and staff looked into the costs involved of various types of upgrade and construction. We found it was significantly less expensive to build a new fire station and upgrade the old building for police use, than it would have been to build a new police station and upgrade the old building for fire use. In doing so, we saved taxpayers considerable money.
In road improvements, we must include the commitment to expand and upgrade Hume Street. The construction starts in 2014 – moving the utilities, in preparation for the road widening and new sidewalks, in 2015. Council also put approx. $4 million into reserves (from the sale of 50% of Collus to Powerstream) for the Hume Street project.
The new transit links to Wasaga Beach and Blue Mountain have proven great success stories. Ridership continues to grow on both links. We will be examining them in 2014 and looking at routes, frequency and fares.
Provide efficient & effective Town governance
- Review of administrative leadership models, and appointment of CAO;
- Comprehensive service inventory compiled – initiating review to improve efficiencies;
- Organizational/operational review initiated;
- Communications Officer hired to promote municipality and implement communications strategies;
- Capital asset database completed with focus on water, wastewater, roads and bridges;
- Several new HR training programs and policies implemented;
- New fire station constructed with improved emergency operations centre and internal education facilities;
- Health & Safety Coordinator recruited and program implementation;
- Developed and approved accountability and transparency policy;
- Appointed an Integrity Commissioner;
- Human resource systems and payroll optimization (in progress).
Many of these are internal – improvements to town operations, governance, policies and processes. The public seldom sees them in action, but you will feel their effects in your business and development dealings with town hall.
Another thing we did this term was to reduce the charge to investigate an in-camera meeting from the $125 set by the previous council, to $5. Plus we dropped the cat-tag fee, making it less expensive to adopt cats from the Georgian Triangle Humane Society and to keep them. We also approved a new, mutually-beneficial, relationship with GTHS for pound management and animal care/adoption.
Enhance our arts, heritage & recreational opportunities
- Constructed two new much-needed recreational facilities;
- Purchased Fisher Field to protect the Town’s long-term investment;
- Completed numerous projects and upgrades to existing recreation infrastructure (i.e. harbour docks, playgrounds, tennis courts, dog parks and sports fields);
- Collingwood trails network expanded and enhanced;
- Active transportation plan developed;
- Developed the semi-annual community activity guides;
- Public art policy implemented;
- Cultural program investment plan 2012- 2013 developed;
- Received funding to market arts and culture initiatives;
- Facilitated new partnerships to expand community programs and events;
- Natural heritage study and peer review completed;
- Enhanced heritage initiatives and increased list of heritage designated properties.
This shows council’s continued commitment to recreation and culture, and to maintaining and protecting our heritage – both built and natural. With the new arena, year-round aquatic centre, new harbour docks and ownership of our soccer pitches at Fisher Field, this council has made a significant investment in and upgrades to our town’s facilities and services.
What the brochure doesn’t say, is that we also have managed to do this for the last three years with no significant property tax increases, and while paying down our debt by $9 million! We have been a very fiscally responsible council this term.
Also in the brochure is the list of priorities for this year, as identified by council at our recent (Dec. 4) strategic planning session. These are:
- Marketing/economic development strategy/co-location initiative;
- Governance review;
- Strategic financial plan;
- Corporate restructuring review;
- Facility management and development strategy.
Economic development, the brochure notes, was chosen by all of council as the top priority for 2014. But all of them are important to improving this town’s economic, social, cultural and recreational well-being.
Collingwood Council will continue to work for you; to improve and enhance the quality of life in our community; to make this the best place to live in Ontario.