The end of the calendar year is a fitting time to look back on the past year and reflect on goals that have been accomplished and to plan for the coming year.
In reviewing the work done by council in 2011 Lake Country, Mayor James Baker is pleased with the groundwork that will benefit the community in the future.
In 2011, council directed many municipal resources towards planning. Baker says one of council’s goals has been to manage growth in a fashion reflective of the community’s values found in the OCP.
Work on three major infrastructure plans are already well underway.
“Our planning for infrastructure upgrades is important because the roads and sewer and water systems we inherited at incorporation were in poor condition,” says Baker.
Progress on the liquid waste management plan, and the integrated transportation plan will be continued in the new year and the water master plan has already been adopted by council.
The plans all seek to address failing infrastructure over the long-term.
Each plan consists of numerous projects which will be undertaken as the financial resources become available.
The costs of the required upgrades are significant. The water master plan alone has an estimated cost of $79 million over the next 20 years. To raise the funds needed the plan calls for a water rate increase from the 2011 rate of $486 for residential users to $600 in 2012 and then another jump to $700 in 2013.
Baker says grant funding from senior levels of government will help to ensure additional rate increases would be needed for the remainder of the plan after 2013.
He notes that the federal government has already stated that it will continue the Building Canada grant program which targets infrastructure upgrades.
A major provincial capital project that was started in 2011 was the realignment and four-laning of Highway 97 between Winfield and Oyama.
The project sets the stage for some important municipal planning decisions when the old highway is turned over to the District of Lake Country.
The province has stipulated that for Lake Country to gain control of the road, it must be left open to traffic.
However, Baker is confident that a recreational corridor can still be created along the route with the use of traffic calming measures.
When the time comes, he encourages residents to attend the open houses and speak to himself and councillors to share their vision for the road.
On Main Street, the first building is nearing construction and the TD Bank will soon be open for business.
Baker has said all along that after one major development takes place on Main Street, others will follow.
He says there has been increased interest at the municipal hall lately from developers looking at Main Street.
“One developer is looking at a hotel project and we have others with good financial backing who are looking at the sort of mixed use commercial and residential that we had planned for on Main Street,” says Baker.
In 2012, many of the district’s resources will continue to be put towards planning.
Baker says it’s important to have specific plans for projects in place so that as grants are made available, Lake Country is able to apply for funding with a project that meets the criteria of the grant. In this way, the district is able to leverage taxpayer dollars by sharing financial costs with senior governments.
One issue that came up in the recent election was customer service at the municipal hall.
Baker acknowledges there is a problem.
“We need to get to where we can be a one stop shop for permitting. That probably means reorganizing front line staff, the challenge is that there are so many variables,” says Baker.
To work out the issue, the district is currently conducting an internal service review, with the intention of improving staff procedures.
The findings of that report will come before council in January or February.