CANORA - Town council is halfway through its four-year mandate and while many projects have been completed, work to improve the community continues.
Without question, the biggest project in 2022 was the completion of the new aquatic park. The facility cost about $2.6 million over the past two years and is ready to open in the spring.
This is the largest expenditure on a recreational facility here in decades and while council has heard some grumbles, the fact is that the present swimming pool is about 50 years old and many major components were repeatedly failing and being patched.
The aquatic park project received massive community support, bringing in nearly $230,000 in donations and also qualifying for a $743,000 grant from Canada Community Revitalization Fund. Thank you to all of the individuals, businesses and the rural municipality that contributed. Leisure Services Director Aaron Herriges spent countless hours making this project become a reality.
The project promotes Canora’s image as a well-rounded, full-service community, positioned for growth. Recreational facilities and opportunities are one of the important factors that people, especially families, consider when assessing a community as a potential place to live. And, census statistics show Canora’s population has been getting increasingly younger for at least a decade. In turn, the pool provides about 15 well-paying jobs for students each summer.
Also in 2022, after two years of COVID-19 restrictions and uncertainty, our summer events and winter lights festival were back in full swing. Events were very well attended and people are ready for things to be back to normal.
The Canora Tourism Fundraising Committee had a good year, raising about $28,000 for community enhancements. This was the result of tireless enthusiasm by Community Development Officer Brandi Zavislak and volunteer committee members.
The Town made strides in bylaw enforcement, working to clean up yards, and this past year started educating and working with property owners to improve the condition and appearance of buildings as well. Council receives many compliments from visitors on the appearance of the town.
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that almost all of the revitalization efforts to make Canora look better, including tree planting, walking trail improvements and new signage, were funded by grants and the tourism committee. These projects didn’t come from tax dollars.
Also big this past year were two new housing starts, including the first home to be built on the new subdivision adjacent to the golf course- further proof that Canora is a good place to be.
After two years of planning and some delays, 2023 should see the construction of a new transfer station to replace the current landfill. Solid waste management is a challenging part of long-term asset management.
Once again, council has heard some grumbles about capital spending on the transfer station and landfill. This work is being done because the Ministry of Environment will not allow our landfill to continue operating; not because council decided to do it. Construction of the transfer station will put us on track to decommission the current landfill in 2024.
Water main replacements have been postponed until spring and more tree planting is coming at the sports grounds and walking trail.
Council would like to make a decision regarding the Civic Centre (skating rink) in the next year. An engineer’s assessment of the current building has been obtained and council will have to decide whether or not to try and bring this building back or look at the alternative (build new). Either way, costs will be in the millions of dollars.
Moving forward, council will have to make difficult choices. Costs are rising and there are only so many avenues to derive revenue. Council members are taxpayers too and realize that we cannot simply keep raising taxes and fees to keep up.
This means planning and education in long-term asset management will become more important and so will a realistic level of public expectation. Initial data already shows that as costs are increasing, some municipal services may not be sustainable in the long-term.
Council members will soon be looking at budget expenditures, but have already determined there will be no increase to water rates, garbage collection or cemetery fees for 2023. We are committed to keeping rates down for residents this year.
And, as always, council appreciates your feedback. I encourage residents to talk to and ask questions of your mayor or a councillor. We are all working together to keep Canora a great place to visit and a better place to live.