By Stephen Petrick
Dozens of public works infrastructure projects, as well as projects from planning, building, parks and fire services departments, will challenge Algonquin Highlands in 2022.
Council is already preparing for its 2022 budget and held a four-and-a-half hour virtual projects and priorities meeting on Nov. 17 to go over projects completed in 2021 and anticipated in 2022. The special meeting of council was its annual pre-budget discussion meeting, said Mayor Carol Moffatt. While it’s not a meeting where final decisions are made, it allows councillors to hear from the head of each municipal department to recap accomplishments in 2021 and anticipated expenditures in 2022.
Moffatt said that some “tough choices” lie ahead, due to the long list of possible projects, which is as a result of population growth in the area, as well as new ways of doing business brought on by the pandemic.
“The work load remains really heavy, with no sign of letting up. As we go through this process we have to ask if the pace we’re going at is sustainable going forward,” Moffatt said. “Community growth is at an all-time high. There are people who are living here longer and permanently, which brings more pressure to operate.”
Chief Administrative Officer Angie Bird echoed the point, saying that during the past year, the township’s building, planning and parks and recreation departments dealt with “record numbers” of customers.
One item that drew consensus among councillors was that the growth in the community is putting more pressure on the city’s building department.
David Rogers, Algonquin Highlands chief building officer, is scheduled to retire in the new year. Councillors were in support of his recommendation to hire a successor for him, as well as a new bylaw enforcer, so the department is staffed well enough to address the growing list of bylaw complaints it receives.
“The public, understandably, says why do you put these things in place if you can’t enforce them?” said Moffatt.
Rogers is lobbying for the township to provide 40 hours of labour per week for the enforcement of bylaws during the summer months; a point that no one argued with.
At the meeting, council also heard from public works operations manager Lyell Bergstrome, who presented a lengthy list of upgrades needed for local roads and facilities and the airport. The work includes upgrades to the Dorset Recreation Centre, the Stanhope Community Centre and the Oxtongue Community Centre.
Fire chief Mike French presented a report which showed a list of equipment-related upgrades needed. Parks, recreation and trail manager Chris Card showed a list of upgrades needed at parks, trails, docks and landings and lead planner Sean O’Callaghan updated council on new zoning issues that will need to be dealt with in 2022.