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Full text of West Lincoln Mayor Cheryl Ganann’s State of the Township address

 

Town of West Lincoln

(Editor’s Note: Sound issues made it difficult for some to hear all of West Lincoln Mayor Cheryl Ganann’s speech at the State of West Lincoln lunch on May 18. Below is the full text of her presentation.)

 

Good Afternoon,

       So it is May 18th and we all now know that the results of the 2022 Election in West Lincoln were extremely decisive! I was happy! A great many members of the community stated that they were happy!

Newspapers reported the news of a new Mayor in West Lincoln! And… additionally reported was the fact that no new members to Council were elected – as Councillors Bradaric, Reilly, Trombetta and Rehner were re-elected and Councillors Chechalk and Bell were back after only one term away. The good news was that All had experience to bring to the table! And so again –  West Lincoln residents seemed happy to know that we, as an experienced Council were all ready, willing and able to begin to work on their behalf.

Since that exciting beginning, my world has changed a great deal! I guess that is in itself a bit of an under-statement! I want to begin this afternoon with giving you a glimpse into my life during my “first 6 Months on the job”.

Everywhere, and I do mean absolutely everywhere that I have been in the last 6 months, both inside and outside of our township,  someone (and usually more than one someone) has asked  “How are things going?” “Are you enjoying being Mayor?” “ How’s the new job?” “Are you sorry that you decided to run for Mayor? “ “ How crazy busy is it? “ How many hours does it take?” “ Do you ever have time to…? And so on…

I think that you get the idea! 

The answer to all of the questions is YES…. and NO. It is an honour to represent the residents of West Lincoln as Mayor and yes, I do enjoy it….most days,  but certainly not every day! Some days are particularly busy and maybe even somewhat crazy and most days are unpredictable at the very least!

I can assure you that things at the Township are running smoothly, in fact very smoothly – most of the time! ….Our staff is great and they work well together, but the Operations of the Township are run by a very lean team! Several wear a variety of hats and cover well for one another when illness, scheduled holiday periods and even meetings that run on longer than expected become part of the equation in the day to day service delivery to our residents. West Lincoln is always looking for reasonably priced opportunities to streamline services for residents and also to allow residents to more easily connect with the appropriate staff person. 

The implementation of a new way for residents to have their concerns addressed as soon as possible is the “Report a Concern” tab that has been added to the Township website. This allows for residents to immediately send in a concern report including the ability to upload photos if such photos would help to enrich or explain their concern. This is checked by a staff member and given to the appropriate department to follow up with a response in a timely manner. This opportunity for members of the public is a huge improvement and I find that I spend a fair bit of time explaining to residents how this process works. There are days when I wish that there was a button or tab for me to push with that very appropriate response –  pre-recorded! I look forward to the day when word of “Report a Concern” has spread sufficiently enough, that residents begin to realize that there is no need to “call the Mayor” when they feel the need for immediate action on an issue! I sincerely thank my Council colleagues for helping to inform residents about this direct and appropriate way to reach out to staff.  

The improvements that have been made to up-date both our web-site and our phone system allow for a much smoother connection between residents and staff  The use of MyWESTLINCOLN  that allows for on-line viewing and managing of property tax and utility bill payments at any time and from any location has proven to be extremely beneficial to residents. Residents from all wards have also proclaimed their support for the increased transparency and degree of efficiency provided regarding council decisions, through our “ Council News” which is readily available on our website or by subscription directly delivered to your personal or business INBOX at the end of each month.

As for many other lower tier municipalities and contrary to what readers of the Hamilton Spectator or the St. Catharines Standard might assume, our Councillors do not have office space at the Township nor do they have staff working directly for them. – This is often a huge surprise to many residents and sometimes also to those who choose to run for Council for the first time. Residents generally have no idea that when they call their local West Lincoln councillor they may reach them in their home office or while they are walking their dog or perhaps even when they are shopping in Costco or at Giant Tiger!  As Mayor however, I do have a space allocated to me and my door is always open to members of council, members from the business community or West Lincoln residents who stop by to discuss issues relating to the community. Jacquie is always prompt to have coffee or tea at the ready! 

Residents who drop by are often surprised that only a quick check to make certain that I am actually in the office and not in a meeting, generally means that I am available to meet with them and to listen to their concerns or issues.

While in the office, I do my best to be friendly and supportive,  but strive not to get in the way of the daily work being performed by staff. I recognize and accept that I am not part of the staff, but rather, the head of Council. Although seeming to be somewhat blurred at times, those very distinct roles are clearly defined in the Municipal Act. Council is responsible for policy creation and approvals,  but it is staff who fulfill those policies as they do the day to day work of responding to the service levels required by residents. It is our CAO, Bev Hendry, who oversees all levels of staffing in the Municipality. My role is to liaise with our CAO to maintain continuity and connection, between the work of Council and that of Staff. Some days, it is a little bit of a balancing act for both of us, a fact to which, I am certain Bev would attest.

Am I ever sorry? That too,  is a yes and no answer. When I have been able to connect with an agency or the correct local or Regional department to find help for a resident; represent West Lincoln at the Region in such things, as our Urban Boundary Expansion Plan; proudly raise a flag for various social justice causes such as Meals on Wheels, Ending Violence Against Women, or Every Child Matters, it is a most definite “NO”-  I am not sorry!  In fact I am proud to be Mayor of West Lincoln! When however, when I have been frustrated with some aspects of the job, for example, during the early stages of the Regional Budget process this past January,  that answer would be different. In fact, one night after Budget meeting number 6, I remember as I came home after an extremely late meeting,  telling John that “ If there was one part of the job that I would,  if I could, divorce, it would be the Region!” Believe me, after being married since the age of 20 to the same man, that word “divorce” was not either thought of, or used lightly!  

That negative thought was of course, the result of feeling extremely overwhelmed by the Regional Budget process, which was entirely brand new to me and was certainly not influenced by the people involved in that process!

I do sincerely apologize to my Regional Council colleagues for that hasty thought as I quickly add, just how extremely helpful and supportive, the other Regional Mayors, fellow Regional Councillors and Regional Staff at all levels and in all departments, have been throughout this first 6 months and I sincerely thank them for that.

 Learning about the ins and outs of the workings of the Region has most definitely presented a steeper learning curve than becoming Mayor of West Lincoln has done. 

As for the number of hours, I am still trying to figure that out! I am, however, starting to see a little light at the end of the tunnel!

I am hopeful that as I continue to speak this afternoon, that it will become clear that the overarching theme of my words today, will convey to each of you –  as resident, business owner, Chamber member, fellow or neighbouring elected official, that as Mayor, my,  and that of the entire 2022-2026 West Lincoln Council’s ultimate goals are relationship-building and strengthening.   As we, as elected officials and our Municipal staff ,work cooperatively, with our Business community and our not-for -profits, we aim to deliver to our residents, a healthy, vibrant and prosperous community –  a community in which we will feel proud to live, work and call home to the outside world, knowing full well that all are watching our decision-making, as we set out on the path to appropriately guide the growth of our community.

No man is an island” is an old catch-phrase once used to illustrate the need for interconnectedness. In 2023 the relationships between residents and other residents, Council and Staff, Staff and Residents, Council and the West Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber and local businesses, local businesses one with another, local municipal government with our neighbouring municipalities and with the Region, the Region with the Province and the Province with the Federal level of government are all vitally important.  We are all connected in ways both large and small and we certainly need to continue to make and maintain those relationships at all levels. 

Phrases such as  “Keep the lines of communication open!” or “Maintain contacts” “Close no doors!”resonate with us.  None of us, especially in this modern era can stand alone successfully, especially not West Lincoln, as we commit to maintaining a sense of community, while we, a relatively small community with a large geographical area,  are poised for growth.

As Mayor, a main priority since taking office has been to look for, deliver  and  support, ways to bring the community together. Being shut-down during Covid did not work well for our engaged and socially active community! We love to get together and celebrate. We love the small town, urban/rural feel of West Lincoln! 

Within days after the election, we began this re-connecting task with the Chamber of Commerce Business Awards. This was an enthusiastic, hard-working committee with which I had the honour of being involved leading up to and throughout the campaign period. This dedicated work resulted in an extremely successful, well-attended event and for me, represented the start of our post-election re-engaging of our community in attending “in-person” events. 

That event was quickly followed a few weeks later by the Kiwanis-led Community Christmas-Tree Lighting called “West Lincoln Shines”.

This Community holiday gathering was done in partnership with the Township of West Lincoln, The Smithville Christian High School, The Knights of Columbus, Foodland, DesJardins Insurance and Stanpac. Hundreds of residents enjoyed some community carol-singing, hot chocolate , hot dogs, candy canes and of course the countdown to the lighting of the Community Christmas Tree at our Community Centre. I am a huge fan of partnerships – working together to improve our community is extremely important to me personally and to this West Lincoln Council, as a whole. 

The tree-lighting was followed only a few days later by our extremely successful Christmas Parade where hundreds upon hundreds of excited residents enjoyed coming together to celebrate the season. Again, it was strong partnerships between the Council-appointed volunteer parade committee, Township Staff, several local businesses, not-for-profit groups, local churches and schools  and a huge number of volunteers that created this successful event enjoyed by so many…residents and non-residents, of all ages!

Staff have continued to provide opportunities for community gathering including such events as the Christmas Market, the Staff and Volunteer Appreciation Dinner, Family Day activities, the recent Community Easter Egg Hunt, the Easter Market ….       to name a few examples.

The Township has continued to be involved in and supportive of, the West Lincoln Chamber of Commerce activities including Business After 5 events, the Chamber AGM  and various Breakfast events. Our partnership with our local businesses through our involvement with the West Lincoln Chamber of Commerce is certainly valued greatly.

On a broader scale, during these past months, our CAO Bev Hendry, Regional Councillor Witteveen, Councillors Chechalk and Reilly and I attended the ROMA Conference in January and were able to make delegations on behalf of our municipality to various Provincial Ministers on topics of concern including the new Generation-911 system being used by our Fire Department and to delegate for support for the costs associated with our being among the front-runner communities choosing to engage in this new technology initiative. We  have plans for similar delegations in August /23 when several of us will attend the Association of Municipalities of Ontario Conference in London. Such occasions provide a valuable opportunity to meet face to face with Provincial Ministers, so as to be able to discuss local issues of significance.

At that same January ROMA Conference I had the honour of being part of a 6 member panel with our Director of Finance/Treasurer, Donna DeFilippis, on the topic of Asset Management – a vital issue for all municipalities as we all face aging infrastructure issues and the ever-increasing costs of replacement. It was a well attended and well-received conference option and was attended by approximately 150 participants from throughout the Province. 

As a follow up West Lincoln had the honour of hosting in our Library Programme Room,  just last month,  officials from AMO and Asset Management Ontario who provided an inspirational speaker and conducted sessions for both staff and elected officials from many neighbouring communities, related to the topic of Asset Management.

I was also pleased to represent West Lincoln, as mayors from various municipalities that have aging and/or decommissioned gas wells, were invited to Simcoe for the morning of March 31st,  to meet with Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Graydon Smith and several members of his staff. The goals were to both learn about potential issues with decommissioned wells and to also provide input into what his Ministry could and should do, to support local municipalities, especially smaller staffed municipalities such as West Lincoln, as we deal with future problems in this area. The importance of West Lincoln taking part in such Ministry-driven sessions cannot be overstated!

Also of significance to our community was an invitation that I received on the last Thursday in February,  to attend some unnamed business  in West Lincoln, for an important announcement the following Monday. It was in fact so secretive and contained so little concrete information, that although it was claiming to be from the Canadian Government, I actually sent it to our IT department to check it out as being a scam before I dared to press RSVP. As it turned out, it was in fact true and I was honoured to attend the gathering at Stanpac when our Federal Economic Development Minister,  Filomena Tassi announced the awarding of $5 million Federal Development funds to Stanpac for their innovative green approach to packaging and the jobs that would be associated with that plan. Stanpac has been and continues to be a generous and supportive community partner and it was my pleasure to witness them being rewarded in this way.

West Lincoln has, as we all realize, been tasked with finding a process to establish appropriate growth over the next 30 year period. In a proactive manner  our Planning Staff set out to begin a process that officially began in October of 2019 and as such provided the basis for Official Plan Amendments 62 and 63. OPA 62 which sets urban boundaries and growth targets and OPA 63 which sets land use designations and policies were informed by Watershed and Waste-Water Master Plans, the Transportation Master Plan and the Sub-Watershed Plan, through an integrated Environmental Assessment process.

These OPAs, both of which align with the Region’s Official Plan, meet Regional growth targets in a logical, phased manner and at a sustainable growth rate acceptable to and endorsed by the Township of West Lincoln Council.

These plans passed unanimously at the Regional Planning and Economic Development Committee Meeting on April 5, 2023 and then again at Regional Council on April 21, 2023.

Going back to my overall theme of relationship-building, I would like to point out that these OPAs are the product of a comprehensive, collaborative and consultative process that involved the West Lincoln staff, Regional staff from multiple departments, NPCA staff, members and consultants associated with the Landowners and many residents from the Township of West Lincoln to create a Smithville Community Plan that will guide and shape the community’s growth over a 30 year time period. An estimated 1000 people including residents had some input into this process!

This was an extremely forward-thinking approach, but the work that was done collaboratively and cooperatively by so many parties, implements Regional growth allocations and a) ensures a complete community that will include infill and intensification, b) includes a strong environmental protection and reforestation lens and C) also provides an agricultural-land protection focus. 

Speaking of Regional involvement, I also want to say how pleased I have been as I have travelled Regional Rd. 20 west out of Smithville and toward our border with Hamilton to see the great number of culverts that have been replaced. Now I do realize that culverts are not usually thought of as being very interesting or exciting! That is most certainly true unless you are the farmer or property-owner who has experienced a great deal of flooding on your property and will therefore benefit from this Regional drainage work. Property-ownership certainly changes one’s thinking regarding the importance of this work!

As members of Council,  we have been very pleased to be able to see growth in our current Industrial Park area with additions to: Stanpac, Big Country Raw and the Niagara Christian Gleaners, all in various stages of progress on their additions and we are also pleased to,welcome Manchester Pet Supplies and additionally, the Highland Market sausage plant to West Lincoln.

 We are pleased to congratulate Niagara Pallets on their expansion that is finally coming along well on Regional Road 20 and also await the opening of the former Coop “N Scoop which will soon be opening under a new name ‘ Creekside Country Market”.  I recently had, through a Chamber of Commerce, Business after 5 event, the pleasure of also touring the new addition to Bert Vis Flooring on St. Catharine St. that is now allowing them the ability to better serve contractors with their needs. 

We are pleased that in addition to our many available Pizza places and (of course the standing joke is, “How many Pizzerias does one small town need? I want to add that this is not really a huge issue in West Lincoln,  as everyone has their own favourite style of pizza and as a result, all 5 businesses are well-supported!),   the good news is that we now are also able to purchase delicious Lebanese and Mexican food locally.  We are enjoying the fact that the Dog Got It street food business that has been enjoyed by residents and also those passing through town, situated at the CIBC corner during lovely weather,  has now been enhanced  by the addition of the concession booth in our Community Centre. As an aside – Ken has great, freshly brewed coffee on the west side of town without the lineups that are found elsewhere in town. Sometimes it is indeed those little things like a great cup of coffee in a timely manner that are important.

As a Council and with our staff, we eagerly await the Grand Opening of Fire Station #2 in Caistor Centre. This is a project that was on the books for far too long, with the Celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the formation of that second Firefighters group already having passed. It is a wonderful new asset for our community and assures improved emergency protection for members of our rural community in particular. The imminent arrival of a brand new tanker, is a much needed addition to our Fire Service as well and we are pleased that after a building and equipping period of 2 years, it is  finally to be delivered.

It is exciting to realize that in our near future we will have both Marz Homes’ “Thrive” and Peter Budd’s “ Station Meadows West” poised to begin to add welcome and much-needed housing of all types, to our community and it is important to add that both of those development sites are currently situated within our existing urban boundary! Additionally, also within the current urban boundary, we have several smaller development opportunities ready to occur! As reported in our most recent inventory for prospective housing, we currently have 833 new home opportunities in the town of Smithville as well as others within the newer hamlet expansion areas. We are also aware of initial  planning being done for a new building to accompany Legion Villas 1 and 2.

The opportunities for growth of homes and businesses in our community,  in all sizes and shapes is recognized by our Council as being vital to the continued prosperity of West Lincoln.

So how does this Council plan to foster such growth-related opportunities?

What are our plans for attracting businesses and residents to our municipality?

Going back a little, sometime around the end of January, the topic of  one-on-one interviews with a consultant Suzanne Gibson regarding Strategic Planning came into focus. I am certain that most of the people in this room have at some time or another, been involved in a Strategic Planning process or two or three! 

It tends to be an exciting time for some, but it strikes terror in the hearts of others, at just the thought of having to go through the process at all. That, I guess, is somewhat understandable as it makes us all examine and try to articulate our priorities for the future of our municipality. 

Interviews were eventually scheduled and held with all members of Council, all senior staff, close to 20 members of our business community including our Chamber of Commerce Executive Director and additionally, as a result of trying to reach out to residents for input, close to 100 responses were also received from members of the public.

 So why do a strategic plan ? Does it really change anything? 

Practically speaking, A Strategic Plan is the overarching plan that:

  1. Guides Council Decision-making over the lifespan of the plan  – so, in Layman’s terms,  it becomes the measuring stick, so to speak, against which the things that inevitably come up over a 4 year period of time, can be compared, evaluated and either acted upon or dismissed. It prevents the back and forth dithering type of decision- making, that often proves wasteful in both time and money.
  2. Informs corporate plans for the municipality and thus the annual budget. Simply, It allows for long-range financial planning over the term of council, as budgets are proposed by departments, compiled, streamlined and presented by Treasury and then tweaked and eventually approved by Council.

      3. It connects staff’s day to day work to the Municipality’s overall strategic direction set and endorsed by Council. Again, as a simple explanation, Council has set a direction for their term thus allowing staff to both formulate their supportive work plans and to be prepared for all grant opportunities that may arise both at the Provincial and Federal levels.

      4. It builds unity and collaboration within a Council and between Council and staff,  as all work towards a collective vision for the municipality. Finally, again in layman’s terms: This shared vision allows for a small, growing yet currently lean and efficient municipality such as West Lincoln, to be prepared to recognize and undertake “ the right project, at the right time,  for the right price”.

So to bluntly answer, those questions regarding Strategic Planning –  Is it Important? It most certainly is!

Does it really change anything? It most certainly does!

It allows for us, as members of Council,  to be able to articulate clearly to our residents, the decisions that we have made together,  about the direction that we have collectively decided to go, as we spend taxpayer dollars to provide the appropriate services at the desired level, as we lead our community forward, in a fiscally-responsible, effective and yet kind, caring manner.

So, how was that for a run-on sentence? Provided by a retired educator, no less!

Lincoln Mayor Sandra Easton often refers to her nursing background as a basis for many of her comments and aptly so! She manages to speak both eloquently and authoritatively about the social determinants of health, as they relate to community building and appropriate financial decision-making, both in her own community and at the Regional level. 

 As a former educator, I have managed to produce the very worst run-on sentence ever! Please don’t connect my terrible run-on sentence to my former abilities as an educator!! Although I did manage to teach successfully for 34 years, that sentence would certainly not attain a passing grade at any level!

I think that a simpler way might be to say that:  We, as members of the West Lincoln Council  will make decisions moving forward using our heads AND our hearts, but , and this is a very important BUT, the direction we go will be guided by our Strategic Plan….so yes, a strategic plan is important for West Lincoln! 

The exercise in Strategic Planning in a nutshell, allows us the opportunity to thoroughly discuss the reasons that we decided to run and what we hope to see for our community and to reach some sort of consensus as to our shared ideas moving forward,  always keeping in mind, of course,  the valued input from other community stakeholders in our local business community, our local not-for-profits and our residents.

 Today, what I am providing is actually a bit of a sneak preview , as the Strategic Plan for this Term, and beyond, has not yet been formally completed nor adopted by Council. We had our first planning session on Wednesday, April 26th and the second followed on May 1st.

Both were extremely productive sessions with some highly animated discussions as would be expected of this Council, if you have ever elected to attend in person or watch a live-streamed meeting!

 The importance of the 6 pillars of the Plan remain similar to those in the 2018 plan, as might be expected of an experienced Council : 

1.Strong Transportation Connections

    At a local level, we certainly support transportation infrastructure that is safe for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians and networks that are well-maintained and connected within our community, with other Niagara communities and with major highways. We see the need to continue to work with our neighbouring municipalities to advocate for the Escarpment crossing as a way to better connect West Lincoln to major provincial highways. We need to continue to work with the Region of Niagara to complete a Regional Road 20 bypass to reduce truck traffic in downtown Smithville and improve connections to our Industrial land. On all roads, both rural and urban, we need to investigate traffic control measures available to us to create safer roads for all.

Finally under this pillar, we need to expand our access to the Niagara on-demand Transit so that residents in all parts of our large geographic area are able to travel to other West Lincoln locations as well as to locations outside of our municipality.

2.Support for Business and Employment opportunities for Residents

We must continue to look for further opportunities to create a“business-friendly” atmosphere. We have felt for some time the need to streamline the Township processes for building and development to ensure that West Lincoln is seen as a good place to do business and that is particularly true in light of the Provincial mandates related to Bill 23 that are being placed upon us. We must continue to advocate for increased investment in rural broadband to ensure that residents and businesses have access to reliable high-speed internet, but also keep in mind that we mustn’t assume that older areas of the urban area already have such services and advocate for up-grades for those residents as well. As we continue to investigate the infrastructure needs of our employment areas such as water and sewer services, we must continue to advocate for improvement in utility services as well that support both growth in existing businesses and create additional “shovel-ready” sites. It becomes imperative that we as a municipality find a future path,  for making quicker, more concise decisions regarding our future.

3. Strategic Responsible Growth

The goal in this area remains much the same in that we aim to grow strategically and responsibly, welcoming new residents and businesses while respecting the heritage and rural character of our municipality that people value. We aim to facilitate growth that builds complete communities and provides commercial, industrial and residential balance. We encourage a variety of housing options for the community that are appropriate, attainable and affordable. Although West Lincoln has a large number of single residential lots, we acknowledge the need for apartments in our future,  including rental units where possible. As we move forward we must work within a climate of respect, collaboration and co-operation as we deal with all partners involved in the future growth of our municipality.

4.Local Attractions

         West Lincoln has amenities, programs and services that bring the community together to celebrate our small town and rural way of life. We recognize the need to provide an increasingly larger number of programmes  through the use of our community centres and our libraries so as to meet the community’s needs. We recognize the need to reinvigorate our community halls, particularly in the Wellandport and Caistor areas through facility up-grades where necessary and form new partnerships to ensure greater access to community programming and events. We aim to improve, over time, our local parks and trails and are supportive of the new lighting at the ball diamonds at the Leisureplex and the addition of a good-sized pavilion as improvements important to that area to be enjoyed by both residents and visitors alike. We of course, continue to support our Farmer’s Market which has been moved to a new day – Tuesday, in the hopes of increasing attendance at and support for our local farmers and other vendors.

5. Community Health and Safety 

 In partnership with the Region, we continue to advocate for physician recruitment to the Niagara Region and West Lincoln in particular. We continue to work with other West Niagara municipalities  to ensure adequate financing of our proportional support  for both the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital and McNally House Hospice as each serves our residents well,now, in their existing facilities and will continue to do into the future ,as their new builds are completed. We are appreciative of the number of pharmacies available in West LIncoln and are supportive of the fact that one of those options now provides walk-in services for those currently without a family doctor.

In terms of Fire safety, as already mentioned, we look forward to the Grand Opening of Fire Station # 2  and welcome the delivery of a new Tanker to replace a more than 20 year old vehicle.

It is our goal to make improvements to pedestrian and cyclist safety by introducing increased traffic-calming measures and trail networks near schools, and community facilities, in particular. In conjunction with the Niagara Region, we will soon have speed cameras in the Community Safety zones along Townline Road and also on Station Street, which will hopefully slow down traffic at least on those busy roads. We have already had a meeting with the Division 8 Staff Sergeant regarding an increased police presence in West Lincoln and we will continue to meet regularly with him, as we advocate for this improvement for our community.

6. Efficient, Fiscally Responsible Operations

The Township of West Lincoln is, as I have already mentioned, a lean organization that uses sustainable, innovative approaches and partnerships to streamline processes, deliver services and manage infrastructure assets.

Adherence to and funding support through reserves to support our asset management plan continues to be prioritized based on evidence-based data while at the same time, balancing service levels, with fiscal sustainability. 

The importance of maintaining our current assets cannot be understated and we must make future decisions taking into account such factors as the degree of risk of future failures, costs of intervention measures and the appropriate timing of such and future replacement costs. West Lincoln currently has a Capital Asset replacement value of just over $385.4 million. Currently due to the diligence of our staff approximately 90% of our assets have been assessed to be in fair or better condition and continue to be proactively addressed.

Continued implementation of new software and programmes to modernize service delivery to our residents as appropriate are also planned.

Although we are all obviously aware of the importance of Agriculture in a community such as ours, and have always tried to think in terms of its importance in all that we decide, a decision was made to put added value on this aspect of Agriculture as we move forward.

Looking more carefully at Agriculture will provide  a new focus for investigating the possibility of attracting future Agriculturally-based and Agri-tourism businesses to West Lincoln and that is exciting to ponder.

We will continue to support Agriculture as being West Lincoln’s largest sector but will look for new ways to enhance and intensify growth as we spotlight its importance to our future growth and prosperity.

So looking down the road, as we strive to navigate the uncertainties of our future in this climate of change, it is our intent to have West Lincoln – Thrive. It is no longer about where we were yesterday, but rather where we are going and how we will get there. It is about maximizing our relationships with others  as we look for different ways to move forward. It is about collaboration between internal and external partnerships and the sharing of ideas and solutions that will help us to move in an appropriate direction to both look to our future while maintaining our roots. To this group gathered today, all stakeholders in the future of West Lincoln, II re-state the age old phrase that “together, we are more than the sum of our parts! I look forward with a high degree of optimism to the future of West Lincoln.

Circling back, as I conclude my remarks today, I would like to take this opportunity to revisit the beginning of the relationship-building that I have been speaking about throughout this.presentation. Starting with Council to staff and Council and Staff, to residents, local businesses and local businesses to each other,  as we together continue to build and strengthen our sense of community, I would like to inform you of 3 new upcoming opportunities for connecting that are in the works. 

The first is that a small Committee of Council, made up of Councillors Chechalk, Reilly and myself, ably supported by Executive Assistant, Jacquie Thrower have been working for the past few months on resurrecting a Citizen Recognition programme that has been missing in West Lincoln for decades. We have taken a suggestion made by a young boy last Spring and now proudly will offer a Citizen Recognition Programme which includes various age groups. The details will be out shortly with the nomination period starting on July 1, 2023 with nomination forms being made available at our Canada Day activities and will remain open until September 8, 2023 which is the week following our local Agricultural Fall Fair. A Celebration and Awards event is planned to take place on October 26, 2023.  We are hopeful that by following the Chamber’s planned Business Awards event on October 19, 2023  that together we will elevate and enhance the importance of recognition of worthwhile contributions in various forms, to our community as a whole.

 Second- West Lincoln now has a small yet engaged Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee and I am pleased to announce that West Lincoln will for the 2023 Holiday Season, have a corporate Christmas Card designed by the members of the Mayor’s Youth Committee. This, although already happening in other communities, is a first for West Lincoln. These students have already begun planning and sketching and are excited to be in charge of this project. They realize that they are on a timeline working backwards from the deadline required for the eventual mailing out of these cards and have readily accepted the responsibility for reaching their target dates. The results will be a compilation of their ideas regarding artwork and messaging, that I look forward to sharing with all of you

And finally, keeping in the spirit of connecting the Community together,

 West Lincoln for the first time in many years, if ever, will host a Mayor and Council levee at our Community Centre on the afternoon of Saturday, January 6, 2024. Free public skating, hot chocolate, coffee, Timbits, some Greek mini-pastries and Olliebollen will be served thus reflecting some familiar treats in our existing community. It is a tradition that we hope will continue and who knows, as we become more culturally diverse, what types of treat options might be included in the future? It is an exciting proposition and one that I am looking forward to with great enthusiasm. 

In conclusion this afternoon, on behalf of the West Lincoln Council, I want to assure you all that we in West Lincoln are doing our very best to deliver to our community the services that they need, at a cost that they can afford. We, too, live in West Lincoln. We love the small town feel and charm of our community and aim to maintain that context. We love the open spaces and community gathering spots and it is our desire to continue to protect our natural environment as we make decisions for a sustainable future. We aim to wear the mantra of diversity, inclusion and respect for all. We are therefore striving to ensure that now and well into the future, West Lincoln is a desirable, accessible, prosperous and inviting community for everyone. We, as a Council work to serve all: 

– those who have lived their entire lives  in West Lincoln

–  those who have already, whether decades ago or relatively recently, chosen  to live in West Lincoln 

And as well  those who will,  in future years choose to call West Lincoln their home.  

So…I now say, Thank you to all who have supported me during these first 6 months of office.

And – Thank you to all of you for being here this afternoon.

And finally – Thank you for your support of  the West Lincoln Chamber of Commerce as they celebrate their 75th year Anniversary!

 

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