Year ahead will provide challenges for Minto

By Patrick Raftis in Community

Mayor

As he prepared to lead Minto into what promises to be a challenging year ahead, Mayor David Anderson took a moment to reflect on 2009. The highlight? Minto’s selection as a five-bloom community and a first place winner in the national Communities in Bloom Competition.
“Over the five years we’ve been working at the program, we became national champions,” said Anderson, who said the award is a credit to volunteers from all areas and sectors of the community.
In addition to the prestige and positive reflection on the municipality, Anderson says the efforts made to beautify the community through the program have an observable effect on its appearance. Visitors, he says, are quick to comment on “how nice our community looks.
“The flower gardens, the planters … and the horticultural society plays a huge part in that.. but also a lot of other groups from the community.”
Having reached the pinnacle of the program, Mayor Anderson says Minto will be able to maintain the improvements made over the last few years, with a lower level of investment than it took to reach the top.
“Over the years we’ve developed a program, and we keep expanding on it. So we still have the planters, we have the baskets… I think for nominal cost, we can still maintain what we’ve got, to keep our community looking good. But we won’t have to incur some of the costs this year, that we incurred last year in the competition mode. We can maintain the program we’ve got without expanding it further,” he said.
That approach would be in keeping with what Anderson expects will be a no-frills municipal budget for the municipality in 2010.
“You’re not going to get any extras,” says Anderson, noting that new ideas floated for capital projects are unlikely to make the final cuts in this year’s budget. “We’re looking at what we need to do to maybe cut some of our capital projects down, without affecting the services to the community and keeping the tax rates as low as possible.”
Anderson says the municipality was fortunate to have initiated a number of capital projects in the past year, while infrastructure dollars were available from the federal and provincial governments. However, the recession that rocked the global economy in 2009 means there won’t be a lot of new dollars available for 2010. Recessions, he notes, always impact municipalities later than other sectors of the economy.
“Last year we were very successful in grant applications from the federal and provincial government and we got an awful lot of infrastructure work done, which is an investment in our community. Basically, we’ve invested for up to 40 and 50 years in our community. A lot of the funding was what I call two-thirds funding, which means one third from the federal government, one third from the provincial and we had to pick up the rest of the tab. We had to borrow money to do that. So we are pretty well to a point where we are as far as we want to borrow,” he explained, adding, “We felt that if we didn’t do what we did, it would have cost us more money in the future because you would have had to do the same projects on the (local) taxpayers’ backs.
“There’s still going to be money available. There’s still going to be capital projects that have to be done. There’s still going to be a little money coming from the federal and provincial governments, but it’s going to be significantly cut back. So we just have to watch our spending, because we’ve been very aggressive in doing projects the last couple of years, so we just have to
re-evaluate.”
However, tight finances won’t mean there won’t be progress in the municipality in the coming year. For example, the municipality received $410,000 through the provincial agriculture ministry’s Rural Economic Development (RED) program to enhance streetscapes in all three urban downtown areas. That work, says Anderson, will continue in 2010.
“We’ve already started work in Clifford. We’ve started work in Palmerston. We’re going to be doing more work in Harriston. That’s a commitment that we will stick with. Projects like that do not get cut off. That’s moving forward. That’s an investment in your downtown cores to enhance more business,” he stated.
Anderson says Minto residents can look forward to a number of highlights in the coming year, based around the numerous community events, which are growing more popular each year. Events such as the Redneck Games, he notes, provide the opportunity for many elements of the community together to work together.
“Like the Communities in Bloom, it gets the service clubs from the whole area, in Clifford, Palmerston and Harriston — your Lions, your Rotary Club, your Kinsmen — working together as a group. We organize the work that needs to be done and what we do is we share the profits amongst them all, based on how much they participate. Again, it’s that whole idea of the community
working together.”
Events such as the Garden Festival, agricultural fairs in Palmerston and Harriston and numerous others give local residents a chance to work and socialize together, while also creating economic activity by drawing people to the community, Anderson said..
“Every event we have, we hope for a success and we work hard to make it a success.”