On Thursday and Friday last week, Council and staff met to establish the District's priorities for the new term and the debate was about narrowing down the District's focus to some essential and fundamental targets. There was much debate but in the end it looks like economic development, water quality, and safe and well maintained infrastructure are at the top of the list.
The group was able to identify more than one hundred projects and issues for discussion but was also comfortable to combine many of those under a number of categories to establish the top priorities to tackle in the next first months in office.
The Water Master Plan and its implementation were again at the top of the list. As you may recall, this was also the top priority in the previous term. Much was done in the last two years, to the point that a preferred option was chosen by Council and information sessions were held in order to create awareness of the plan and the chosen option. The next step will be to acquaint the new Council members with the plan, the capital projects that are needed to implement the strategy and the corresponding cost, and finally to have the plan finalized and approved prior to the 2013 budget cycle. The first step will be to present the plan and the necessary background information to Council in January and work with the consultant to prepare the final consolidated plan.
It is important to remind that the volunteers sitting on the Water Advisory Committee spent countless hours to steer and guide the process this far. They have supported the preferred option and have assisted with the public information process. It is also important to remind that there are some immediate needs that the District is already working on. Probably the most significant is the former Wood Lake water system, which will positively affect and improve the long standing issue of water quality in Oyama. We have repeatedly said that the new system will be ready in 2013 and that work has begun this year thanks to a grant from the provincial and federal governments. Finally, the issue of water rates will have to be discussed as part of the budget process. The question is whether a major increase is necessary immediately or it can wait until the next budget process. Again, this is something Council will debate and decide likely in January.
With respect to infrastructure, Council is well aware of the issue of aging, which is not unique to Lake Country but is common to all Canadian municipalities but safety is paramount for our community. So called 'Active Transportation Hot Spots' will be on top of the agenda, such as Lodge Road and Davidson Road. Council will review the list staff has been working on for the last couple of years and prioritize them in order of urgency and funding criteria. We need no reminder that funds are tight and will be even tighter as we meander through a global economic crisis that still lingers on. The District has already been working on this in the last two years and seeing this again on Council's agenda is a good sign that we are going in the right direction.
With our Waste Water Plant at capacity, another priority is also the finalization of our Liquid Waste Management Plan and securing the Ministry of Environment and Interior Health 'go ahead' with the expansion of our septic facility and the ability to provide a long-term sustainable approach to liquid waste (another item from last term priority list).
Finally, Economic Development and the Town Centre are back on the top of the agenda. Focus on a strategy, possible incentives and an understanding of market dynamics will help to successfully accomplish the economic rebound that our community needs, especially in view of the fact that almost 90% of our tax base is from residential properties.
As we work on finalizing these priorities, the Corporate Business Plan will be prepared accordingly and the budget submitted on the basis of these priorities. We will continue to communicate to the public through our social media and the traditional press and we are thankful to our local newspapers for the support they provide in communicating these important issues to the community.
Lake Country is truly moving forward.