Mayor discusses municipal highlights of 2013

by Phil Ambroziak

It should be one prosperous year after another for the City of Meadow Lake.

That was the hope expressed by mayor Gary Vidal recently when he reflected on the highlights of the past year while, at the same time, looking ahead to the challenges he expects will accompany 2014.

“One thing I look back on, which I expect will have a significant impact going forward, is the hiring of our new city manager, Diana Burton,” Vidal remarked. “As a council, we made a commitment through that entire process to hire a key person to be our leader. We did our due diligence and, at this point, we’re very happy with the person we’ve put in that position. She is a quality individual who provides quality leadership.”

The mayor also expressed his satisfaction with the curb-side recycling program, which was launched in the early part of 2013.
“That’s been a good thing for us,” he said. “We introduced this with a couple of good reasons in mind – the first being the whole environmental aspect of it, as well as how it will help prolong the life of our landfill. If we can reduce the amount of garbage we’re putting in there, great.”

Statistics as recent as the end of October indicate the local landfill site received 30 per cent less volume than it did at the same time in 2012.

“Our goal would probably be to do a little better than that, but on a number of occasions Mr. Lamon (Terry Lamon of Lamon Disposal Ltd.) has expressed how well it’s been going. It was really well received by the people and it is the people who deserve the credit for supporting this initiative.”

The HeadStart on a Home program, introduced this past summer as a way of enabling more first-time buyers to purchase their own homes, is another highlight of 2013 Vidal spoke favourably about.

“The more people we’re able to move out of rental units means more units are freed up,” he said. “It also creates a nice trickle-down effect, because more homeowners means we can collect more in property taxes, which go toward roads and other general infrastructure.”

The city also issued $7 million in new building permits as of early November, something the mayor called another good sign for the community and for future yet manageable growth.

“We’ve also made a huge investment in infrastructure,” he stated. “The 9th Avenue lift station is nearing completion. It’s a necessary piece of infrastructure in order to allow us to continue serving our citizens. During the summer, we also invested close to $600,000 on various paving projects, something that’s received a lot of great feedback.”

Other highlights included continued positive relations amongst the city and neighbouring communities, the updating of several old bylaws and efforts to approve the 2014 budget prior to the end of 2013.

As for what’s on the horizon, Vidal said he’s excited to see efforts continue to develop as far as a community Hub program is concerned. The program is designed to help reduce crime.

“This is an initiative that looks for proactive solutions to crime rather than reactive ones,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said efforts will continue to secure funding for the new long-term care facility expected to eventually be built north of the city.
“We’re still going to be working with the RM and the Prairie North Regional Health Authority on this,” he noted.

Vidal also expects to see further action this year in terms of formally approving a new official community plan and zoning bylaw to address future development.

“One particular challenge we’ll continue to face is the recruitment and retention of people in our employ,” he said. “We have a good core group, but still have a few positions to fill. It’s a bit of an employee’s market right now, and we’ve been very careful not to put ourselves in a place where we have to compete with industry. We’ll always be here and need to be able to live up to certain standards for the long term. We treat people well and with respect, and can attract them in ways that may not always be about the competitive wage.”

As for infrastructure, the mayor said the big project this year will likely be upgrades to one of the city’s reservoirs that have been long overdue.

“And, we’re sure to continue to meet other challenges as we go along,” he said.


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