Report to the Community 2013
Looks Back 100 Years – and Forward at the Century to Come
Dear Residents of Conmee,
What a year we had in 2013! You might expect that of course, given all our 100th anniversary celebrations. From the New Year’s Ball to ring in 2013, Family Day events in February, an Easter Pancake Breakfast, a Women’s Showcase to Celebrate Mother’s Day, July 1st Celebrations (capped with 45 minutes of fireworks), our September Semi-Formal Gala in period clothing, the Halloween Party, and finally our community potluck dinner to celebrate Christmas together, all events were well attended and certainly exceeded our expectations.
Personally, what struck me most about these events is that they succeeded in not just celebrating the moment Conmee became a legal township in Ontario, but the 100 years we’ve had together being a community. That’s reassuring, in a way. I always think about what the future has in store for Conmee. In 1913 Canada, there were more people living in rural areas than cities. Today, those numbers have basically reversed, and you have to wonder what the future holds. For that reason, the council and I have worked hard in a number of ways to ensure Conmee continues to thrive.
Rebranding Our Growing Community
One of those ways was through our rebranding in 2013, complete with a new township website (www.conmee.com) to give ourselves a fresh, vibrant look. It’s part of our mission to attract new families to the area. Truth be told, it’s not that hard of a sell. I met one family who moved here last year. Both are professionals from the Toronto area attracted by job opportunities – and our quality of living. Not only have they reduced their commute to just 25 minutes every day, they have 10 or 15 acres of pristine land for their kids to play on, not to mention clean air, natural water, and great views of the Norwesters, the Sleeping Giant, the Kam River, and Mokomon.
We’re growing the community in other ways as well. The most visible way perhaps is all the upgrades we’ve been making to the Community Centre Hall. Inside, we’ve added a new air conditioning system, a new ceiling and lighting fixtures, and a new audio/visual system, as well as a backup generator. Outside, we created a year-round hockey rink with a cement pad for summer hockey, basketball and tennis, and a new playground for the kids, which will be installed this summer. All of these upgrades come thanks to various government grants we applied for in 2013.
As another community success story, I’m happy to announce that a resident has been given the green light to build a BMX and skateboard park on the Community Centre grounds. Evan Fiorito put together his own proposal and Council has approved the use of the land. Council is also facilitating a Committee of volunteers that are actively working to secure funding through grant applications, donations and sponsors. Look for upcoming opportunities to help these young people reach their goal. I’m very proud that we as a community can support and foster this kind of grassroots endeavour, both in terms of further developing our recreational activities and in particular by providing more things to attract the younger generation to Conmee.
2013 had its challenges, too. With the province looking at a new highway project, we had to carefully consider the proposed routes. As it turned out, three of the four proposals would have been devastating for Conmee – in one case, the proposed route would have displaced 63 families and put a hold on all future development until the highway was built. Thanks to our committee work, we successfully lobbied for the best proposal early in the Province’s planning stages to avoid this type of displacement, and to ensure our residents can continue to develop in the area.
Last year was also the Year of the Cleanup after the 2012 floods. Here too we were successful at lobbying the government. Originally, the province gave us $800,000 to fix bridges, culverts, and other flood damage. However, after we commissioned an engineer’s report that showed this wouldn’t be nearly enough to cover the actual costs, we were able to secure a total of $2 million in relief funding, fully covering all costs. Due to the short construction season, the few remaining culverts and road repairs will be completed this summer.
Conmee’s Infrastructure Plan
Investments to Conmee’s infrastructure including roads, bridges, buildings, and equipment are vital to growing our economy and building a stronger community. Every year, council makes decisions on operations, maintenance, renewal, replacements, and disposing of assets. In 2013, Conmee Township successfully applied for funds from the Municipal Infrastructure Investment Initiative (MIII) to create an Asset Management Plan. This plan will help ensure that our Infrastructure needs will be met in the years to come. It is a “living document” for Conmee so that council can identify and prioritize the needs of your community as required.
Gas Tax Dollars Summary
Ever wonder where that gas tax money goes when you pay at the pump? Those dollars are hard at work for your community. The Township of Conmee received their portion of gas tax funds in the amount of $195,663.82 over the past three years. It was because of this money that our Public Works Department was able to purchase a 2014 plow truck/sander.
Partnerships with Surrounding Communities
Changes have also come in our partnerships with the five other communities that surround Thunder Bay. We are trying to streamline our costs by sharing certain services. By example, right now, we are in the process of ending our service agreement with the District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board (DSSAB) – in 2013, we paid $70,000 to DSSAB and received by their accounting $3,000 worth of services. This has also impacted other areas of funding such as our Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) allocations. By withdrawing from DSSAB, the six Area 1 communities will save over $1.5 million per year, which will be put towards more relevant services for our residents that we will administer ourselves. We have been successful by working together to address other areas of mutual concern with various government ministries, but these efforts must continue.
As successful as 2013 was for us, our work doesn’t stop in 2014. We will be reviewing the operations in all the departments of the township – not because we believe anything is wrong, but because it is the responsible thing to do. This is the last year of the current council, and it is prudent for us to identify what’s working, what’s not working, and any shortfalls or areas of improvement. Building a community is a tough and rewarding job for both the residents and council. Decisions are always based on the needs of our community and what is allowed through legislation. I want to ensure that at the end of this term of Council that the township will be in a good position.
I believe that Conmee is already in a great position for the century ahead. The most telling statistic, I think, is that the last census revealed that Conmee is both growing in population while the average age of our population is decreasing. This shows me that despite the trend over the last 100 hundred years towards cities, there is still a place for smaller rural communities to grow and thrive. As we continue to attract the next generation with our planned Country Estate Lots, bedroom community access, and – most importantly – our strong sense of community, Conmee’s next 100 years may turn out to be our best yet.
Good things are happening in Conmee and I am excited at the opportunities that exist.
Mayor Kevin Holland