Haldimand Mayor Hewitt- learn from others, within and outside of the Province

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What are your priorities? What services should we [Haldimand] be providing?

What are your priorities? What services should we [Haldimand] be providing?

Currently the County provides a bundle of services in exchange for your tax dollars.   Some of these are mandatory, such as emergency services, garbage removal and winter control; some of these are choices that have been made over the years based on the demands or the priorities of the public at that time.

Council’s challenge is to balance the essential services against those that we perceive are “wanted” by the citizens.  For many of you, the “wanted” services may change from year to year depending on your life circumstances.  The “wanted” services also vary considerably from one individual or business to another.  For instance, many will support the millions of dollars that are spent on arenas; others will stand against such an idea in favour of lower taxes; while, others would rather see these tax dollars spent on establishing an indoor pool.

Over the next couple of weeks, Council will be meeting to discuss what we have interpreted to be your priorities based on feedback received during this past election, as well as feedback from local clubs, groups, BIA’s, and other associations.  We will then review and measure the wanted services against the current services that are being provided and determine where they may fit on the priority list.  In such an exercise, there will always be winners and losers.   As we all know, the dollars are limited and we cannot be everything to everyone, especially here in Haldimand, where the needs and wants are considerably diverse and very little tax base to support them.

We must look at our County as a whole. We must leverage our investments in assets and people.  We must eliminate duplication of services where possible.  Particularly with wanted services, we must be open to having different services in different areas of the County as we cannot sustain them everywhere.

Where possible, we are in the process of eliminating costly services, such as operating a landfill site since we can transfer our garbage for much less than building more disposal sites in the County.  We continue to build on our long term capital plan, ensuring that the funds collected are appropriately put aside to ensure the assets are there for future generations.

We completed the 5 year update of our development charge study in 2014 and, while I was disappointed to see the removal of a new Caledonia bridge (McClung) from the capital budget, it has not been lost from sight.   It simply is not legal or fair to expect developers today to pay for an item that is not realistic inside the next ten years.  Since it is the developers that pay, I appreciate this position. On the other hand, Ontario’s system sometimes impedes healthy community growth based on what I just recently learned from other parts of the world.

Why France, you say? MIPIM is the largest economic development and real estate conference held in the world.   Over twenty thousand people participated and represented their initiatives from across the globe.  Being able to align with the Province of Ontario and other municipalities allowed us to participate at a fraction of the costs.   In fact, it was no more costly than the conferences that Council has attended over the years held here in Ontario.   This was a worthwhile opportunity, in that the insight and knowledge of the delegates was exceptional.   Being able to participate with over a hundred Mayors from around the world, discussing different planning activities and types of building processes that were working and not working, proved to be invaluable.   I will share the information gained with our Council and staff over the next few weeks.

While our focus is and always has been to continue fishing locally here at home; it is our duty to gain insight on what the fish want or what the new lures look like outside of our own watering hole.  We will never exceed our expectations or obtain different results if we keep doing the same things that we have done in the past.  We have to be prepared to embrace new ways of doing business; we have to be able to share such ideas with the decision makers, so that we can accomplish the goals that we so deserve. There is so much we can learn from others, within and outside of the Province.  Leaders who choose to be closed minded are doing a disservice to those they represent by not seizing these opportunities to seek new ideas.

We stand with much to gain here in Haldimand over the next 25 years. Equipping ourselves with the right information, to make the right informed decisions, is smart and effective planning.  Engaging the other levels of Government with such gained knowledge will only help us reach our full economic potential.

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