All County, All the Time Since 2010 MAKE THIS YOUR PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY HOME...PAGE!  Saturday, November 28th, 2020

New mayor and council usher in new year of collaboration and commitment

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
Newly inaugurated Prince Edward County Mayor Steve Ferguson, the new council and municipal staff greeted and chatted with local residents at the annual Mayor’s Levee, Sunday at Macaulay Church in Picton.

Mayor Ferguson outlined goals and objectives for his new council for 2019 – with an emphasis on collaboration to face challenges.

Pipe Major Josh McFarlane

The official welcome message was delayed due to the large volume of people filing in for the levee. Official welcoming proceedings began as the mayor and council members re-entered the church led by Pipe Major Josh McFarlane, who played an uplifting rendition of Auld Lang Syne which brought continuing applause from an appreciative audience.

“We are all a little overwhelmed by the turnout, I must confess,” Mayor Ferguson said.

Special guests included Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith and MP Neil Ellis, councillor Sean Kelly who was representing Belleville mayor Mitch Panciuk, Quinte West mayor Jim Harrison and several members of The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment, including Major Marc Gallant. Other familiar faces included former PEC mayor Robert Quaiff and wife Susan and County Fire Chief Scott Manlow.

The mayor introduced each councillor with a few words: Picton Ward 1 councillors Kate MacNaughton and Phil St-Jean; Bloomfield-Hallowell Ward 2 councillors Brad Nieman and Phil Prinzen; Wellington Ward 3 councillor Mike Harper; Ameliasburgh Ward 4 councillors Janice Maynard, Andreas Bolik and Bill McMahon, Sophiasburgh Ward 6 councillor Bill Roberts; Hillier Ward 7 councillor Ernie Margetson; North Marysburgh Ward 8 councillor Stewart Bailey and South Marysburgh Ward 9 councillor John Hirsch. Athol Ward 5 council member Jamie Forrester was not present.

Mayor Steve Ferguson

“I think you can understand why I am excited to work with these talented individuals,” said Ferguson. “There is a lot of capability that will be sitting around the horseshoe for four years and each person offers his or her own unique perspective and skill set. Many, like me, are from away originally, but whether we are from the County or choose to live here, we all will be respectful of the reasons that we are here. What unites us is a desire to do our absolute best to improve this community we call home.”

He acknowledged the previous council whose cumulative experience to the community amounted to over one hundred years and thanked former mayor Robert Quaiff for his leadership.

“He not only set the bar high for the previous council, but his advice and counsel was always concise, precise and always welcome.”

“We have only officially been on the job for just over a month and we have already come together as a team,” the mayor said, adding that in-depth orientation sessions by CAO James Hepburn and key departments have been conducted, enabling the new council to hit the ground running.

Bay of Quinte MP Neil Ellis with PEC Mayor Steve Ferguson.

“Learning about how the County works and the complexity of the issues reinforced the need to focus on the County from coast-to-coast as a whole,” he said. “As a council, we will not waver in our desire to move beyond ward versus ward, the north versus the south. 2019 marks a fresh start and a chance to put those days behind us. To that end, a full-day bus tour undertaken during orientation to most of the wards in the County was informative and revealing in that it allowed us to see first-hand some of our assets, understand our challenges and view some of our heritage assets as well.”

Ferguson spoke to living in a generous and caring community, noting joy he felt meeting volunteers and attending Christmas day dinners in the community and feeling grateful for the men and women at the police, fire and hospital.

MPP Todd Smith in discussion with Wellington councillor Mike Harper.

“These selfless volunteers and employees exemplify what makes Prince Edward County such a special community, and why I’m proud to be its mayor,” he said.

He also noted volunteers who created the Prince Edward County Food Hub and those who tirelessly refurbished the Millennium Trail, the work of many others such a the Women’s Institute members.

“Volunteers working together with council and municipal staff to develop creative ways to realize their goals and dreams, that’s what it is all about,” he said, noting that over the next four years the municipality will work with its many partners to enhance and build options for residents, visitors and employers.

He spoke of challenges County residents face.

“Getting around our geographically vast community–all 1,050 square kilometres of it–is just one obstacle some Prince Edward County residents face. The lack of affordable and attainable housing has emerged as perhaps the most pressing issue. Providing sufficient affordable housing is increasingly challenging for our municipality and many others across the province.”

Short-term accommodations, affordable and attainable housing, cannabis sales in the County and the municipal budget are also important issues facing the new council.

“As a council, we want to encourage informed discussion within the community in the coming years, in other words, to work collaboratively. Working with staff, we will strive to communicate the facts, the challenges, and the issues in order to keep us focused on the matters before us and to avoid divisive and unproductive debate. We need residents to understand the complex challenges and the tough choices we face as a result.”

Past mayor Robert Quaiff with the County’s new mayor Steve Ferguson.

The previous council made it a priority to promote fiscal stability which will continue under this new council, said Ferguson.

“We take seriously the trust residents placed in us to manage their tax dollars in a prudent and responsible manner, and remember that each of us up here pays taxes too. Like the households in our community, we understand the municipality must live within its means and at the same time we must maintain nearly 1,100 kilometres of roads, several water and waste water treatment facilities and many other municipal assets. Simply put, our growing infrastructure investment needs have outpaced available funding, a reality faced by municipalities across Ontario.

“In addition to advocating for additional funding from upper levels of government, we intend, in 2019, to take a hard look at how we manage these assets so we can continue to deliver sustainable services for generations.”

He noted continued commitment from council to support the redevelopment of the County’s hospital, while also supporting the Prince Edward County Family Health Team, and the Prince Edward County Community Care for Seniors in its new programming for seniors in nine municipal town halls.

Council will begin its goal-setting in the coming weeks.

The public, he said, is the County’s greatest asset – a deep pool of expertise and experience that will help “to enable us to solve problems quicker, more thoroughly and with greater resolve. A diversity of voices around the decision–making table is a strength and not a risk to be avoided.”

“What is really evident, based on the number of people in attendance today, is the much higher level of engagement and interest of our residents. I speak for all of us on council when I say ‘we will not let you down’.”

Councillor Bill McMahon (Ameliasburgh) shares a laugh with councillor Bill Roberts (Sophiasburgh).

 

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