UXBRIDGE: With council nearing the final year of their current term in office, The Standard recently caught up with a pair of Uxbridge’s municipal leaders to gather their thoughts on the past three years, and what 2014 may hold for the municipality.
Regional Councillor Jack Ballinger and Ward 2 Councillor Pat Molloy both noted the numerous community projects that have been accomplished by council, in partnership with the community, as highlights of the current term.
"The skate park and the splash pad are both super additions to our town, and wouldn’t have been possible without great volunteers from the community," said Councillor Ballinger. "As well, we’ve put away money for the new fire hall, and working hard on the new animal shelter. I was also personally involved with the refurbishing of the cenotaph."
Councillor Ballinger also noted that projects haven’t been limited to urban Uxbridge with extensive road repairs north of town, including the replacement of the Leaskdale bridge. As well, the roundabout at the corner of Durham Rd. 8 and Conc. 6 has now been operational for two years.
As well, Councillor Ballinger recently saw his efforts to have a section of Brock St. in downtown resurfaced, which had been his mission for the past year.
"From last November, when I saw someone struggling to get across the road, I pushed at the Region for resurfacing of Brock St., and it finally came true when work started recently," noted Councillor Ballinger.
During this term of council, Mr. Ballinger has also acted as a crusader against truck traffic in Uxbridge’s downtown core.
"Both Mayor Gerri Lynn O’Connor and myself have worked hard at the Region to deal with trucks downtown. And, although there is still work to be done, there are less than there were three years ago, and we will continue to work on that issue to try and get some relief for business owners and residents downtown," explained Councillor Ballinger.
Both councillors also noted the frequent talk of taxes, and how the municipality funds its services.
"We have got to find new ways to finance the municipality beyond taxpayers," said Councillor Molloy, who serves as Chair of the finance committee. "We have to find alternatives, and look at ways to make and save money."
Councillor Molloy also took note of the challenges that come with funding the township’s numerous facilities, an ongoing debate throughout the township’s annual municipal budget deliberations.
"As a ward councillor, one of the things we have to work on is getting our facilities used more often, particularly our community halls," Councillor Molloy told The Standard.
Rising taxes tend to go hand-in-hand with rising property values, noted Councillor Ballinger, who stressed that council’s main objective is retaining what makes Uxbridge a destination for many homeowners.
"I try and not discuss taxes, because a lot of the time we’re bound by MPAC (the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation). And, all we can really do is hold the line," commented Councillor Ballinger. "Essentially we’re paying for our quality of life, but it only goes so far. The majority of people love living in this town but, you have to pay for it."
It was also noted by Councillor Molloy, that the creation of emergency reserves for individual township departments should help to lower taxes, as they don’t have to be budgeted for year-after-year.
"Previously, departments would budget extra funds just in case, with the reserves that money is already on hand, so we don’t have to keep taxing our homeowners," explained Councillor Molloy.
However, while help from the higher levels of government would be appreciated, council remains cautiously optimistic about the possibility.
"We have go to help people out with housing geared to income, and look at where people can get affordable housing. Maybe someone will grab the bull by the horns at the First Leaside building (the remains of the abandoned construction project at the corner of Brock St. and Victoria St.)," added Councillor Ballinger. "But I don’t think we’re going to get a lot of help from the government. And, it’s a shame that the younger generation will ultimately have to pay for it. It’s not fair."
Both councillors shared in their pride for the Uxbridge community, and their role as councillors.
"Three years have gone by really fast, and we haven’t stopped learning. It’s incredible, the amount of information that comes in - it never stops. That’s what needed to keep this community in such great shape," said Councillor Molloy.
As a champion for Uxbridge at the Regional level, Councillor Ballinger considers his role to be a privledge, that he does not take lightly.
"I’m very proud to be a council member and voice for this community. It is a real honour to serve and help with making sure that Uxbridge remains a safe and vibrant community."