Council members reflect on 2017

Filed under: Headline,IN THE NEWS |

by Sylene Argent

With 2017 now over, and 2018 already underway, Councillors Sherry Bondy, Steve Bjorkman, Ron Rogers, Larry Snively, and Randy Voakes took a moment to reflect on some of the highlights experienced over the past 12 months. In addition, Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche listed a few items residents can expect to see in 2018.

Councillor Bondy was happy Council undertook a Fire Master Plan. “It was a positive move,” she said, explaining a third-party consultant looked at locations and equipment. This plan will guide Council over the next 10 years.

The uptake of the Community Improvement Plan is something Bondy was pleased to see in 2017. The program was so successful, Council had to find funds to keep up with business demands. To Bondy, last year’s uptake signals that the program is reaching the height of its success.

“This is one of the mechanisms Council can use to assist the downtown core,” she said, adding it helps to level the playing field for business areas within the municipality as Harrow and Colchester have a Chamber of Commerce and Essex Centre has a BIA.

Bondy is proud Essex has two Youth Council Reps on board. This, “is something I think we should celebrate. It is unique in the area.” Getting input from youth is important to Bondy.

Council is currently looking at more succession planning, Bondy said. For instance, the Town will bring in a Deputy CAO. As Council is looking to agree with succession planning, “I think we will see an increase with staff morale,” Bondy said, explaining this will give staff ability to be further trained.

Council made a decision to have a fulltime Economic Development Officer in 2016, and as a result, the Visit Essex website has been launched. Bondy said this is an out of the box idea and user-friendly.

Bondy is happy Council and administration is working on a five-year budget. “Financially, we have a strong financial team. Asset Management levy is a smart move, and we will see more seamless budgets with less shock with equipment repairs or replacement. This makes us more competitive,” she said.

Newly elected Ward 4 rep, Councillor Ron Rogers, said although he was not on Council for the majority of 2017 he still has a few items with which he is pleased, including the success of the “Get your Red and White on” event. Rogers was on the planning committee for this event.

Rogers was also pleased to learn the Town was awarded the Communities in Bloom 5 Bloom Silver award, along the other recognitions this year. Rogers was on the CIB Committee before getting re-elected.

He was also pleased to have the opportunity to run in the by-election and earn a seat at the decision-making table.

Like Councillor Bondy, Councillor Steve Bjorkman is proud of the Five-Year Budget Forecast, which is allowing Council to plan for financial viability of projects. The Town’s newly implemented Asset Management Plan and Reserve allocations allows the funding for future projects.

Another important project in 2017 was the completion of storm and sanitary upgrades in Essex Centre to mitigate the impact of severe weather events on storm and sanitary systems.

Bjorkman was proud to learn the Town earned upwards of five million dollars in grants and special funds to help infrastructure and community services projects get completed.

Attracting new business, and the retention and expansion of current ones, was something he was happy to see in 2017, especially as the former Chairperson of the Essex Centre BIA.

The success of the Essex Summer Concert Series, the Essex Fun Fest, multiple parades, Essex Rocks and Rolls, the Essex Centre BIA’s Fall in Love with our Local Street Party, Harrow and Colchester South Chamber of Commerce’s Canada Day Celebration, the McGregor Steam and Gas Engine Show, the Harrow Fair, and the New Year’s Countdown in the Downtown were just some of the events Bjorkman was happy to see take place in Essex this year.

“Who says there is nothing to do in Essex,” he said.

Improvements to the Colchester Harbor, beach, and park, and the success of the Colchester 225 Celebration were also notable highlights for Bjorkman in 2017, in addition to the completion of the Cypher Systems Greenway and the paved shoulders added to County Road 50 from Colchester Centre to Oxley.

The two Constituent Open Houses in the spring and fall were also great events, Bjorkman said, which allowed residents to voice their concerns directly to members of Council and administration.

Unfortunately, the ward restructuring did not happen, Bjorkman noted, “But, it was important that we made the decision to elect the Deputy Mayor at large as that person will represent our interests to County Council.”

Bjorkman recognized the hard work the Town’s staff puts in to take care of the day-to-day business, in addition to helping ensure the extras, such as the events, are held.

Councillor Larry Snively was happy to see the rezoning of the property at Highway #3 and County Road 8 to light industrial. This is something that he is proud the Town has worked towards. The rezoning should allow for industrial growth on that property that has been sitting undeveloped for a long time.

The CIP program has been a wonderful way to encourage improvements made to the facades of businesses, which contributes to the beautification of the downtown cores, Snively added.

There have been extensive drainage improvements, Snively said. Infrastructural improvements like this contribute to making the community a healthy and viable place. In addition, he was happy to see the new Sellick plant and industrial park off Roseborough Avenue in Harrow.

Snively was also happy to see long-time Town employee Donna Hunter get promoted to CAO for the Town of Essex.

He added that the many improvements made to Colchester Harbour over the last year have been fantastic. The harbour was the setting for the successful Colchester 225 celebration last summer.  It is hoped events and festivals will be hosted in the harbour and park area on an annual basis in the future.

As far as town goes, Councillor Randy Voakes said its business seems to be on-course. “We are kind of not stagnant and there are no issues that are controversial or heated. It is just business as usual.”
Voakes was particularly happy with the second installment of the Essex Rocks and Rolls Car and Motorcycle Cruise in, which took place in the municipal lot adjacent to the Heritage Gardens Park last May. He is one of the organizers of the event, but remembers that event came with a bit of controversy when he approached Council for a larger funding pot to host the event and he did not get the additional funds he wanted.

The Community Improvement Plan is a program Voakes is particularly happy to offer to businesses in Essex, Harrow, and Colchester Centres. He is always glad to see the uptake and the improvements made to those downtown cores because of this municipal-grant funding mechanism.

Looking ahead, Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche said a new splash pad is coming into Essex Centre. Harrow and Colchester residents are already enjoying their splash pads. To plan for the Essex Centre splash pad, money had been set aside in reserves for the past few years. It will be installed on the grounds of the Essex Centre Sports Complex, where the old Kinsmen pool used to be located.

Meloche is excited the Town and the Essex Centre BIA will install a new pavilion to the Heritage Gardens Park. He said a lot of excitement will be felt once the pavilion is in place for the spring and summer.
Meloche said there will be continued improvements in the Colchester Harbour area. This will help build on tourism. Better access to the beach is planned this year.

He is also excited to see development at the Essex Centre South Talbot and Hwy 3 area.

The Town is currently talking with Amherstburg to come to a solution with flooding in the McGregor area.

They have had reports done on sewage and storm water, so both teams can work on a solution on the Amherstburg sewer line, he said.

He is also looking forward to celebrating Co-An Park’s 40th anniversary this year.

Meloche is also looking forward to continued improvement in downtown cores with CIP programs, resulting in business facade improvements. The CIP program has come a long way in the four years it has been available to residents, he said. He is hoping this year will be the best year of all.