Mayor looks back on 2020 and ahead to 2021

January 21, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

Orangeville Council had no shortage of challenges, obstacles, and roadblocks to work through in 2020, but for a year that was overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, lots was achieved to move the community forward. 

Out of everything that happened last year, the OPP transition on Oct, 1 was the most significant, according to Mayor Sandy Brown. 

He says it took 10 months to prepare for the change and it’s a decision that’s going to pay dividends down the road. 

“There was a lot of hard work by Town staff in the background, albeit administrative work that had to be done,” Mayor Brown noted. 

“Also, some changes to the building had to be looked after and our general manager of community services, Ray Osmond looked after that.” 

The change in police services is estimated to save taxpayers as much as $58 million by 2036. 

Mayor Brown said next on the list of Council’s accomplishments is the signing of an agreement with Wightman Telecom for an investment of $56 million in ultra high speed future proof fibre optic in Orangeville. 

He told the Citizen this upgrade in Internet service is much needed, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, since more Orangeville residents are working from home. 

“It’s coincidental that we were able to put that contract together, sort of prior to COVID, but the actual construction started in October, and is moving along quickly through our industrial area,” Mayor Brown remarked. 

“This is going to be important for business retention and it’s also going to be important for economic development and business attraction going forward.” 

Any business looking to relocate in Orangeville will be looking at its infrastructure and with fibre optic becoming “almost an essential service,” according to Mayor Brown, it will be high on their priority list. 

“So that was a really important step. It was one where we were able to convince a great company like Whightman to invest in our Town, so it really wasn’t any expense, in terms of budgetary expense to the Town,” Mayor Brown explained. 

In terms of communications, he said improving messaging with the community and internally among staff were top priorities when he first was elected as mayor, back in 2018. 

This year, Orangeville launched Data., which is a website featuring all sorts of data collected locally, as well as news releases to keep the public informed. 

Another area of focus in 2020 was completing the Town’s Parks and Recreation Master Plan. 

Orangeville Council is now looking at how to budget for the recommendations made in the master plan, which have a 10-year vision. 

Those recommendations highlight ways the Town can improve its park system, trail system, and recreational amenities. 

When looking at development, Mayor Brown said Orangeville’s Highlands land, just west of the Orangeville Mall on Hansen Boulevard has been given the green light to build 541 new residential units in the form of apartments and stacked townhouses. In addition to housing, the area will feature a dog park, some parkland, and a connection to the Orangeville Mall. 

Reflecting back at the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to greatly impact Orangeville residents, Mayor Brown said the municipality laid off staff so they could solely focus on essential services. 

“There was some pain there with those people being let go, but we had some fiscal realities that we had to deal with as a Town,” he noted. 

More recently, on Jan. 5, the municipality laid off 46 staff due to the provincial lockdown 

“While the decision to lay off members of our staff is a difficult one, the provincial shut-down necessitates the closure of our facilities and cancellation of programs,” said Town CAO Ed Brennan. “The Town hopes to be able to recall laid-off staff and restore affected services as soon as possible.” 

Mayor Brown said COVID-19 has been challenging, but the municipality is well positioned to come out the other end and he looks forward to the vaccine becoming publicly available. 

When looking at positive news from 2020, the Jean Hamlyn Daycare Centre, which looks after 70-80 children and is located behind the Tony Rose Sports Centre, has been taken over by the YMCA. 

The building was renovated last year and opened to the public recently. 

Looking ahead, he said being “Tight fisted” fiscally is something Council will continue to focus on. 

He lauded the Town’s first two tax increases, since beginning his term in 2018, which totaled 0.83 per cent and 1.5 per cent, both below the two per cent rate of inflation.Mayor Brown noted that those were “historically low increases in the tax rate” and he wants to continue keeping increases to a minimum in 2021 and 2022. 

Orangeville currently has the highest property tax rate in the GTA, which was one of the reasons why the Mayor wanted to run for office in the first place. 

Another area to focus on for 2021 is the Town’s railway, which has been a “money losing proposition since the day it was purchased,” according to Mayor Brown. 

While proponents of keeping the railway in tact argue it benefits the environment and keeps truck traffic off the road, he argues that in addition to the cost, there’s too much liability attached to the railway for the Town and manufacturers no longer use the asset. 

In terms of liabilities, there are 43 bridges between Orangeville and Streetsville in Mississauga where the rail line runs too, and each bridge is incredibly expensive to repair whenever repairs are needed. 

Mayor Brown told the Citizen his vision is to convert the rail line into a trail for walking, hiking, or biking. 

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