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County will continue to meet challenges in 2014: Mayor

Councillor Bev Campbell and Mayor Peter Mertens share a laugh during Sunday's levee.

Councillor Bev Campbell and Mayor Peter Mertens share a laugh during Sunday’s levee.

Prince Edward County council welcomes the new year with continued focus on financial matters, improving infrastructure and services while “shielding taxpayers from further increases”.

Mayor Peter Mertens reflected on the past year and plans for 2014 at the County’s New Year’s Levee, Sunday at the Community Centre in Picton.

“It was challenging to come up with a draft budget that stimulated growth, addressed critical repairs to roads and other infrastructure, while saving for a rainy day,” said Mertens. “However, I am pleased to say that we delivered a budget for 2014 that meets these goals and allows us to continue on a path toward long-term financial sustainability and our commitment to rebuilding our reserves.

“In addition to prudent financial management, responsible growth management was a key theme for this year. Planning is essential for responsible growth. Not only does it ensure that our future is bright and change is embraced, but it also ensures that our rich heritage and natural environment is respected.”

Mertens said 2013 was a year of planning for the future while witnessing previously laid plans unfold. He noted the Wellington secondary plan was completed and the Picton secondary plan and the County official plan are scheduled for completion this year.

“Our Age-In-Place concept transformed into a Master Plan in 2013 and supports the need for a seniors’ community that encourages active living and community integration. The Master Plan ensures that the needs of current and future seniors in the County are met,” said Mertens. “With a solid foundation in place, you can look forward to construction of the first development – a 65-unit retirement residence – beginning this year.”

The mayor said the Community Development Strategic Plan was a top priority for 2013. It is designed to provide a road map for community and economic development in the County over the next five years.

Achievements for 2013 at Shire Hall, he noted, included staff training, a centralized customer service kiosk at Shire Hall and extended office hours. A new communications plan includes a new, friendlier website and better use of social media to communicate with residents with more timely information. Staff contributions, he said,  have been substantial to accomplishments.

An asset management plan identified 22 surplus properties that will be sold to generate revenue and stimulate development.

Strides on the environmental front included the introduction of the Green Bin Organics recycling program in support of the County’s long-term waste diversion strategy.

“Diverting organic waste away from landfills saves the County thousands of dollars, reduces the need for additional landfill sites and helps to keep the County green,” said Mertens. “Since the launch of the program in August 2013, nearly 1,500 green bins have made it into County households.

Mertens was also proud that in addition to planning for the Fire Master Plan, a 10-year plan approved in 2012 to retire and replace the Fire Department’s aging fleet was implemented.

“In 2013, we saw four new fire trucks added to the County’s fleet. New trucks will continue to be added in 2014 and beyond, to keep residents and firefighters safe.”

Finally, he noted the designation of Picton Main Street as a Heritage Conservation District was a huge accomplishment in this past year.

“We have a rich culture and history here in the County and the designation ensures that the historical integrity of Picton Main Street is conserved.

“As we continue our commitment to long term financial sustainability we will continue to see some challenges as we attempt to manage and maintain our assets, Mertens said. “In 2011 the value of our assets totalled $320,000 million.  We continue to fall behind in replacing or maintaining these assets. We continue with the Eastern Warden Caucus and Mayors to lobby governments to implement a permanent, predictable and non-competitive infrastructure fund.

“As we move forward, I encourage each and every member of our community to be hopeful in your outlooks for Prince Edward County for this year and beyond. We are surrounded by an unmatched level of talent and community spirit, which makes the work that we do all the more worthwhile.”

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