Construction has begun at The Ridge, with the water treatment plant clearing all studies but for the final seal of approval. We’re waiting for that impatiently. DHP has a year to get going along with MP Construction, they have a lot of people who want lots in there. The sooner we can get that going the better.
This past year, Southwold has been very busy. In a smaller community it’s important that we help business where we can and all the events and organizations within the community.
Rosy Rhubarb, our cornerstone festival, showcases Southwold and volunteer organizations within the township. This year Rosy is celebrating its 25th year. Because these organizations were the main drive behind fundraising for our new library, they’ll be hosting the grand opening on June 9.
The Shedden Tractor Pull continues to be one of the best pulls in Ontario with record crowds year after year. Organizers donate many dollars back into the community each year and they are one amazing small bunch of people. Around 5,000 people come each year.
Our Canada Day celebrations at Fingal Park are always well attended and we are planning a bigger and better celebration for Canada’s 150th birthday this year.
Last year we hosted our first Tour of Southwold by Tractor, which covered about 40 km. It was a great tour followed by a barbecue. These tractors are all at least 25 years old, with a few well over 50 years old.
The Shedden Fair is another one of our cornerstones, for well over 100 years now. They exemplify traditions that are a real heritage.
We started Canada Day celebrations early this past Saturday (Feb. 18). We had a great day in Shedden. It was 15 degrees and we had been hoping to build snowmen, 150 snowmen, but it didn’t work out that well. We had a great day full of events with a lot of things for families to do. We finished it off with Connor Wilson in the evening and a fantastic fireworks display.
Communities in Bloom, what can I say. Second year in existence and five blooms plus a criteria award for environmental awareness. We’re very proud of these guys. they’ve made a huge difference in the community and how the township appears. And the pride within the township. I am told this committee has massive plans for this year and if you spend any time with group you will soon agree they can achieve whatever they set their mind to.
Elgincentives is an initiative of the county. Elgin county has a community improvement plan that continues to be very popular within the county and Southwold. We had five recipients in the past year (including Great Lakes Farms, Mazak Farms and West Elgin Mutual Insurance Company). And already we have four for this year that have already been approved. It is really huge when you get a little bit of money for improvements, signage and what not. Tourism is a big draw to these small farms and businesses and this really does help out.
Southwold continues to upgrade our fire department. This past year we added a light rescue truck in Talbotville station. This addition to the fleet will augment response times for ever-increasing motor vehicle accident and medical distress calls. We also added a training room at the Talbotville station to help with health and safety requirements.
And, like Central Elgin, at some point we know we will be looking at a new fire hall in the foreseeable future. It’s not a cheap proposition but it’s something we need to do. We have to have the right equipment for those people.
We will soon have a 3,500 square foot library which is nearly completed. The Rosy Rhubarb committee is close to reaching its goal for fundraising. I’m very confident they will achieve their objective in the near future.
Along with grants from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Green Lane Community Trust, the Elgin St. Thomas Community Foundation, the Ford Motor Company and many, many friend donations, we will have the facility completely funded outside municipal tax dollars. This is what you can achieve when the community pulls together.
Parks Southwold Strategic Plan identifies the need for major upgrades to our park facilities. It’s a struggle for many, many years to find the money to keep these parks up and try to be able to make a dent in the problem. With funding from Green Lane Trust, Stan’s Total Tire and a grant, our park in Fingal will now have lights on both diamonds, fencing on Diamond 2 which it has never had before, clay infields as well as warning tracks on both diamonds and, most important, accessible washrooms and pathways.
The Ford property seems to be in the news quite often and I get a lot of calls on it . . . and if you look there today, all you will see is the wastewater treatment plant, the rest is all gone except for a lot of concrete and environmental cleanup to continue. We look forward to the opportunities this property has to offer. We know there are people out there looking and we can only do our best to help sell the property.
Talbotville Berry Farm, new and improved. If you have visited there yet, you are missing out. The Simpsons offer a wide variety of things and it’s chock full of stuff.
Our Application the Canada 150 Infrastructure Grant for the Talbotville Park has been approved. This is one of our parks that has been neglected. This has been partly facilitated with a land swap. We were able to reach an agreement with an adjacent land owner to develop the land and we gave up some of our existing parkland to make it happen. We now have more parkland than we did before and that will help alleviate some of the need for parking and the soccer pitches which were overloaded. We look forward to this development in the coming year and the contracts will be going out shortly for development of the new park.
We also continue to work with several developers in Ferndale and Talbotville settlement areas and I think we have about four or five properties that are being looked at as we speak. Some have planned subdivisions coming forward in the near future. And this is all to do with the new wastewater treatment plant coming on line. This wouldn’t happen without it.
Southwold Township was able to purchase a little less than a 100-acre farm adjacent to the Shedden Keystone Complex grounds. This purchase will enable us to meet the expansion needs for our dedicated soccer pitches. And a site for a wastewater treatment plant we will need some time in the future.
With the rest of the land, some has been sold and some will be converted to residential lots and the rest sold off for future development.
Wonderland Road, this is a township and county thing. It was transferred to the county officially as of January 1. Upgrades are starting this year with just remedial actions to improve the shoulders while they do their due diligence. The tiling and all the water management of the area, we want to get it done right the first time.
We’re asking for the public’s patience. I know this is kind of a bitter pill for a lot of people who travel that way. There’s going to be construction there for three, four, maybe five years as we work with MTO to reach a solution for the lower end, which is biggest problem that we have at this time. That needs to be rectified before we go forward.
So, if you can, take another road. It’s getting ugly out there and it’s not going to get much better for awhile.
D.J. Kennington, our celebrity resident and public works staff member. He’s in Daytona right now as we speak and tomorrow (Thursday Feb. 23) if he gets his qualifying run in and he does good, we’ll be in the Daytona 500 on Sunday. (And yes, he did qualify for Sunday’s race.)
I can safely proclaim he is the fastest snowplow driver in North America. Whenever there is a mailbox demolished during a snow removal operation, D.J. disclaims it every time. Doesn’t matter which end of the township it’s in. We wish D.J. luck and he’s been a very responsible and dedicated member of our township and takes a lot of ribbing , but he takes it in stride and carries on.
In closing, it’s been a very busy and, at times, a stressful year for council and staff. I can’t say enough good things about the professionalism of my staff and their ability to get the job done in some very tight timelines, especially with grant applications in our small office.
We continue to make substantial advancements in all of our municipality’s projects and we look forward to significant progress in the coming year.