‘Traditionally, a good year would be 10 new starts, and on average it would be about eight'
STEWIACKE - One of the low lights of the year within the Town of Stewiacke turned into one of the highlights.
Town of Stewiacke Mayor Wendy Robinson is shown in front of the construction of a new residential sub-division and business park behind her. The growth of Stewiacke continues to be a highlight of the small town.
Mayor Wendy Robinson said a number of fires, including three that destroyed businesses or their buildings, showed everyone what residents of the small town are made of.
"One of the highlights is how we came back from that," said Robinson in a year-in-review interview. "One of those that was able to come back from that was the Home Hardware, but some of the other losses haven't been able to rebuild. That leaves an opportunity for other businesses to take over."
Throughout the year, including the first month of 2013, fires struck various businesses. The Home Hardware suffered two losses, the first being the custom cabinet shop and, most recently, a storage building.
BJ Electric, a family-operated business, was destroyed by fire as well.
But the flames haven't extinguished Robinson's excitement over what has been happening, and continues, in the town.
"We're pretty excited, because we are one of the only municipalities in the province that, while others decline in population, we continue to grow," she said.
"In the New Year I'm really looking forward to meeting new friends that are going to move to our town, and we're hoping to have more community events and growing our community spirit."
In December 2012, Stewiacke's building statistics sat at $1,950,000 in new construction value. That number has increased a year later by $730,000.
"One of our councillors - Chad Ramsey - co-owns Colchester Construction and he told us to expect about 30 new housing starts that year," said the mayor. "Traditionally, a good year would be 10 new starts, and on average it would be about eight, so when he said that we all looked at him with disbelief and anticipation."
Along with the construction starts, the town has made headway on the possibility of a new civic building to house the town hall and library.
"We still haven't made a decision but over the past year, we determined we had two possibilities - to renovate the current community centre to accommodate the civic building, or to look at the possibility of a new building on the site of the former elementary school."
Robinson said council, after gathering information, has decided not to continue looking at the community centre as an option.
"If we brought in a structural engineer and it was deemed feasible, we felt there would be no place for a community centre," she said, adding many events are held at the current centre above the fire hall. "If we put our civic centre there, where would we hold those events? We decided it was not a viable option."
With that option out, Robinson said council is still only looking at hiring someone to figure out the cost of a new building.
"We're still only simply looking at the cost of a new building, what it would look like, and if it could fit onto the lot of the old school," she said.
"We need to know the cost and decide at what point can we afford it. We are taxpayers too, so we're also looking at the timing of it."
With new families moving into the area, that means more tax money being paid to the municipality, which in turn would help lower taxes for residents in the community if all the spending stays the same.
As for the new year, Robinson said the town will be looking at where it sits in terms of its strengths and gaps, in preparation for the new Regional Enterprise Networks set to replace the province's 12 Regional Development Agencies.