District leaders hopeful of year ahead

Peggy Revell
Heather Latter

District municipal leaders are looking towards the new year with optimism—especially with the promise of a growing mining sector in the region.
“I’m optimistic,” La Vallee Reeve Ross Donaldson said about 2012. “I think the economy is going to pick up a little bit.
“I’m really optimistic about the mining to the west of us,” he added. “I think that’s going to be good for our community.”
With it being just over a year since the 2010 municipal election, Reeve Donaldson said it’s been a learning curve as they work to get the new council settled in and going.
The major accomplishment for this past year was the new snowplow truck, which La Vallee just received, while the upcoming year will see council rewrite the township’s official plan, he noted.
“We don’t have any big projects on the horizon, we’re just looking into budget season,” Reeve Donaldson remarked.
“The big challenge is always money, and what happens with the paper mill affects us, of course,” he added.
“We’re excited about the mining to the west of us, that’s going to help our community, so we just have to make sure that we’re ready to take any opportunities that come along,” Reeve Donaldson reiterated, noting for La Vallee, that means such things as being ready to supply labour or having housing ready for workers.
Meanwhile, several projects in Emo Township were started in 2011, which council will continue to work on in the year ahead.
“We’re working on our official plan right now and that will be another couple of months before it’s completed,” said Emo Mayor Vince Sheppard.
He noted work has begun to make the Emo Public Library more accessible, and that council is seeking funding to upgrade the municipality’s sewer and water system to meet demand.
“We need it right now, but also looking toward the future,” Mayor Sheppard explained, citing the potential gold mine north of Barwick could impact the population of Emo for years to come.
In addition, Mayor Sheppard said this year will see continued efforts to rebuild the Sturgeon Creek Alternative Program (SCAP) school within Emo Township.
“It hasn’t gone through yet but it’s moving along,” he indicated, explaining there are many steps to the process.
Meanwhile, Donald Young School there currently is undergoing a pupil accommodation review to study its viability, with three more public consultations still to be held (the next being on Jan. 12).
Emo council already has thrown its support behind keeping DYS within the township’s boundaries.
Mayor Sheppard, too, is optimistic about the year ahead in Emo and is looking forward to attending the Rainy River District Municipal Association’s annual meeting Jan. 28 at the Devlin Hall.
He also plans to attend the Ontario Good Roads Association/Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference in Toronto in February.
Emo council also will be looking at sharing its fire services with Chapple, and possibly La Vallee, in the new year.
“We [already] share service for the fire chief, so we will look at combining our fire services so it will eliminate a lot of overhead costs,” noted Chapple Reeve Peter Van Heyst.
He said the Township of Chapple had a successful year in 2011, seeing the completion of the Barron Bridge project, as well as receiving positive results from Rainy River Resources with its exploratory drilling at its site in Richardson Township.
“It’s hard to say how it will impact us because it’s just in the beginning stages yet,” he conceded.
But Reeve Van Heyst is optimistic about the year ahead. “We’re just keeping things on an even keel,” he remarked.
“As far as I’m concerned, we’re just going to sit tight and see what pans out,” said Alberton Reeve Mike Hammond.
“Just make sure that we don’t overspend and set our sights too high until we know where the economy is going,” he reasoned.
2011 followed a year where Alberton council did accomplish quite a bit of work, Reeve Hammond noted, so this past year’s highlights include just finishing up some work on the exercise equipment at the recreation centre and doing some ditch work.
“That’s about what we did,” he said, adding that there are no particular goals in the upcoming year.
About the only challenge Alberton will see is if the mill in Fort Frances closes down. Meanwhile, the main benefit they’ll see—if and when the mining gets up and running—is some more residents in the municipality.
“I think I’m optimistic. I think the coming year we’ll do all right,” Reeve Hammond said.