Stimulating the county’s economic development, providing new affordable housing, and keeping up with the county’s endless infrastructure needs has kept County of Simcoe warden Gerry Marshall and council busy in 2017; and planning for 2018.
With more than 1,800 kilometers of roads to maintain, the county has plenty to administer.
“We’re going to do about sixty kilometers of road work next year,” said Marshall. That includes work on highways 90 and 17. As well, the county’s new interchange at Highway 400 and 4th Line is expected to be fully open in November 2018, which opens the door for new business locations.
In an effort to entice new commerce, Marshall was recently in Chicago meeting with growing businesses as part of the county’s “Investment Attraction” campaign. Marshall described it as “an integral component of our economic development strategy.” The county’s economic development effort in 2017 also included a presentation to the American online retailer Amazon, which has been seeking presentations from municipalities who desire the company’s soon to be announced second headquarters in North America. The county presentation included two sites in Bradford and one in Innisfil. Amazon received 237 other presentations and is expected to announce the outcome this spring.
Marshall is also excited about the county effort to improve mobility for residents.
“We have a four-year plan to launch an inter-county transit system that would connect the municipalities to one another,” he said. Five million dollars has been set aside in the 2018 budget for the plan, which will benefit seniors, those seeking employment, as well as students traveling to the Lakehead University and Georgian College campuses. A Request For Proposal process has been initiated to determine how it operates. “We’d like to see the wheels on the buses go round and round by October of next year,” Marshall chuckled.
Social services are top of mind as well. To address affordable housing and homeless, the county has made significant progress.
“We’ve got 300 units planned over the next two years,” said Marshall. The 2018 budget will also provide funding for health and emergency services. This includes financial support for the Barrie Hospital and the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.
As the digital world continues to grow rapidly and new opportunities evolve daily, the county is quickly trying to ensure residents, schools, business, and farms can benefit from the installation of fibre broadband. The county has partnered with SWIFT, the South Western Integrated Fibre Technology initiative funded jointly by the federal and provincial governments, and has set aside funding.
“We’re delivery far more services this year than last,” Marshall noted on the heels of the county’s 2018 budget being passed in which residents will see a one percent increase on the county portion of their municipal property taxes. “Meeting the varied needs of our residents while remaining fiscally responsible and accountable is the top priority for our council. The 2018 budget allows us to build upon our investment in social and community services, health services, and economic development, all the while improving on the many vital partnerships we share with municipal and community stakeholders.”