About 75 people attended two public information sessions Tuesday hosted by Blind River to talk about issues council is dealing with. The sessions were held with one in the afternoon and the other in the evening at the community centre.
The issues presented included an update on the town’s Strategic Economic Development Plan, a presentation on Blind River’s Service Delivery Review and Facilities Review, a financial update and a demonstration of how to use a defibrillator.
It was the second such session held this year, with the first information meeting held in January as promised by Mayor Sally Hagman during her candidacy for mayor in last year’s municipal election.
“We look forward to hearing your suggestions for topics of discussion,” the mayor told the those attending the evening session and urged people to fill out written forms for concerns and suggestions after the meeting. She also noted residents can present any concerns or suggestions on the town website. Mayor Hagman said residents can also look up events and how departments operate on the website.
“It’s council’s commitment to have public forums both in January and July every year,” the mayor said.
Chas Anselmo, of KPMG, talked about service delivery in Blind River. The town has been working with the accounting firm on financial matters.
Anselmo is a senior manager with KPMG out of its Sudbury office and works with municipalities throughout northeastern Ontario.
Service delivery is done in different ways with the Ontario government legislating how some services are delivered and how council can set up, on its own, how some services are delivered.
Council has to ensure “services remain accessible” and affordable for residents based on the town’s budget, he said in his presentation.
With service delivery council will look at how some services can be delivered by the town or in a sharing of services with other communities.
“It’s all about delivery,” he said to make it “sustainable and accessible.”
He also noted how service delivery is done can change over the years to allow for adjustments in the town budget and revenue generated through services.
Mayor Hagman said council will be providing residents with a “report card” on services during this council term.
On the town’s strategic plan, the town is developing a plan that will include attracting more tourists and visitors to the community, communicating that message and understanding and dealing with ways to attract new businesses and assist current businesses.
The presentation was made by strategic planning steering committee co-chairs Mayor Hagman and Chamber of Commerce president and businessman Garnet Young. The committee is also comprised of town staff, representatives for local businesses, youth and education, the business core, and seniors.
“This is a five-year implementation plan,” Mayor Hagman said. “We need some work in areas like local residents shopping out of town, we need to attract people to our downtown business core and we know that tourism has high potential but we need a strategy.”
Following the presentation, Young told ElliotLakeToday the plan might include the hiring of an economic development officer to guide the different issues that have been raised in surveys of residents leading to the creation of an action plan.
“We’re going to need all community participation,” Young said, which will include working together with neighboring communities for economic development and on a community improvement and tourism plan.
Young said the plan also includes developing a “pilot project” which will include finding potential funding for it and using local expertise.
Treasurer Sue Dent took the public through an overall look at the town budget which was recently adopted by council.
Dent pointed out that 50 per cent of town revenues come from taxation with another 28 per cent from other areas and about 20 per cent coming directly from the provincial government.
There is money coming from rent and fines and some from reserves, she noted.
Twenty per cent covers the cost of OPP policing and services provided by Algoma Public Health. Twenty per cent of the budget is spent on machinery and includes other infrastructure.
Fire, building and waste water handling is also a part of the funds from the overall budget along with operation of municipally-operated facilities such as the marina building.
Facilities manager Karen Bittner outlined a number of events hosted by the town, including a summer art show, community days which is taking place this weekend, North Channel race week, music night, an evening market and some 150 bicyclists travelling through Blind River in late July. Information can be found on the Blind River website.
Another event, Bittner believes will highlight Blind River nationally, is filming of the popular Canadian community fishing program Dimestore Fisherman with Jim Hoey. Filming will take place later this month.
Bittner also pointed out the benefits of relocating the town museum and art gallery to the marine facility which is fully accessible for all users and also includes a waterfront café where food can be purchased and souvenirs are sold and improved wifi services are available.
With the different events taking place, Bittner urged those attending the sessions to “Slow down and enjoy Blind River.”
The sessions were concluded with a demonstration of how to operate a defibrillator.
Mayor Hagman said she is proud of the commitment by town staff for all town endeavours.