Challenges and hope for Pembroke
Pembroke Mayor Michael LeMay says the year 2017 was challenging, and 2018 will need hard work as council heads into its last months before the October municipal elections.
The year 2017 was one filled with challenges and progress for the city of Pembroke.
So said Mayor Michael LeMay, who addressed council Tuesday night with a state of the city address touching on the year that just ended, while looking towards 2018.
“We now begin the final year of our term as elected municipal officials,” he said. “2018 will be another busy year for council. We will continue to work on our primary goal of increasing the growth our assessment base, as it is one of the few ways that we can control the level of tax increases that we need to properly serve the ratepayers of our city.”
LeMay said Pembroke's downtown continues to see positive changes, with entrepreneurs opening new businesses which keep bringing in customers to the city's core.
“New construction within the city increased in 2017,” he said. “We will begin seeing the economic benefits in 2018.”
LeMay said for this coming year, economic development will continue to be a priority. The city now has new tools in place to help attract new commercial, industrial and manufacturing enterprises.
“Our community improvement plan is proving to be a successful endeavour in encouraging developers to improve properties throughout the city,” the mayor said. “Our investment ready certified sites located in TransCan Corporate Park will help us attract new businesses.”
LeMay said they also lowered the tax ratio on the commercial and industrial tax to encourage new investment in the community. He said the city is also fortunate to have a very active economic development advisory committee that continues to provide advice on attracting and retaining businesses.
Elsewhere, in 2017 the city completed the restructuring of city departments based on third party reviews that took place in 2016 and 2017. The mayor said these reports have provided the necessary information to help council continue to provide efficient and cost effective services to the community.
One ongoing challenge the city faced in 2017 which they will continue to face this year is the high cost of maintaining city infrastructure, such as roads, sewers, water and other city assets.
“Small communities like ours cannot afford the replacement and repairing of aging infrastructure on our own,” LeMay said. “We will only be able to make the necessary investments needed with consistent and sustainable funding from the provincial and federal governments.”
The mayor said it is very difficult, and sometimes impossible, for council to manage infrastructure priorities when they don't know what funds the province will be making available to help the municipality. He said council will continue to manage city finances in a judicious manner.
“We realize city taxes are high, and council wants to ensure that our spending is prudent and responsible,” LeMay said. “We will continue to improve our infrastructure where we can afford it and we will continue to to lobby senior levels of government for the necessary sustainable funding required for our community.”
He said he is looking forward to continuing to collaborate and cost share with Renfrew County, and stressed the city will continue to partner with Laurentian Valley Township and Petawawa in providing services which benefits all communities.
“As I reflect on the many achievements of 2017, it is clear Pembroke has a strong base on which to build,” LeMay said. “Thank you to all our citizens, business leaders, non-profit organizations, volunteers who sit on our city committees and concerned residents for the exceptional contributions you continue to make in Pembroke.”
He also thanked staff from all departments for their commitment to the city.
“Finally, I want to thank each councillor for your continued commitment to making our city, The Heart of the Ottawa Valley, the best place to live, work, play and visit,” LeMay said. “This council is making a difference.”