ERIN – Despite being called the “Mayor’s Breakfast,” the social gathering focused less on Mayor Michael Dehn and more on the challenges facing Main Street businesses in Erin.
It was the first Mayor’s Breakfast hosted by the Erin Chamber of Commerce since the organization took over responsibility from the town.
The chamber seized the opportunity to host the event and use it as a way to get at the “meat and potatoes” – both were served – of what the business community is facing in the months ahead, chamber board chair Ann Shanahan told the Advertiser.
Around 170 people woke up to their alarms on Friday morning and crowded around tables at Erin Legion Branch 442 to dig into a locally-supplied breakfast and listen to speakers address construction challenges.
As expected, the big talking point of the morning revolved around how the business community could successfully survive Main Street construction related to the town’s new wastewater treatment plant.
Construction began at the end of January at Wellington Road 52 and is progressing along Main Street to the Elora Cataract Trailway over the next nine months.
The work involves tunneling for shafts at eight locations to connect to the gravity sewer line in Erin village.
Councillor Cathy Aylard took to the stage praising a new “business impact group,” whipped together in response to what business leaders felt was a lack of prudent planning and attention from the town to the realities facing local business after the pandemic and recent Enbridge gasline work.
Aylard called the small group a “grassroots” and “homegrown” solution bringing together municipal and community interests.
“There is really no way we’re going to sugar-coat this,” Aylard told the room.
“It’s going to be dirty, it’s going to be messy, it’s going to be frustrating, and it will test our patience to absolutely no end.”
Aylard spoke of a two logos dreamed up by the group:
- a “Dig Erin” logo to accompany construction messaging (with a corresponding online portal); and
- an “open” during construction logo.
Aylard also relayed news of $41,000 in council-approved funding to support a marketing campaign during construction.
“This is your new council recognizing and addressing unmet needs in our community,” she said, to shouts and applause.
Minto’s Belinda Wick-Graham also spoke, providing tips based on what that town learned from its own construction projects.
Rounding off the talks, Erin Mayor Michael Dehn stood and spoke optimistically about Erin’s future.
Though times are changing — sometimes moving forward, and sometime sideways — the mayor said the town will “make some new history.”
“We still want to have our culture, our community, our community values,” Dehn said.
“We’ve gotta go through some headaches, but we’re going to come out better at the other end.”
The mayor noted:
- attention to attainable and accessible, if not affordable, housing;
- exploring an Administrative Monetary Penalty System to process the payment, appeal and collection of bylaw fines;
- the county’s exploration of automated speed enforcement cameras;
- updating of the Credit Valley Conservation authority’s flood zone maps; and
- the town’s participation in Safe Communities Wellington County (Dehn is the town’s newly appointed representative on the group’s leadership table).
Dehn also spoke briefly about the county’s ongoing agricultural land mapping review, part of a larger Municipal Comprehensive Review, which he said will add between 9,000 and 10,700 acres of newly-categorized prime agricultural land to Erin.
“A lot of that runs really between Erin and Hillsburgh, right through the town office,” Dehn said.
“So, that was not prime before, but looks like it’s going to be classified as prime.
“That will have some implications on development and planning in those areas.”
Headed by Erin’s planning director Jack Krubnik, Dehn also spoke about forming “green standards” for the town to address sustainability, energy costs, CO2 emissions and the like.
After his remarks, the floor was opened for questions but none were asked.
The chamber aims to hold another Mayor’s Breakfast in the fall where the business community can get to know Dehn a little better.
Speaking to the Advertiser by phone on March 27, Shanahan said the chamber was “thrilled” by the turnout.
Wick-Graham’s messaging, Shanahan said, was “exactly what we all needed to hear.”
The crucial importance of ongoing and transparent communication is the key message the impact group is taking away from Wick-Graham’s remarks, and the chamber intends to lobby the town and council to put their weight behind that idea.
Following a mishap by the contractor performing work on Main Street, which damaged the town’s watermain during the Friday morning breakfast and caused a boil water advisory lasting into the weekend, the group met on Monday evening to debrief and discuss next steps for getting the word out that downtown businesses are indeed open during construction.