All County, All the Time Since 2010 MAKE THIS YOUR PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY HOME...PAGE!  Monday, September 25th, 2023

Mayor says municipality ready to face 2023 as a “stable, strategic organization”

By Sharon Harrison
“If we have learned anything over the past three years, it is that the unexpected happens quite regularly, and certainly in Prince Edward County,” said Prince Edward County mayor Steve Ferguson, referencing flooding, the pandemic and last week’s holiday snowstorm.

Ferguson welcomed councillors, spouses, dignitaries, staff and members of the public to the Mayor’s New Year’s Levee Sunday afternoon which returned in-person after an absence of three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He noted physician recruitment, affordable and attainable housing, internet and transportation expansion, improved local education opportunities, and external sources of funding are some of the many initiatives requiring council’s attention in the coming year.

“Further deliberations will involve tourism management, child care, our aging infrastructure, water management, and our environmental stewardship of our community,” he said, “and we know we need to do all this in a financially-prudent manner.”

Ferguson also spoke to unprecedented growth the County faces over the next three to five years, and the critical conversations the municipality needs to have now with the public.

“In my mind, the best way to protect that which we may most fear about Prince Edward County is to plan for that future,” he said. “I believe right now is the ideal time to continue those discussions in a broader and deeper way as we turn direction to our County over the next several years: let’s explore all these possibilities together in 2023, and beyond.”

New this year was the location with the levee being held at the Prince Edward Community Centre which provides a larger space allowing for better physical distancing.

The members of council and the mayor were piped into the room by bagpiper Steve Sprigings.

After the mayor’s speech, members of the public had the opportunity to meet and chat with members of council, as well as staff members, in the informal setting.

The mayor introduced the 2022-2026 contingent of County councillors, including those new to the municipal political scene, Sam Grosso (Ameliasburgh ward), Sam Branderhorst (Athol ward), Chris Braney (Hillier ward), Corey Engelsdorfer (Wellington ward), and two returning to council with past experience – Roy Pennell (Ameliasburgh ward) and David Harrison (North Marysburgh).

Re-elected councillors welcomed back included Kate MacNaughton and Phil St-Jean (Picton ward), Brad Nieman and Phil Prinzen (Bloomfield-Hallowell ward), Bill Roberts (Sophiasburgh ward), and John Hirsch (South Marysburgh ward). Janice Maynard (Ameliasburgh ward) was absent due to ill health.

Mayor Ferguson also welcomed elected officials from neighbouring municipalities, including Neil Ellis (Belleville mayor), Jim Harrison (Quinte West mayor), Brian Ostrander (Brighton mayor), Bob Mullin (Hastings County warden and Stirling-Rawdon mayor), councillor Garnet Thompson of Belleville, as well as former County mayor Robert Quaiff and wife Susan.

Ferguson said he is appreciative of the strong working relationships and partnerships that have been formed with neighbouring municipalities and the upper levels of government.

“I look forward to continuing on this path over the next four years.”

While MPP Todd Smith wasn’t expected to attend, he did make an appearance and was just back from somewhere southerly and warm.

“I want to thank Todd for his continued advocacy for Prince Edward County and the region, and Queen’s Park,” said Ferguson.

The mayor said the previous four-year term was rewarding in a lot of ways, but it was interrupted by the unexpected challenges of the flooding and the lingering pandemic.

“A great deal of credit must go to municipal staff who adjusted to changing responsibilities and working conditions, and performed magnificently in the face of unprecedented circumstances.“

The recent blizzard also got a mention where Ferguson noted it tested the skills of the municipality’s operations department.

“We were the most affected municipality in southern Ontario by this storm, and we owe a debt of gratitude to all the road crew personnel who did such an extraordinary job during Christmas break.”

He also thanked Belleville mayor Ellis for providing “two really big pieces of equipment: I don’t know what they were for, but they were big, and they cleared a lot of snow, and it was absolutely fabulous that you able to react and send us some equipment and help us get out of a real jam.”

He said such unanticipated circumstances are going to arise again, whether it is as a result of climate change, or something other.

“We mustn’t panic and we must be prepared and ready to act accordingly.”

Ferguson also spoke to the strategic planning process and how it was rekindled during the previous term of council.

The municipality is working with a firm of consultants to undertake an analysis of municipal and community strengths in areas that require improvement, anticipated challenges, as well as emerging opportunities.

He explained the research has informed five conversations the municipality will have with the community over the next several months.

Those conversations will “foster meaningful public engagement and effective local government, ensuring a thriving inclusive economy in a historic setting, aligning priority infrastructure renewal with responsible fiscal policy, balancing tourism and housing affordability, and thinking global and acting local on climate change”.

He said what is heard and learned from these conversations will help lay the foundations of community plan which will guide the municipality through the next 10 years.

“As a community, we need to figure out solutions that work best for Prince Edward County,” he said. “We need to do this in ways that are very transparent and ensure that you as residents of this community have meaningful opportunities to share your feedback.”

As a council, Ferguson said, the municipality is ready to face 2023 as a “stable, strategic organization able to deliver the quality of service to County residents and businesses require.”

“I want us to build our reputation as a community where we can get things done efficiently and well,” he said. “We mustn’t be here to tell people what they can’t do, the focus must be on finding creative ways to help people achieve their goals and their dreams.“

He added, “We can’t and we won’t do this alone though. Please ask yourself: how can I make this community a better place to live, work, and play?

“There is great potential with this council to a make a difference in our community as we work together as a team: we won’t always agree, but by keeping an open mind and striving to build consensus, I am confident we can maintain the momentum and accomplish our goals over the next four years,” concluded Ferguson.

The strategic planning process update mentioned above is to be presented to council at the Jan. 10 council meeting. Members of the public can attend in person at the Wellington and District Community Centre or watch the live-stream (or the recording afterward) The meeting starts at 7p.m.

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