TRURO - As the winds of change course through Colchester County next year, Mayor Bob Taylor can only hope they are less contentious than those of 2013.
“I think we’ve dealt with more issues and more projects in this county than any other municipality, outside of HRM, of course,” Taylor said, while chatting about some of the accomplishments and challenges of the past year.
“Holy whistling Moses, when you look at the big concerns and so on that that we dealt with, we had a lot and it took a lot of time.”
Two such challenges that immediately spring to mind, of course, involve the publicly contentious discussions surrounding the new wind turbine bylaw and sewage use bylaw.
“I think we did a great public consultation process,” he said of both issues. “We did the hearings, we did everything, as trying as that process was. I think we gave it every consideration.”
One of the primary changes to the wind turbine bylaw was a change to the setback distance for industrial turbines from 700 metres to 1,000 metres (or one km) from the nearest residence.
The sewage use bylaw, meanwhile, put new regulations in place to better control what can be disposed of in the municipal sewer system. And that ultimately resulted in a rejection of an application by Atlantic Industrial Systems in Debert to dispose of millions of litres of treated fracking water.
During numerous discussions with other municipal representatives across the province, Taylor said, they were often amazed at the types of issues that Colchester was dealing with throughout the year.
“They’re looking at you (with a sort wonder),” he said. ”They didn’t have to deal with that.”
While some municipalities have put a moratorium on wind turbine development, Taylor said, Colchester does not want to take such a drastic measure.
“That’s not dealing with the issue,” he said, of a moratorium.
Colchester would prefer, instead, he said, to extend a mindset that the municipality is open for business.
And on that front, the municipality will be proceeding in a new direction in 2014 with the hiring of its own economic development officer, who is set to begin in early January.
“We’ve got to rethink how we’re doing this,” he said, of economic development initiatives. “My big thing, and has been, is we have to work with the companies we have here and the people we have here and encourage them to start businesses or buy into businesses because that’s where our strength is.”
Taylor also believes there should be programs put in place aimed at young entrepreneurs and at finding more ways to ensure new immigrants who come here, are inclined to remain.
“We’re bringing people in, let’s try to keep them here,” he said. “That’s a challenge.”
Another looming challenge is how best to deal with the crippling debt held by the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition (NSPE), which also impacts the Truro Raceway.
“We know where we want to be at the county (level) and we’ve thrown that (proposal) out to them,” Taylor said, of the exhibition board.
“Our interest is, it’s a community asset and it should be kept a community asset.”
In the same way that the county provides annual monetary support to Scotia Pool and ice rinks in Debert, Tatamagouche and Brookfield, the mayor believes similar consideration should be granted to the NSPE.
“We know we have to put some operational money in to keep them going,” he said, of the pool and rinks.
“This would be similar. But that’s going to be one of our challenges and we are going to have to hit that head on the first of the year.”
There will be other challenges, of course, but from an accomplishment perspective, Taylor is looking forward to the completion of such projects as the new scale house and compost facility at the Truro balefill site.
And he is also eagerly anticipating the start of the sewage line project that will service Onslow residents and open up the potential for new development in that area. “That is going to open that area for development which I think is going to be good.”
And last but certainly not least, from his perspective, is the ongoing flood mitigation work that will continue next year.
A major factor in that project, he added, is that the municipality now has approval from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to conduct work on both the North and Salmon rivers, from where they converge, through to the CN bridge.
“The flood mitigation is big for us. I think it’s amazing,” he said, of the work that has been done so far.