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Mayor wants airport emphasis in tourism pitch

Coun. Pearce issues warning to next councilĀ 
Coun. Norman Mann chairing Monday afternoon's meeting of city council.

In the middle of this year's election campaign, members of the city's Economic Development Standing Committee looked for ways to leverage the city's measurable assets to attract government grant funding and boost local business investment efforts.

At the Monday afternoon committee meeting, Mayor Dan Marchisella asked Economic Development Manager Steve Antunes to look up a five-year-old airport report to include references in a tourism study his department is preparing.

The mayor said there had been community input in the lengthy report staff previously collected on the airport.

"We compiled multiple binders that had come from studies ... back into the early 90s. We created a sub-group that comprised a lot of the clubs and user groups in town that were involved," he added.

It was a case of bad timing, though, since the clock ran out when the 2018 election was held. 

Marchisella wants to make sure city staff includes information from the old airport study while working to showcase Elliot Lake's outdoor assets, "(including) the usage that we have from those assets and the potential for added value," he said. 

The mayor cited the Lookout Tower as a city attraction, along with Elliot Lake's trail systems with its geocaching for its warm weather eco-tourism potential, just as the Mt. Dufour Ski Hill provides value added in the winter months.

The mayor said many city assets can be used to leverage grant funding requests but they need to be packaged in a short asset study, not a lengthy report.

Earlier this year the city purchased 40 acres of land from a private landowner in the area of Milliken Mine Road and Hwy 108 with a view to adding it to Elliot Lake's land bank.

Committee Chair Coun. Tom Turner said there's a demand for local lakefront estate lots for medical doctors who want them before they commit to locate in town.

Antunes said to date the city has been offering residential lots only from the existing public land bank.

That could change, he added, "We're continuing to work with anyone who knocks on the door and has an interest in that. We will try and list them as they become available."

Antunes said the housing market has softened from earlier this year and his department is starting to see the supply increase. 

He added average days on the market for listed properties are increasing and the available resale housing supply is larger than it was 12 to 14 months ago.

Later in the meeting, it was agreed to pass to council letters of intent to develop city-owned property at 255 Hwy 108, site of the former Lester B. Pearson Civic Centre, on Oct. 30, after the municipal election.

Earlier this year, council declared the property surplus making it available to be sold.

"We've gotten multiple requests for information on the lot and to put an offer. There's a sign up there that it was declared surplus that says a lot is available,"  Antunes explained.

He said the procedure differs from the typical requests for proposal process since the goal is to get as many offers as possible.

Antunes' recommendation to keep the appraisal on the property confidential, since revealing it could lead to lower bids, will go to the next council meeting on Sept. 26.

A few minutes after the economic development meeting, there were some interesting comments presented at the finance and administration committee that followed.

Treasurer Amy Sonnenberg sounded another alarm about the state of the city's reserves.

"We need to either increase contribution to the reserves in some way or curb our expectations on what we can spend on an ongoing basis," she said.

"I don't know whether or not we can make the new council understand the situation they are about to inherit," said Coun. Ed Pearce, who is not running for re-election. "But I hope that when they do they realize that they're going to have to take some very drastic action, very early in their term."

The discussion can be viewed here beginning at timestamp 5:10.


About the Author: Brent Sleightholm

As a reporter, Brent has covered everything from amateur and professional sports, to politics, entertainment, police and courts, to human interest stories and government issues
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