2020 has been a year unlike any other. As we come to the halfway mark of the 2018-2022 term, I am looking forward to when we can join together with family, friends, neighbours and colleagues in ways that we used to take for granted. A year ago, when I provided my last Mayoral Address, none of us had any idea what the next months would bring: that a simple virus could fundamentally change so much in our lives. I am filled with sorrow for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers, friends and neighbours we have lost during the local outbreak. These are people who contributed to the fabric of our daily lives with each loss rippling through the community.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, our community has shown its true character by coming together and supporting one another during this difficult time. The community has rallied around our long-term care homes, our first responders and healthcare workers; around neighbours needing help, and around local businesses. We have all had to adapt and learn to respond to ever-changing scenarios.
The work of the Municipality has continued on. Although not quite business as usual, the goal of providing exceptional service to the residents of Mississippi Mills remains. Municipal staff have gone above and beyond to ensure service to the public continues as expected; two key projects to provide this service was live video streaming of Council meetings and rolling out an updated, user-friendly website this fall. Council has further decided to support updating the technology used by the municipality and has made this priority in 2021.
Irrespective of the pandemic, Council has seen major projects completed this year and continues to advance others:
- The Strategic Direction of Council has been set to 2023.
- A corporate-wide service delivery review has been completed with some recommendations incorporated into the 2021 Budget.
- Community Official Plan Amendment 22 is being undertaken, examining the urban settlement boundary area and determining where we will grow.
- Construction of Phase 2 of the Riverwalk and the Mill Workers Staircase has started with completion expected in 2021.
- The contract for the new $3M water storage facility has begun with work scheduled to be completed by the end of 2021.
- Thanks to over $1M in provincial and federal funding, the Levi Bridge will be replaced in 2021 and upgraded from a one-lane to a two-lane bridge with new railings and guardrails, making it safer for drivers and pedestrians.
- The final phase of the industrial park is being designed so that Mississippi Mills can continue to attract growing and energized businesses that will increase employment opportunities within our municipality. Lots expect to be marketed in Spring/Summer of 2021.
- Council has given direction to staff that the Downtown Revitalization project is to commence in 2022.
- Planning is getting underway to celebrate Mississippi Mills Bicentennial in 2023.
Mississippi Mills continues to be promoted as one of the places to visit in Ontario especially around Christmas time due to our charming downtowns, unique shops & galleries, great coffee and restaurants and no doubt also due to the friendliness and Christmas spirit of all our citizens. This year, the spotlight has shone on Mississippi Mills as the feature in many blogs, videos and articles across Canada. Most recently, we are featured in a series of videos by Ontario Tourism encouraging people to “Support Local” as well as in an article for the New York Times.
Surprisingly and perhaps despite the odds, Mississippi Mills has seen encouraging growth and opportunity in 2020. Over 30 new businesses have opened, expanded or been taken on by new ownership in the last 18 months. While we cannot ignore that we have lost some businesses over the year as casualties of COVID, we’ve also seen businesses pivot or reinvent themselves to adjust to circumstances or meet a new demand. In 2020, five more movies were filmed in Mississippi Mills bringing the total in recent years to 21. Economic development of a different stripe, some of these films inject as much as $100,000 into our local economy.
In closing, I want to thank everyone on the frontlines, the healthcare workers and first responders and to all essential workers who show up everyday and work with seemingly tireless dedication. Thank you to the social service agencies and community organizations who hold up those who need help – we could not do this without you. And thank you to every single person in this community who has volunteered to buy groceries for a stranger, who checks in on their neighbours, who calls or writes to someone who may be lonely, who decided to grow a row for the Food Bank, who has donated a little extra to Interval House, who put up some Christmas lights this year for the first time. Thank you to all who have decided to face this year not with fear, but with kindness.
As we have navigated these unprecedented times together, it has given me a great sense of pride to see residents, businesses and organizations pull together to show support to one another and be a source of encouragement and hope. This is a year I certainly would never want to see us repeat. But over and over again, this community has shown that we truly are in this together.
As 2020 draws to a close, I would invite you to reflect on all that has been this year, to project positivity into the new year, trusting that the next few weeks will bring you a renewed sense of peace and togetherness as we celebrate a quiet holiday season. My hope is that when the pandemic is long behind us, we remember that kindness, gratitude and community can help us weather any storm.