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‘There’s more that unites us, than divides us’: Mayor’s New Year’s levee 2024

While Prince Edward County’s community spirit is worthy of celebration, Mayor Steve Ferguson noted it has also been tested over the past few years with the COVID-19 pandemic, and more recently, economic challenges.

“But I truly believe that there is more that unites us, than divides us,” he stated during his address to the public, dignitaries, councillors, staff and spouses attending the Mayor’s New Year’s Levee Sunday afternoon.

Speaking to the finalization of the County’s first 10-year plan based on community conversations last year, Ferguson reiterated “residents want to feel like they belong to a true community… that collaborates to make life better for everyone.

Mayor Steve Ferguson

“It is this ideal that I hope we can keep in mind as we move through 2024 and navigate the highs and lows that we will encounter along the way.”

Top of mind priorities for 2024 include continued work on housing projects, access to health care and long-term care.

He noted there are several housing development projects of varying sizes in the application process but “while the promise of new home construction is exciting, we are aware of the strain many County residents currently experience to find affordable and sustainable housing.

“We are also striving to ensure growth is well-managed so that we can protect the unique character of the municipality while continuing to provide essential services like safe, affordable water and wastewater services.

The focus of 2024, he added, will be to expand a full range of housing stock – from emergency, supportive and subsidized housing, to affordable rental housing and other support services.

Construction of 40 affordable units at the former Wellington arena are to begin early this year. The County is awaiting results of its application to the Housing Affordability Fund which would support initiatives – most notably at the former Queen Elizabeth Public School project in Picton.

“We see great potential in this site in the heart of Picton as a community hub to address critical needs including affordable housing as well as healthcare and social services priorities.”

He was proud to note significant progress by the County Docs physician recruitment program last year to bring four new doctors to the County and is hopeful to hear good news in 2024 on the new long-term care home and see shovels in the ground for the County’s new hospital.

He thanked former Mayor Leo Finnegan for his vision many years ago helping to get the hospital plans to this stage; along with the hospital foundation, auxiliary and the public which together, are raising the public portion of funds – $27 million – necessary to move forward. It is scheduled to open in 2027.

“The new hospital is a testament to the power of this community. When we come together, we can accomplish great things. And for that, we should all be very proud,” he said, also thanking Quinte Health Care President and CEO Stacey Daub, and MPP Todd Smith for their efforts.

The mayor had welcomed Smith, attending with spouse Tawnya, along with guests and elected officials from neighbouring municipalities including Quinte West, Brighton, Belleville, and Hastings County.

While the hall does not have the ambiance of the Macaulay House Museum, the mayor noted its spaciousness better serves social distancing needs related to COVID-19 and seasonal sicknesses.

He introduced councillors Brad Nieman, David Harrison, Sam Grosso, Chris Braney, Janice Maynard, Phil St.-Jean,  John Hirsch and Bill Roberts. He noted councillors Kate MacNaughton, Phil Prinzen, Corey Engelsdorfer, Roy Pennell and Sam Branderhorst – were unable to attend for various reasons.

“While we are the public face of the municipality, we recognize and appreciate that local government is a team effort… an outstanding team of more than 300 employees led by our Chief Administrative Officer Marcia Wallace.”

“The strength of this organization are the staff members who work day in and day out to serve this community,” he added, introducing senior team members including Fire Chief Chad Brown, Clerk Catelina Blumenberg, Director of Recreation and Community Facilities Lisa Lindsay, as well as Amanda Carter, Director of Finance and IT; Emily Cowan, Director of Community Programs, Services and Initiatives, Adam Goheen, Director of Housing and the Peter Moyer, Director of Development Services.

Refreshments were provided by Sandy Latchford and Friends of the Museums.

Council business gets underway Tuesday, Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. in Shire Hall with the re-scheduled Dec. 19 council meeting.

Included on the agenda:
➡️Several deputations related to the TRAE Resort rezoning applications and URide / community transportation solutions
➡️A staff report about the tender award for the Wellington watermain trunk and sanitary sewer trunk linear infrastructure
➡️A staff report about the terms of reference for the Water and Wastewater Rates Community Committee
➡️The bylaw for Base31 request for an official plan amendment for development

The public is welcome to attend the meeting in person at Shire Hall (332 Picton Main St.) or watch online: https://bit.ly/LiveStreamPEC

Members of the public who wish to provide “Comments from the Audience” are encouraged to contact clerks@pecounty.on.ca by noon Tuesday, Jan. 9 to register.

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