On Wednesday, February 22, 2017, Mayor David Dagley was the guest speaker at the AGM for the South Queens Chamber of Commerce. He provided an update on the actions of Council that has taken place over recent months. The speech is as follows:
Good morning everyone.
The South Queens Chamber of Commerce members are looked upon as the movers and shakers in our community, representing the businesses community in South Queens. I am pleased to speak today about the work the Region of Queens is pursuing during this Council’s mandate.
Immediately after being sworn in one November 1st, our Council gathered to review operations of the Region of Queens Municipality. We have developed Strategic Priorities that reflect what we heard from constituents during the election campaign. The key areas that this Council will focus on are:
1. Growing our Population and Economy
2. Delivering Desirable Municipal Services
3. Governing to Municipal Best Practices.
It is our Council directive to staff to formulate a Municipal Budget for the 2017/18 fiscal year targeting zero tax increases to tax rates.
In essence, the three priorities are interconnected and as one aspect is achieved, others will be impacted in a positive way. Our top priority is growing our population and economy. New residents require accommodations, require services and become customers in local businesses. The recently released results of the 2016 Census provided information that confirmed what we knew ... our population has declined over the past 5 years. This was expected in the wake of the closure of the paper mill, the loss of the fish plant and closure of the sawmill in Caledonia. A number of our skilled tradespeople and professionals moved to find work, and the birth rate is lower than required to offset normal population reduction. From our perspective, it appears the decline trend is ending.
The challenge of growing our population and the economy will be partly addressed through focused advertising and promotion. Queens is a wonderful area to work, raise a family and retire. Resident Peter Ripple developed the “Retire to Liverpool” website which has been linked to the Region’s website. He has advised us that at least 5 families have relocated to Queens in 2016 as a result. Continued efforts are required to maintain a strong presence in social media and trade publications advising that Queens is an area that is innovative, progressive and forward thinking.
Staff at the Region of Queens are in the process of updating content on our website to ensure we are showcasing our assets in the best light. Queens has modern schools, a great recreation facility, a newly renovated hospital featuring a collaborative care centre, great beaches and forests and provides a good quality of life.
We are focused on increasing Tourism efforts with new events, and are in the process of working with businesses and community groups in our efforts to rebrand Liverpool. Revitalizing the Port of the Privateers brand is one focus. Queens Place Staff are working with the Kings Orange Rangers and other community groups to support the proposal from the Kings Orange Rangers to develop an International Re-Enactment and encampment Event in Liverpool in August 2018.
Signage, print and social media promotions of Liverpool will feature the Port of the Privateer branding, and we would like to encourage local businesses to help re-enforce the brand in your own way. Please consider how you can bring our registered trademark brand into your own business in cooperation with the Region. Consultation will occur with businesses on these issues.
The Region is continuing the important work of putting infrastructure in place to attract small and medium sized businesses, which will provide jobs for residents, as well as draw skilled people to the community to work and live. Discussions with potential business are occurring. Council and Staff of the Region are working closely with Port Mersey and we are very pleased with the businesses located there including Cellufuel, Jaspro, Lloyoll Built, Covey Island Boat Builders and R. J. MacIsaac Construction, who continue to grow their businesses.
Our Region successfully received $1.6 million in funding for a $2.1 million upgrade to the underground water and sewer infrastructure on Main and School Streets. A funding partnership with the Federal government’s Clean Water Waste Water fund provided 50%, the Province provided 25% and the Region is providing 25%. It is a great opportunity, allowing the Region to continue upgrading the water and sewer system as far as Waterloo Street.
Liverpool has been in the news as a result of our progressive efforts to partner with business and organizations to provide services in underutilized public properties. Most recently, we were pleased to announce that Lanes Privateer Inn was approved for a three year contract to operate Fort Point Lighthouse, a venture that the previous Council under the advice of our CAO previously entered into on a one year trial basis. Lane’s has been the subject of a number of positive news stories in tourism web publications, and have great plans in place to further revitalize and enhance the visitor experience at Fort Point.
The existing partnership with Kingfisher Foods to operate The Hub canteen at Queens Place Emera Centre has been successful, and is attracting visitors to the facility.
We are pleased with the results of the Queens Association for Supported Living partnership which has turned the seasonal Liverpool VIC into a year round presence for them as a gift shop on the waterfront. Their staff and clients assist Region of Queens staff with tourism services in the summer, and from October through April, they expand their gift shop operations at our waterfront facility. It is a progressive opportunity to have this social enterprise operating in our downtown core.
We are looking forward to having Julie Anne Babin relocate her business, The Welcome Matte, to the Town Hall Arts and Cultural Centre under a new agreement. Julie will be recruiting artists for exhibits, managing the upstairs rooms, and offering weekly recreational programming, which will help accomplish the original vision that prompted the renovation of the Town Hall. It will be a thriving arts and culture centre on Main Street, drawing people for the live performances and cinema experience available at the Astor Theatre, as well as the unique cultural experience of the Acadia First Nation Sipuke’l Gallery, which showcases First Nation art and treasured artifacts.
Council approved a process which will result in sourcing a development partner to assist with the creation of a facility renewal proposal for Hillsview Acres. An approved proposal will result in keeping jobs in the Region of Queens Municipality, keep beds in Queens, and provide an attractive and modern facility in Queens. Additionally, we are working with developers to encourage housing options to be built in Queens for seniors and others.
Council recently approved a Joint Service Agreement with the Municipality of Shelburne to be able to access a back-up building inspector when required in Queens. This will assist contractors and reduce delays during construction.
Our Planning Strategy and By Laws will need to be updated to reflect current issues in Queens, with a need for housing, and flexibility in zoning for the downtown area. We have directed staff to begin a major review of our Municipal Bylaws and Policies in an attempt to provide better governance and transparency to residents of Queens.
Vacant commercial space existing in our Liverpool Downtown area resulted in a discussion at council. That discussion pertained to allowing a conversion to residential apartment space on one property, which resulted in a tie vote. Council was able to agree to review zoning by law restrictions hindering commercial activity near Caledonia Corner, and my expectation is that Council will also agree upon a solution moving forward for the Liverpool downtown.
The entrepreneurial spirit in Queens is strong, and we appreciate the dedication of established business leaders who continue to provide quality goods and services within our community. You are the foundation that supports our business district.
We identify opportunities to create positive experiences for residents and visitors, and recently approved integrating community gardening in the Region through a community development model. Our Municipal Physical Activity Coordinator will facilitate community garden efforts, with a handbook and policy being developed by staff to enable volunteer groups to develop community garden projects on specific municipal lands.
In November, I attended the Nova Scotia Drag Racers Association Annual Banquet. The Region is pleased with the quality of their drag racing events and their continued usage of our Airport in Greenfield. The South Shore Flying Club is also looking forward to fostering improvements and additional usage of the Airport in 2017.
I was privileged to attend Christmas on the Mersey celebrations, the Liverpool Christmas Parade, Tree Lighting as well as the North Queens Tree Lighting and subsequent Parade. I would like to thank the Chamber for their significant support during Christmas on the Mersey celebrations.
The Mersey Skate Park will be finished this spring, and will engage youth in Queens, drawing people from throughout Nova Scotia and beyond. It is unique – with new fun challenges in our skate park, not previously existing east of Montreal. The efforts of the Queens Skate Park Association to secure over $300,000 in funding for the $500,000 project is appreciated. The previous council supported the park with a $200,000 contribution and a donation of land at Queens Place Emera Centre. We are pleased to see this park come to life, and are also happy to add a BMX bicycle track adjacent to the skate park with unique features as well. The attraction opportunities inside and outside on the grounds at Queens Place Emera Centre will encourage and support an active lifestyle for all ages.
Recreation is important when building a community where people will want to reside, visit, or relocate. Our Council has advised staff that we desire more events at Queens Place Emera Centre. Staff have been very responsive to that direction, are offering more programs, and have been successful in securing several larger events for this spring ... the Maritime Broomball Championships are coming to Queens Place in April, bringing broomball teams and fans from across the Maritimes. The South Shore Home, Sport and Leisure Expo will be a very exciting event in early May. The promoter for this show is expecting it to become a multiyear event. Great response has been received from exhibitors. It is the only trade show of its sort on the South Shore.
We’ve been looking at cost cutting ideas and revenue generation for Queens Place as well, in an effort to reduce the deficit. A beverage agreement was signed with Pepsi for Queens Place which will produce $45,000 in positive revenue over the next five years. Council initiated a cost benefit analysis pertaining to ice in or out during the summer months at Queens Place, but sufficient information did not exist to allow an informed decision to occur. Additional data will continue to be collected as available. Management and service delivery opportunities at Queens Place are a continuous work in progress.
The Queens Place Advisory Committee is also doing its job of reviewing operations, with recommendations being expected to follow as appropriate. Youth at our Middle School presented to Council during Municipal Awareness Month in November, providing Council with a youth perspective on desired services expected to be provided at Queens Place.
The Region recently committed to move forward to the budget stage of the pool project in conjunction with the Queens Community Aquatic Society. The pool survey indicated that residents want a community indoor pool, and the Region and QCAS will take the process further, to determine if building a pool is economically feasible. Once we compile data on the design, construction and operating costs, the proposed pool project will be taken back to residents for input. Community discussion will help direct this decision of Council.
A solution for parking lot flooding has not been pursued by previous councils. This Council will need to look at mitigating local water related impacts of climate change.
The Region has submitted two grant applications to the Province towards improving rural internet service in the Greenfield and Caledonia areas. Among the solutions to the issues of rural internet, one has been proposed and initiated locally as a pilot project. It is ground breaking TV White Space technology which could have a significant national impact on access to internet in rural communities.
We have selected local resident, Rex Woollard, to develop an interactive kiosk for our Visitor Information Centre. This will be leading edge technology that the Region can subsequently utilize for kiosks at other locations in Queens.
The Queens County Museum has submitted an unsolicited proposal to the Region to operate the vacant Court House as a Museum of Justice and house the Bowater Collection. Council is deliberating on that request.
Our Council is committed to be open, transparent and engaging more frequently with the public. I hope that those present today enjoyed our Holiday Newsletter which included photos and contact information for members of our new Council. The Region hopes to have this newsletter published 3 times a year. Staff have live Tweeted the past two Council meetings, as a way to provide timely information to those unable to attend a meeting. We’ve held public meetings on the pool, and will discuss more issues at our new Committee of the Whole meetings. As your representatives, we feel strongly that your input is needed in making decisions that impact our community, and we carry the responsibility of being elected officials very seriously.
Those who operate businesses in Liverpool and throughout South Queens are our best resource for growing and engaging our community. You each have connections with other businesses, and people you meet when traveling outside of Queens. We are all ambassadors. Please carry the message that Queens County is rebuilding, and has a vibrant and healthy business community. We want to openly welcome more business to establish in Queens. Our vibrant arts and culture community, and quality of life is second to none. Your Council is supportive of business, and is encouraging economic growth.
I hope to see local business representatives at 6:30 p.m. tonight, February 22, at the downtown business meeting which the Region is hosting at the Town Hall Arts and Cultural Centre. Our Director of Economic Development Jill Cruikshank, CAO Richard MacLellan and I will be talking with businesses about plans to promote the downtown, as well as opportunities, priorities and needs of our business district in Liverpool. We want to hear local business perspectives.
Thank you for attending this morning. I would now be pleased to answer your questions.