Town of St. Marys candidates answer election...
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Oct 07, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

Town of St. Marys candidates answer election questions

St. Marys Journal Argus

As a precursor to the Town of St. Marys all-candidates’ debate on Oct. 2 at the Pyramid Centre, the Journal Argus requested responses from candidates for Town Council about the following six questions. Published here are the responses.

1. Do you feel the current Town Council has been able to sufficiently take into account and act upon the concerns of the citizens?

CAREY POPE

To the best of our abilities, I think this Council has continually addressed public concerns. Communication can always be improved I think we’ve made improvements video taping council, social media, town email alerts, but we still only attract a handful of people at public meetings and budget presentations.

I believe we should resurrect the Town Crier in both papers to communicate more diversely. Not everyone is online. Most Councillors can be reached 24/7 with cellphones, emails, even Facebook. I love social media but prefer talking to people, sharing a coffee; it’s more personal.

STAN FRASER

The current Town Council tries to act upon most of the concerns of the citizens of St. Marys. However, there does not seem to be broad communication about the results and sometimes it takes too long to get results.

STEVE GROSE

Yes. The current Council has done a good job of listening to and acting upon the concerns of our citizens. This Council has always made time to hear what is important to our citizens, and to try to find the best solution to addressing their concerns. This is what municipal government is all about.

TONY WINTER

As a current councillor, I always raise citizens’ concerns. For example, recently, I raised the issue of staff not returning telephone calls or emails, and asked for a renewed policy for staff and Council to respond in a timely fashion. The concerns of the citizens has always been my priority.

BILL OSBORNE

1. The most universal concern is taxes and how the monies are spent. We have been fiscally responsible: reserves have increased significantly; debt is coming down nicely; we are becoming more efficient — eg: we contracted out garbage to Bluewater Recycling and water to the Ontario Clean Water Agency and, at the same time, found job opportunities with these companies for our employees who were displaced.

During this time, the bridge has been a concern. Closing it was due to the engineers declaring that it is unsafe even after a recent expenditure of $60,000. Issue: Do we invest $100,000 or so more in short-term repairs, or do we wait for the environmental assessment (January, 2015) that will tell us what should or could be done? I believe we addressed this issue in a prudent manner considering the facts.

We have reversed decisions to deal with citizens’ concerns: We thought the Elgin Street stairs weren’t used and so intended to remove them. We found out differently and are now in the process of having them reconstructed.

DON VAN GALEN

Council can always do better, creating more opportunities to engage citizens proactively. This is why I have continually advocated pre-budget consultation open houses, and pre-construction meetings on our major roadwork programs. Proactive consultation reduces costly mistakes, determines public expectations, and avoids misunderstanding. I am committed to finding solutions that address concerns, and get the job done.

LYNN HAINER

This term, a culture of ongoing review for operational efficiencies was introduced. Operational changes have been effective for water and garbage. We introduced a change to curbside yard waste two summers ago that residents weren’t in favour of. So, understanding their concerns, I gave feedback to staff that completely stopping the service in July and August wasn’t working; this summer changes were made to offer bi-weekly service. Same cost; better outcomes. In addition, staff instituted yard waste drop off at the MOC, which has been a huge success with residents!

What I think is important is a two-way ongoing dialogue with residents about changes introduced. If something isn’t working, or could be done differently, I want to hear about it! The bi-weekly pick up idea came from a resident when we were speaking in her yard.

AL STRATHDEE

1. Listening to the citizens and having a keen awareness of their needs and concerns will be a critical objective for me as mayor of St. Marys. Since I work in St. Marys every day, I believe I can be accessible to the citizens.

Far too often, I have heard our citizens report that they are not getting their phone calls and emails returned. People are clearly voicing their concerns about the state of our town but no one appears to be listening.

AL TUCKER

The challenges faced by our Council over the past four years have been many and from my personal perspective I believe that much has been accomplished. However, I am finding some discontent when I speak to residents and business owner/operators who feel disconnected from their representatives. One is the status of the Water Street (The Green) Bridge. Residents are impatient over the lack of a settlement of this issue. A second recurring issue has to do with air quality. There were a number of residents concerned about any potential long-term health effects from a fine ash present in the town air. Concerned individuals have been advised to take their complaints directly to the MOE. Results have been unsatisfactory.

JIM CRAIGMILE

This question will be answered by the voters of St. Marys on Oct. 27. There appears to be a lack of synergies due to communication across the ranks of staff and/or contractors. This is very apparent in the Queen Street East watermain leak. The initial investigation (contractor Nov. 2013), strategy to determine if the leak was town treated water, outcome/results, demonstrated a complete lack of common sense and teamwork. Approximately four months later, a very conservative minimum of 3 million gallons of treated water, or 15,000 cubic metres, was released and eventually found its way to Trout Creek. One would assume the increase in water use or additional hydro for well pumps would trigger some alarms that a problem existed during this period. Another couple of months elapsed and the Council were in the dark of the entire saga. These types of issues need to be resolved prior to operating an efficient Town team.

FRANK DOYLE

This question will be answered by the voters on Oct. 27. The reason I am running is to give the people of St. Marys a choice. What the town needs for the next four years is a proactive Council to lead the fight in fighting VIA cuts, not only keeping taxes low but making sure the taxpayers receive services for the taxes they are paying, improving the downtown and promoting the town to convince businesses to move here. The people need to pick the best six people to lead the Town for the next four years. The taxpayers deserve six decision makers, not six procrastinators.

DAVID CUNNINGHAM

This current Town Council is out of touch with the people of St. Marys. They say they communicate through social media, but I hear that councillors and or administration do not return emails or phone calls. Communication is essential! We need to use the local newspapers to get the word out.

2. In what ways do you believe the Town can guard itself against the effects of decreased government infrastructure funding and a sluggish economy?

AL TUCKER

There is some good news on this issue. On Aug. 14, Ontario announced a plan to invest more than $130 billion in public infrastructure over the next 10 years. The funding Cap is $2 million per community. Municipalities with less than 100,000 populations were eligible for these projects. I understand that St. Marys has applied for Waste Water Treatment emergency upgrade funding as well as funding to assist with the cost of an Environmental Assessment related to the expansion of our landfill capacity.

DON VAN GALEN

Government grants can’t be taken for granted, but neither have they disappeared completely. We need to research the changing priorities and new granting programs, and draft quality proposals to be presented to senior government. More often, they are awarded on merit and available when we can demonstrate innovation and partnerships. One example could be the Sewage Treatment Plant that, with proper upgrades, could give local industries new capacity for growth.

BILL OSBORNE

At the beginning of term, Council decided to add one per cent tax increase each year to go to reserves. With the cumulative effect, this has resulted in $1 million being added. If the next council continues with this, it would generate a further $2.6 million and, if the council after that does, it would be $4.2 million. These monies would greatly assist infrastructure projects.

Another action is collaboration. Currently, we collaborate with surrounding municipalities with respect to employee benefits. Also, we saved $50,000 on the LED street lighting through this process.

In case of a sluggish economy, you do exactly what one does personally: Tighten your belt and only look at the essentials. Prioritize.

DAVID CUNNINGHAM

We must go after more infrastructure money. We need to be at the table; we are a “Separated Municipality” that deserves to be heard. We must also be prudent and continue to increase reserves but be prepared to reduce manpower and services in the event of a downturn.

STEVE GROSE

We need to keep our “Debt-to-Reserve” ration at 1-to-1. This will guard against the funding cuts that we will see over the next few years from the provincial and federal governments, as they struggle to balance their budgets. We can pay now, or we can pay later. The problem is, if we pay with our reserves now, we will pay more in the future with interest on loans.

FRANK DOYLE

The most effective way is to build up reserves. The more reserves you have the less likely that Council will have large taxes increases. There will be many seen and unforeseen expenses down the road that the Town will have to encounter. For example, sooner or later the PRC will need a new roof, bridges will have to be repaired, etc., and we cannot have massive tax increases to pay for all these expenditures because people can not afford tax increases.

AL STRATHDEE

I will ensure that creative fiscal and strategic plans are a priority, that ongoing maintenance is part of our regular operating programs, and that our Town staff are supported in this work.

The Town has faced difficult economic conditions in the past. In 1998 approximately $325,000 in road subsidies were eliminated and creative solutions were found to continue the annual road reconstruction program. Solutions to these problems are found by developing and adhering to long range, detailed plans that are tailored to meet the public need and fit available funding. For example, one solution to sustain infrastructure such as water and wastewater in an affordable manner is to undertake incremental improvements (continual improvement) or stagger certain major upgrades rather than attempt to do it in a single large project. Staff with appropriate system knowledge and experience with infrastructure management are equipped to develop creative solutions. The Town needs to ensure that we have the staff and knowledge in place to achieve this.

STAN FRASER

Long-term planning and prioritization are key to guarding against the effects of decreased government infrastructure funding and a sluggish economy. We have to be looking down the road at a 5, 10 and 20-year plan and not just the next four years of term of Council. In the past, we relied more on industrial and commercial for our tax base but this has changed. We need to put more focus on residential growth and dry industrial.

CAREY POPE

Council and staff know that the Town will be receiving less OMPF dollars from the provincial government every year. Increasing reserves, paying down our debt and keeping a keen eye on the town’s budget will benefit everyone.

TONY WINTER

Embark on an aggressive economic policy to attract industry in cooperation with Perth South to develop James Street South. We need to get competitive bids on projects and apply for any grants available.

LYNN HAINER

As a baseline this year, external agencies, declining provincial transfers and increased hydro costs collectively contributed an increase of 3.8 per cent to our budget. I believe by managing our service levels, building reserves to finance infrastructure and other capital, and by planning our capital projects in 10-year rolling forecasts, we will have the tools needed for financial health.

Council this term has diligently worked on the first two, with an operations asset plan for forecasting coming for 2015 budgets for the final goal. In the next term, extending that asset plan to other assets, like our buildings, will complete this picture. We need to know exactly what level of service we need to provide to our Town as it grows, the triggers for large capital projects; and understand the operational impact from those decisions.

But we must continue to be advocates for infrastructure programs. Gas tax contributes over $400,000 each year to our finances. We must continue this advocacy work to ensure other levels of government are accountable for continued infrastructure funding.

JIM CRAIGMILE

This is a difficulty facing all businesses currently and the Town will need to respond with similar strategies. Maintaining the build-up of Town reserves, providing that essential services are maintained, will be valuable for the unexpected. A major initiative should be to challenge all staff in all departments to look at current service deliveries and determine how to provide as a minimum the same service at reduced cost. This will be very important moving forward because taxes will increase and residents are expecting due diligence from their Town.

3. Are there types of services that you believe the Town should be providing, or that you believe should be provided in a different or more enhanced way?

LYNN HAINER

With ever-increasing demand for more services, or different services, we must continue our operational efficiency reviews. There will continue to be new technology, equipment and regulations that will provide opportunities to do things differently. We must be pro-actively open to evaluating these opportunities, like the streetlight LED replacement program. With this investment, we will be reducing our hydro costs, maintenance and paying for this capital within the current spend of this program.

I want to ensure services offered by the Town are in cooperation with other agencies and service groups to optimize the offering while reducing efforts.

DAVID CUNNINGHAM

We could do a better job of snow removal, especially in the downtown. The town should be responsible for clearing the sidewalks and the curbs, to assist people getting to businesses. Our service clubs are incredibly generous and their work is essential to our town. The least we can do in return, is to install signs that have the clubs’ logos and meeting dates, as promised. Yard waste should be picked up more frequently during the spring and fall.

AL STRATHDEE

There needs to be more focus on the aesthetics of the Town and maintenance of Town property. We need to ensure that we look after the “little things”, i.e. weeds, paint, broken sidewalks, recreational facilities, etc. We need to take pride in the charm and beauty of the Town because it is the unique things that make it “The Town Worth Living In”.

The tree program (pruning, removal and planting) should be reinstated. An ash tree program needs to be developed for the next budget cycle. More attention needs to be given to the appearance of public property (parks, bridges, roads, boulevards, ditches, street sweeping). Some of these are initiatives that can easily involve our schools, community groups and clubs. All of these people have been instrumental in their investments of time and resources in town. I believe the Town can strive toward building even more support to work together for Town improvements.

FRANK DOYLE

The Town receives a grant for “Gas Tax” because we have “transportation” in the form of the Mobility Bus. There are many seniors and disabled people who can not afford to take the bus all the time. I would like to see part of this money used to lower fares for those who need assistance and look at the possibility of having a free service for the month of December.

JIM CRAIGMILE

A detailed cost analysis has probably been completed for police, water, garbage etc. by the town staff and they would be better prepared to answer this question. However, a current analysis would be part of the initiative in Question 2.

STAN FRASER

We need to stay with the OPP services. I am concerned that if we have a Town police service that our costs will escalate if there is a crime where specialized resources are required. I also think we need to ensure we have the services in town needed for our elderly people. I would like to see waiting lists at the daycare eliminated.

STEVE GROSE

The citizens of St. Marys will direct us as to both the nature and frequency of services that they believe are required. It will then be a priority for Staff and Council to consider, recommend, and act upon what will be in the best interest of all.

BILL OSBORNE

The town provides a comprehensive and extensive array of services. In a recent study, it was pointed out that, for a town our size, we are over-services. So our task is to maintain what we have, what people have become used to, and not necessarily to create more. We constantly look for ways to provide services in a more efficient manner (previously mentioned garbage and water). We constantly evaluate programs — for example: yard waste collection. We realized we reduced collection too much and had to modify.

CAREY POPE

The town should have a welcoming tourist centre in the core open seven days a week during tourist season. Also, our PRC needs an improved marketing plan and our Quarry can expand services with paddle boarding, kayak lessons, and bike rentals.

DON VAN GALEN

The town needs to demonstrate a collaborative relationship with industry. I would like to see a roundtable with industry leaders to discuss the challenges of industries in town, and plan for the needs of the industrial sector ahead. We need to do everything to cater to the businesses that are already here, and we need to proactively encourage expansion and job creation of businesses that are already welcome assets to the community.

Two years ago the Heritage Conservation District was implemented with vague promises of tax reductions and improved grants for Heritage. Taxpayers and businesses are waiting to see those benefits, and we need to continue to push for that new program.

Improvements to the Millrace Park will be a priority for me. I also want to see a resolution to long-standing service disruptions, such as the Quarry, re-opening the Water Street bridge, and playground equipment in the empty Glass Street Park.

TONY WINTER

Over the past two years, Council has focused on building reserves (which is not a bad idea) for future large capital projects. However, this has come at a cost as “soft” services have been reduced. Hours at VIA Rail have been reduced while we have dedicated citizens working to maintain rail service. We lost a talented person who was the event coordinator planning the car show and heritage days, which brought many people to our downtown.

AL TUCKER

According to our Official Plan, “Residential areas in St. Marys shall provide a range of housing accommodation suitable for all ages and household incomes.” I believe that there is an urgent need to place a priority on making it attractive for builders to provide affordable and “geared to income” housing in St. Marys. We have an inventory of open lands within the core area that could be suitable for such development. The Official Plan also reads: “The town will endeavour to provide stable, attractive residential areas for all residents.” Such plans are necessary to accommodate the changing demographics, especially considering anticipated future demand for rental apartments for seniors, singles and young couples. New larger homes in some areas of St. Marys are simply out of the affordability range for the majority of working families and especially retirees on fixed incomes.

4. Have you identified areas of expenditure in the budget from which you believe savings could be drawn?

FRANK DOYLE

The biggest expenditures the Town has are the police budget, wages and upkeep of municipally-owned properties. Although these are the biggest expenditures, I would like to see Council concentrate on having a tighter rein on all expenses. For example, I would like to see Council approve each other’s Council expenses and call out any Councillor who may be taking advantage of the system by putting in excessive claims like meals and mileage, etc. At the present time I think expenses are submitted and not approved by Council.

JIM CRAIGMILE

The budget provided on the Town website does not show actual costs/revenues for individual services. I understand why Councillor McCotter requested the budget be at least provided in the same format during each of the last three years so he could compare savings and increases on an annual basis. Unfortunately, his request was denied. Residents want transparency; Council needs all the data to make informed financial decisions.

LYNN HAINER

Collaboration between departments is essential to reducing efforts and program cost delivery. A good example is with the new Library Strategic Plan that commits to collaboration for programming and services with the Town. This collaboration will ensure that the Recreation or Senior Services doesn’t offer similar programming as the library, both of which are funded by the residents.

I would like to see Tourism focus on a seasonally balanced program offering. For example, Winter Lights is a key tourism opportunity with many people returning, and shopping in St. Marys. This is an event that should be built upon.

STEVE GROSE

The current Council has reviewed all areas of the budget over the past four years. Subsequently, Staff has been challenged to reduce costs in all areas. Staff has accepted this challenge and has been successful in meeting it. This is an ongoing task that must be closely monitored. As the needs of our Town change, we must be able to accept and adapt to these changes

TONY WINTER

Council agonizes over this every year at budget time.

AL TUCKER

Considering that the current fiscal year ends Dec. 31 for 2014, it is difficult to identify a line item from which savings might still be drawn without having access to a current financial statement. Since these statements are only prepared quarterly we will have to wait until October to access the next report. I would like to see the town prepare these statements on a monthly basis.

CAREY POPE

Increasing hydro costs affect your family and the town’s budget every year. Our Council recently voted to retrofit streetlights with LED without asking for a tax increase. In doing so, we’ve supported a Canadian company, and are going to see savings instantly. With future plans for decorative downtown lights, going LED will further increase savings. It’s a positive step forward. I’m proud to have supported this initiative.

AL STRATHDEE

The town could reduce interest expenditures with more aggressive debt reduction. Council and staff should engage in a process of regular reviews of other potential areas for savings and service efficiencies.

In 2012 for example, the Town earned $111,024 of interest from reserve savings, while it paid $607,410 of interest on its debt. Debt reduction can enhance cash flow and makes sense. In the past four years, the debt reduction has been scheduled. We have merely just made our regular payments — nothing more. Yes, we have grown our reserves but at the expense of deteriorating infrastructure and the sale of Town assets such as the Post Office. This is short-sighted fiscal management and cannot be sustained.

BILL OSBORNE

This is what makes the job most difficult. Everyone in town can identify areas where savings can be made but what is important to one is not always important to another, and it is Council’s job to maintain the balance. You can only cut so much before the service suffers. In the previous questions, I have referred to areas in which we are creating savings through efficiencies. We are constantly looking for new ways to deliver services and gain efficiencies (ie: save money).

STAN FRASER

Making the Water Street Bridge a pedestrian only bridge would greatly reduce costs for the Town. Bridges are expensive and I don’t think we need three vehicular bridges in three blocks. I did attend the budget meeting put on by the Town but would need more time with the budget to determine other areas of savings.

DON VAN GALEN

Improved maintenance programs pay for themselves by avoiding costly and unexpected emergency repairs. For example, I have pointed out a leak in the Town Hall roof just below the chimney that kept reoccurring for years, and was unfortunately not properly addressed. Today we have a closed Town Hall and repairs that are expected to amount to $134,000. For a town that cares about heritage, we need to be more proactive in maintenance and cost savings will result.

When we received reports of increased hydraulic loading and limited capacity at the Sewage Treatment plant, suggestions were made that we needed to expand the plant to meet needs. But when I looked closer at flow rates it was clear most of the lost capacity was due infiltration of rainwater into the system. In essence, we are paying to treat rainwater, which at times doubles or even triples the flow rate in the plant. I suggested a program to identify the leaky infrastructure and identify sources of water infiltrating the system. Our operators at the plant say those measures are beginning to show results, and we need to continue the program to avoid unnecessary expansion costs. This will allow us to address the real process improvements of the plant, which are still needed to grow our industrial sector.

I would like to push for a new agreement on shared services with the city of Stratford and Perth County. Today, Council has no ability to insist on cost savings. Budgets for ambulance, social services and housing are dictated by the service provider, and I feel as a funding partner we need to have a greater say in budget approval.

DAVID CUNNINGHAM

Budgeting is a very difficult task, but I’m sure that there are efficiencies to be had. It may mean making some difficult decisions but I really feel that an analysis of manpower allocations could find some savings.

5. What role do you think the town should play in bringing about some answers to lingering questions about Green Arc Tire?

TONY WINTER

After the euphoria of the initial announcement of Green Arc, there were questions raised. If the 340 jobs materialize and Ministry guidelines are followed making Green Arc a good corporate member of our community, the Mayor and CAO deserve kudos. However, if the jobs don’t materialize or there are problems with the Ministry, then it will be a blot on the record of the Mayor and CAO if due diligence was not followed.

BILL OSBORNE

The town is limited in what it can do. The control rests with Green Arc and they are free to release whatever information they choose. We can only use persuasion.

We are, however, constantly in discussion with the Ministry of the Environment and others who regulate industry, as we want to make sure the town’s interests are protected. We do have limited control through the issuing of permits to refurbish the building. Unfortunately, lingering questions do exist and we can only hope the news releases we have seen will come to fruition.

FRANK DOYLE

The Ministry of the Environment (MOE) is on record as saying that although they know of the company’ past record they are treating this as a new application. In that respect the Town’s hands are tied. However, what the Town could do is pass a two-part bylaw to (A) limit how many tires can be stored on the property when there is no production; and (B) limit how many tires can be stored if and when they will be producing. St. Marys must not become a storage unit for used tires. If and when the company starts producing, the Town should be very vigilant on monitoring pollution levels.

DAVID CUNNINGHAM

We should talk to the MOE, ask Green Arc for assurances, ask to see contracts, don’t commit to services until we are sure that their plans will go ahead.

STEVE GROSE

We cannot stop a private industry from selling their building to another organization. We cannot stop that organization from starting a business. We cannot dictate to them as to who will be operating the business. We cannot make them succeed or fail. We can, however, ensure that they follow to the letter all our bylaws and all required legislation of the provincial and federal governments. Let’s be positive. If they are successful with their venture, then we can ask the people who are working there how they feel about Green Arc.

AL STRATHDEE

The Town has a responsibility to investigate individuals and companies who can potentially have a huge impact on our citizens. The Town needs to ensure our citizens are well informed so that they can make safe decisions regarding their association and involvement with this company.

The Town should have informed the public when there was evidence to support at the least — cautious optimism. Many independent trades people may be employed — they need to ensure they get paid. Many citizens may struggle with leaving their present job to seek employment with Green Arc. They need to be able to make informed choices.

The Town could have made people aware that Green Arc had made an application to the Ministry of Environment. Following this application, there was a 45 days comment period that the public had a chance to express their concerns. This should have been widely publicized by the Town.

STAN FRASER

Green Arc Tire is a private company that bought private land. The role Council has to play now is to hold them accountable to each and every bylaw and regulation that we can. We need to be taking the full story to the Ministry of the Environment so they know the capabilities of our sewage treatment plant and that we have a volunteer fire department.

CAREY POPE

The town’s responsibility is to inform our community with the facts. When nothing is reported people become concerned and rumours circulate. A weekly media update would have relieved stress, even if it meant reporting that nothing had changed. Moving forward, public meetings and updates need to happen for Green Arc Tire or any other industry.

LYNN HAINER

I attended a launch for United Way last week and what I heard was that families with job losses need their community’s support and, more importantly, opportunity. When any business starts operations, different levels of government have legislation in place to ensure safety and compliance such as the Ministry of the Environment for its citizens. Each company is expected to operate within their respective legislation. And if a business doesn’t, the Town, residents, businesses alike are able to file complaints that will be investigated by the appropriate Ministry. And, from the Town perspective, we have regulations that staff follows such as the Ontario Building Code, Fire Safety and our own bylaws in place for issues that we manage such as water and wastewater.

DON VAN GALEN

The lack of activity, and environmental concerns have left us all wondering if a valuable industrial asset may be squandered. And worse, environment issues may impact health and property values. We need to advance concerns from local residents to the Ministry of Environment and I would like to see an open house hosted by the town with the MOE and Green Arc to answer those concerns.

AL TUCKER

A report published in the Journal Argus relating to the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) permit that would allow Benzene, Toluene and Styrene emissions from the Green Arc Tire facility, has generated grave concerns among local food producing companies in the immediate area of that factory. Some describe this situation as a “crisis in waiting.” Consultations and negotiations should be a priority between the Town of St. Marys, Green Arc and the concerned parties, including the MOE. We should also be concerned for our residents downwind from the plant and bring them into the discussion.

JIM CRAIGMILE

Green Arc Tire is currently waiting for their Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC). When MOECC receives an application a summary is posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) for 45 days to receive public comments to be included in the review process. This period ended May 3, 2014. Normally it takes more than a year for an ECA to be issued.

Since the comment period was missed, I would suggest the Mayor and Council on behalf of the residents send a letter to the MOECC local District office in London to formally document their concerns. I believe the letter should request the air, noise and odour effects be looked at cumulatively in the area due to close proximity to food processing and other industries. The cumulative effects on an area are usually not included in the review process, to my knowledge. Based upon previous track record it seems prudent to request minimal tire storage on site.

6. What do you believe should be done to enhance the possibility of new or expanded businesses in the downtown?

STEVE GROSE

This is an area of concern that certainly is not unique to St. Marys. Many small towns are confronted with the same challenge. I believe that the answer lies with the understanding, cooperation, and strong partnerships between the Town and many others — downtown merchants, property owners, real estate developers, business leaders, corporations, organizations and individuals who truly desire what is best for St. Marys.

AL STRATHDEE

St. Marys needs to be “open for business.” This means having a leader that can be present when needed and can promote the town and conduct business during regular business hours.

The Town needs an economic development strategy. Currently there are many studies whose recommendations have not been acted upon. It is time to stop studying and start doing. We must work on targeting niche retailers and specialty shops. There are also many small steps that the Town can take to help the Downtown such as recreating the St. Marys Dollar program, enhancement of current festivals and the creation of new collaborative marketing programs. Simple programs such as organizing restaurants to promote collaboratively in a “St. Maryslicious” dining event, or reviving the “Have a Look” shopping program are small steps which the Town can support to bring new life to our downtown core.

The Town must also look towards re-evaluating its zoning and development policies to try to get more people living in the core area. If we can get people living downtown, they will shop and create activity downtown.

BILL OSBORNE

We will be renewing the underground infrastructure so we will have an opportunity to create a new urban landscape which will hopefully emphasize our heritage buildings (a main resource).

Secondly, currently there has been an individual hired on a six-month contract (retail retention coordinator) and, so far, progress is being made.

Thirdly, we must realize that a new downtown will be much different from an old downtown. We have an excellent nucleus of stores that not only appeal to local people but also can make St. Marys a destination. We should exploit this opportunity — St. Marys as a destination. We will require expertise, people who can think outside the box with updated ideas and concepts that meet today’s economic, social and environmental issues. We have many such people in St. Marys, many of whom have already offered assistance. Council’s job is to mobilize them. We do not need consultants. We can create a St. Marys downtown created by St. Marys People.

LYNN HAINER

Firstly, we have some very successful businesses in our Downtown. The question to ask is why, and can their success be replicated? A few have an extensive online presence selling their unique products to customers who don’t visit St. Marys and, on the flipside, other businesses bring the products you want to St. Marys, with local delivery. Other stores are very successful because they have identified who their core customer is and serves their needs with excellent customer service. The Town’s role is to equally promote opportunity in our Downtown and enable tools that business owners can use to succeed. This circles back to — what is working for our current businesses?

The Town needs to be accountable for the infrastructure in the downtown core; and carefully manage its renewal. Urban planning students from Fanshawe last year provided ideas related to our alleyways. Re-invigorating these hidden treasures now will assist businesses through any construction that this renewal may bring.

And, finally, leveraging the tools we have available through Community Improvement Plans, in addition to Façade Improvement and Property Standards. We have to be a dependable partner.

DON VAN GALEN

Lower taxes downtown will help struggling business. And we need to continue with event planning for the downtown. I would also like to see the town pro-actively approach local businesses about providing goods and services to the town. Simply drafting tender documents does not give local business the edge they deserve. A St. Marys-first approach can be created without sacrificing cost savings, simply by pro-actively sharing our purchasing needs, and learning more about products and services available locally.

TONY WINTER

The cash from the sale of the Post Office has been dedicated to the revitalization of the Downtown. There is a mentoring program in progress for businesses downtown. As well, the Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) is working on the problem of empty stores. The whole infrastructure of the Downtown is due to be rehabilitated, resulting in an enhanced downtown. The Tourism budget could be expanded to entice visitors to Downtown from further afield.

CAREY POPE

Many ideas and consultant reports have been discussed around Council and committee tables to support business in the downtown. We’ve had detailed plans for years. What has been lacking is commitment and funds, plain and simple.

The Community Improvement Plan has been successful in many towns and cities. Staff has designed a plan that will meet the needs of St. Marys businesses.

Heritage incentive grants and increasing the Façade Improvement percentage will improve the streetscape, and make it more business and pedestrian friendly. I support these ideas.

We can talk about past reports, new reports and future dreams, but without a financial commitment and plan from Council, downtown stays in limbo.

JIM CRAIGMILE

All small downtowns are facing similar issues. The Town must provide facilities to encourage visitors and residents to want to go downtown. Every business will operate differently due to their focus and target market. However, a strong united business organization focused on attracting a percentage of the Stratford visitors should increase traffic flow. The renewed corporate interest in making the Baseball Hall of Fame a showpiece may be the catalyst required to get momentum for all projects. We need to make use of the close proximity to downtown of our waterway and green space to attract people. Minimizing downtown truck traffic with preferred routes should be investigated. Outcomes from the Retail Retention and Recruitment Coordinator contract will be a valuable resource moving forward.

DAVID CUNNINGHAM

We have to get people off Highway 7 and attract them to the core. Bringing new businesses into the downtown only works if we can get people to stop here. We must attract downtown businesses with tax incentives, like we would with large industry. Why not attract branded businesses — for example: a jewellery chain, in the Andrews Building.

AL TUCKER

As a member of the Economic Development Advisory Committee I supported the decision to hire a Retail Retention and Recruitment Planner (grant-funded) on a six-month contract basis. It will be critical for the town to follow up with the ideas and recommendations that will be forthcoming. In the meantime I would encourage my fellow residents to get involved in the process by first of all making it a priority to “shop at home” whenever possible, to re-acquaint themselves with the great variety of goods and services already available, and come forward with their own suggestions and ideas that will help to sustain local retailers. Here’s a personal example: I recently discovered that I could buy a variety of flour and honey products at The Hitching Post on Queen Street West, and men’s clothing at Sun Rayz downtown.

STAN FRASER

To enhance business in town I think we should bring out the downtown revitalization study that we paid for in 2002 and act upon it.

FRANK DOYLE

The role of the BIA must be examined. At the present time, businesses pay this extra BIA tax, which seems to go for buying Christmas decorations. If the BIA was eliminated, businesses could have “extra” money to hire employees and possibly expand. If the BIA was eliminated, the Chamber of Commerce could take its place, and in conjunction with the Town, have someone seeking out new businesses on a permanent basis.

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