UXBRIDGE: Redistribution of Regional Council representation, infrastructure improvements and further investments in economic development highlighted Regional Chair Roger Anderson’s annual address to councillors earlier this week.
Mr. Anderson presented his annual update to councillors at their meeting on the morning of Monday, March 2, looking back at highlights in Durham over the past year, as well as offering a look at what is in store in 2015.
“In 2015, an immediate priority is the restructuring of Regional Council,” said Mr. Anderson. “We must consider the distribution of our population, as well as the ‘right size’ for council. Changes should be made in time for the 2018 election to ensure effective representation for all of our communities.”
Later, Ward 5 Councillor Gord Highet asked if Mr. Anderson had a ‘vision’ for the restructuring of Regional Council, and what it may look like in the future.
Mr. Anderson replied that he would “like to see it reduced by at least three.” As well, he opined that the council may need to look at being a “stand alone” body, with Regional Councillors solely focused on regional activities, and no longer sitting on the respective municipal councils.
“You don’t lose the local flavour, because all of the mayors would still sit on Regional Council, but it would allow the Regional Councillors to look at more of the big picture. One potential drawback for Regional Councillors would be that their pay would be cut in half,” commented Mr. Anderson.
Regardless of the potential make-up of Regional Council following restructuring, Mr. Anderson continued his pledge to ensure Uxbridge, Brock and Scugog maintain their current levels of representation at the Region.
Infrastructure improvements will continue in 2015, with Mr. Anderson noting that modifying the Regional Road network to manage traffic accessing Hwy. 407 will continue to be a key focus for the Region this year.
“In the next decade, we will invest more than $35 million to improve the affected Regional Roads and intersections,” added Mr. Anderson.
Improvements to Sandford Rd., as well as Hwy. 47 are expected to be carried out by the Region this year. The design for the Siloam bridge replacement is also expected to be completed this year, with the new bridge expected in 2016.
The 2015 Regional budget also includes $450,000 to complete a study of options to optimize operations at the water pollution control plant on Main St., along with $300,000 in local water and sewer upgrades.
With reviews of the Greenbelt and Oak Ridges Moraine plans expected in 2015, Mr. Anderson urged Uxbridge, as well as Scugog and Brock to ensure that they present strong cases to the province, to hopefully pave the way for more development in North Durham.
“This council has to be very strong at Queen’s Park and the government has to understand the negative impact this legislation has had,” Mr. Anderson said.
However, on the matter of lowering residential tax rates, Mr. Anderson noted that the best way to accomplish this is to attract more businesses to the area.
“The number-one way to reduce residential property taxes is to bring more companies to Durham, both new and established. Currently, 82 per cent of the tax bill in Durham is residential,” explained Mr. Anderson.