Each year, the Mississippi Mills mayor presents an annual address looking back at the year just ending. This is my address for 2016.
The past year has challenged us all as people and as politicians.
Over the year, Council and staff have faced a social media assault unlike any seen in this town before. This is not a local phenomenon. Internationally, the exponential growth of negativity and misinformation on social media is affecting public policy everywhere. In response, Council and staff are adapting our communication activities.
Despite the grief, grievances and trials of 2016, staff and Council have an impressive list of accomplishments.
Our 2016 and 2017 budgets reaffirmed our commitment to our Long Term Financial Plan—a plan that has been held up as a model for small municipalities in Ontario. Within two years, that plan will begin to accrue dividends to residents and will ultimately put us on a sustainable and stable financial footing.
Tourism is a major economic driver in our town. In order to keep Almonte attractive to visitors and investors for generations to come, we passed a heritage conservation district by-law and a heritage grant program.
Staff and several councillors arranged the first-ever long-standing business recognition event to applaud our many small businesses. Also, our regular business breakfasts are increasingly popular.
Family recreation and youth became high priorities this year. We created an active transportation advisory committee and recommissioned the riverwalk committee. These groups will advise Council on trails, bike routes, and pedestrian safety.
We finalized plans to build a cycle and pedestrian trail from Greystone Estates to Almonte to provide a safe route into town for families. And we committed to adding a splashpad and skateboard facility to Gemmill Park.
The Share the Road Coalition awarded us bronze status this year in recognition of our efforts to make our town more cycle-friendly. Dr. Paula Stewart, Medical Officer of Health for the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District, gave us a Healthy Community Partnership award for our efforts to promote healthy living.
In December, the town opened a permanent youth center managed by caring professionals.
Also in 2016, we began work to replace the Pakenham library with a larger, more accessible building that will act as a community hub.
We have faced challenges in 2016 as we implemented policies that changed the status quo. Criticism is the price politicians always pay for change.
However, the decisions we made in 2016 are benefitting people now and will continue to prove their worth in the years ahead.