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Looking ahead to 2013 opportunities

By Francis Baker

This will be a year of new opportunities, Centre Wellington Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj told a crowd of business owners and community leaders last week.

Speaking at the annual Mayor’s Breakfast Jan. 30 at the Grand River Raceway, Ross-Zuj said the municipality has been facing many many challenges and had to look at how to effectively address them.

“We must capitalize on new opportunities … and new opportunities are what 2013 is all about,” she said.

Projects like the expansion of the Elora sewage treatment plant, replacing the Drimmie Dam in Elora, the Elora Mill redevelopment by the Landmark Group, the Tower Street bridge replacement and Fergus library expansion are among those opportunities, she said. The arrival of Wal-Mart last fall and Target in the spring are big business opportunities.

But there are other things going on more behind the scenes, which she highlighted to the sold-out audience.

One is the township’s new staff organizational structure, which has been revised for the first time since the township was created by amalgamation 14 years ago. The change was driven by the need to make township operations more efficient as a provincial partnership fund continues to be cut back – the township has had to find savings each year to deal with the cuts.

“It was time for us to look at our organizational structure … what it looked like and what was sustainable,” she said.

The new organization has four managing directors – of infrastructure, community services, corporate services, and planning and development services – reporting to CAO Andy Goldie, instead of the former 11 department heads.

Colin Baker was recently hired at director of infrastructure, and the three other directors are expected to be put in place through the year, Ross-Zuj said.

Getting funding for infrastructure is another priority, as municipalities are lobbying higher levels of government for money for specific infrastructure needs – water, waste water, bridges and roads.

But the government “pushed back,” and demanded asset management plans from municipalities, she said – something Centre Wellington has been working on and is expected to complete this year.

“We’ll be ready when they unveil that program for us in 2014,” she said. The completed asset management plan will have to be submitted with requests for infrastructure funding.

Dealing with growth is the third major opportunity the mayor highlighted. The province’s Places to Grow study shows Centre Wellington’s population could double in 25 years, she said. “How do we deal with that increase in population? How do we make sure our community grows in the way we want it to grow?”

The township has done several studies and plans, and now they’re to be brought together in an overall growth plan that should answer those questions. It should be finished by the end of this year.

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