BY ANDREW SMITH
LISTOWEL – The new term of North Perth council faced their inaugural meeting on Monday night, and a host of challenges waiting for them over the next four years.
Mayor Julie Behrns congratulated the members of council after their declaration of office, reminding them of the task given to them as elected officials.
“In the four years that lay before you, you will be asked to make decisions to guide North Perth’s future,” she said. “This will require learning to work together as a team, with the people the electorate has chosen to work on their behalf.”
Of the challenges ahead, Behrns said first and foremost will be the 2015 budget process early next year, noting Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund cutbacks and increasing costs as important factors.
“It is your responsibility to ensure North Perth continues to grow and prosper, without mortgaging the future of several generations,” Behrns said. “It is only by making strategic investments that we build a sustainable future for our community.”
Behrns added that council is shouldered with the responsibility to balance the needs of the community with the ability for taxpayers to pay for services, whether that includes a new recreation complex, library and transportation upgrades, or implementation of Master Growth Plan. Deputy Mayor Doug Kellum also noted the challenges ahead in the next term of council in his opening remarks.
“Moving ahead to the next four years, this council, working closely with senior department heads, will no doubt have very difficult decisions to make,” Kellum said. “Not always will be agree with each other, but we need to make them for the best interest of our municipality.”
As the 2015 budget chair for North Perth, Kellum will need to be familiar with those financial challenges, but feels he’s prepared after serving as vice chair during last year’s budget.
“It’s a challenge because we don’t want to cut services to the extent that we’re defeating the purpose of becoming the fastest growing municipality in Perth County,” Kellum said. “We still have to be fiscally responsible, yet move forward.”
Kellum and Behrns will be joined at the Perth County council table by long-time representative Coun. Meredith Schneider, who looks forward to serving at the lower tier as well as the county.
“It will be a challenging four years because of the financial strain that we find ourselves in,” Schneider said.
Coun. Vince Judge recalled the priorities identified during his election campaign, and the need to support the doctor recruitment effort in North Perth, as well as find suitable land for industrial development.
“We are at the end of our property availability for industrial purposes, and I think that’s something we need to look at seriously,” Judge said. “We want to continue to grow.”