While there will be much to do when the new council is sworn into office in December, re-elected New Tecumseth Mayor Rick Milne says tackling affordable housing is close to his heart and one issue he hopes to work hard on over this four-year term.
“We don’t have places for our seniors to live in,” Milne told Simcoe Review, as he laid out his vision for the next four years in office. “Because I’m with (Simcoe) County also, we’re trying to get affordable housing in the south end of the county and I’ll be working harder on that.”
With people living longer in their homes, nursing homes crowded and hospitals “no place for those who aren’t sick,” Milne says possible solutions include having have granny flats or perhaps subsidizing a room in homes.
“People are living longer today because of the medication we have,” he added. “We are keeping people living longer. That’s a good thing, but we have to have places where the seniors can live closer to where their home is. Also, keep them active, keep them involved in groups and that because there’s nothing worse than having a senior sitting all day in their room and not having any activity.”
Milne received 5,959 votes in his successful re-election bid, collecting 63.92 per cent of the total vote and finishing well ahead of his lone challenger, journalist Tony Veltri, who had 3,364 votes and 36.06 per cent of the ballots tallied. He says he is pleased with the convincing support he got from the electorate and hopes the ones that didn’t vote for him will support him after his four-year term.
“I represent the whole community,” said Milne, whom, for 30 years now, has held the title of either mayor or deputy mayor.
He’s always had an open-door policy and this term won’t be any different, even if that means having to meet someone on a weekend. He’s done it in the past and is willing to do it now.
There are plenty of important issues he would love to get right to work on. Number one on that list is ensuring the water pipeline extension to Tottenham remains on track for 2021.
“That’s something we’ve been promising the people down there and now we’ve got to keep that going,” said the 71-year-old former police officer.
Finalizing plans and building a brand-new Beeton Community Centre is also one of the top items for council. As is developing a public transit system.
The New Tecumseth mayor also wants to see through the completion of a new administration centre. The previous council has approved a site in Alliston.
“We’re so crowded where we are,” he said. “The administration centre that we’re sitting in now was built just for Alliston before the amalgamation. Back then, we were around (a population of) 4,200 and now we’re up to 37,000 and growing.”
With that growth has come wear and tear on area roads and maintaining them comes at a cost. But they are necessities for the fast growing town.
“We’re quite lucky that we still have all the development charges,” said Milne, who was in Barrie on Nov. 12 meeting with federal government representatives to find out how much infrastructure money will be available for the province and municipalities. “That pays for a lot of the infrastructure and, with the new government programs that are rolling out, there’s money available for transit, roads and bridges.”
Milne has seen dramatic changes in the area over the last few years and planning 25 or 30 years ahead is a must for the rapidly growing town.
“The last five or 10 years, we’ve never seen growth come so fast,” he said. “At one time, you never saw development north of Highway 9, but now they’re looking north of Highway 89.”
Rapid growth is expected to continue to at least 2031.
“We’re looking at 55,000 to 60,000 people, so we have to be ready for that influx of population and having the infrastructure done for that,” said Milne, who is about to begin his third term as New Tecumseth mayor.
He says more and more people are selling their house in Brampton, Mississauga or Toronto at a real good price and moving into New Tecumseth.
“They buy a house at half the price and got money in their pockets,” he said. “They’re willing to make the longer commutes to work. The other side of that is they come up here and they’re expecting all the facilities they had down there that we don’t have, like swimming pools and transit. They don’t realize they’ve got to give up something before we can catch up.”
Prioritizing what the town needs is important and while it often comes at a significant price, Milne points out that projects are cheaper now than they will be down the road. Costs, for the most part, never go down.