PALMERSTON – Continued pandemic recovery, managing growth and community development will be priorities for the Town of Minto in the coming term of council.
“Our goal over the next few years is to continue down the path to COVID recovery … The sooner we get back to normal the better,” newly-elected Mayor David Turton told town councillors, staff and citizens gathered at the Norgan Theatre for the town’s inaugural meeting on Nov. 15.
Turton said councillor orientation, setting up local committees and the recruitment process for hiring a new CAO will be among the first orders of business for the new council.
“This year, 2022, Minto has seen record building applications,” Turton stated.
“Population growth predictions from the province and the county on how much Minto will grow over the next 20 years are certainly going to be a challenge with all the land use and water, sewers, roads, bridges, infrastructure, all our discussion points over the next number of months.
“We presently have numerous subdivisions (under development) in our town and we are growing. We will support our growth and we must plan for the future.”
Turton said the new council will continue to work closely with the local chamber of commerce and Minto businesses, the Grove Hub youth centre, LaunchIt Minto business centre and local service groups.
“All those groups are so important. We have an energetic group of volunteers in this town and they play an extremely important role in Minto,” he stated.
“We presently work closely with our two neighbouring communities Mapleton and Wellington North as we have strategic alliances with them.”
he added, “And we hope to continue the flood mitigation strategies ongoing on the Maitland River in Harriston with our partners Maitland Valley Conservation Authority and Triton Engineering and of course, the landowners.”
Noting agriculture is one of the largest economic sectors in Minto, Turton stated, “We will continue to support our farming neighbours, as well as the Amish and Mennonite communities.”
Turton concluded by thanking his wife, Pam, and other members of his family “for the support all these years.”
The evening included a swearing in ceremony for the mayor and other members of the new council: deputy mayor Jean Anderson and councillors Ron Elliott, Judy Dirksen, Geoff Gunson, Ed Podniewicz and Paul Zimmerman.
Anderson was unable to attend the inaugural meeting due to illness, but her husband, Ward 1 Wellington County councillor David Anderson delivered remarks on her behalf.
“She’s looking forward to serving the next four years as your deputy mayor,” he stated.
“She intends to continue to be the one who asks questions on behalf of the public.”
Anderson added, “As we forge ahead into these new and interesting times, we as a council have achieved much in the past eight years, building on the strong foundation that has been created by previous councils.
“Minto had the foresight to hire an economic development officer far ahead of any other local municipality in the county,” said Anderson, noting the decision to hire current economic and community development director Belinda Wick-Graham has put the town in the forefront of those areas.
“She is a shining example of what our youth can achieve in the Town of Minto, going away to gain an education then bringing back all the benefits and her knowledge and enthusiasm to lead us as we grow and expand.
“Previous councillors had the foresight to create industrial parks, knowing that you need available land to attract new businesses.
“Now we have many new businesses, and there are jobs aplenty for all. But we need more housing and it needs to be truly affordable. The province is implementing new rules to create more homes. We as the town of Minto will have to navigate our way through these laws allowing us to create new homes while still maintaining the small town welcoming feel of our communities.”
Longtime council member Ron Elliott stressed the need to work together with other levels of government.
“Over the next term, our group must balance economic growth and financial oversight. We should continue to have good relationships with all upper levels of government, thereby we as a town will continue to take advantage of all future grants,” he stated.
New council member Podniewicz said he moved to Minto from Shelburne in 1986 seeking “a nice friendly community.
“I found it here,” he stated, noting his early local work experience included operating a pizza restaurant which “made lots of dough but no money,” and a contracting business.
Podniewicz also worked for the Town of Minto as a building inspector in the late ‘90s, before becoming chief building official in North Perth, a job he retired from after 20 years.
“I’m currently chief building official in the Township of Howick … I bring a lot of experience in planning and development with me. I hope I can utilize that here as a councillor,” he stated.
Acting co-CAO Chris Harrow, who is sharing the CAO duties with deputy treasurer Mark Potter while the town looks for a full time top administrator, noted the town will face numerous challenges under current economic conditions.
“Soaring cost of living, post-COVID effects, lack of staff and the increased cost of projects we’re wanting to complete – all of these challenges and more will require us to work together to continue to shape the Town of Minto to what we all desire it to be, a place to live, work and play,” said Harrow.
“The next year or two we will be planning. There’s our strategic plan, cultural plan, recreation and fire master plans all need to be updated to reflect what we as a group envision the next two to five years will look like in the Town of Minto.”
He added, “Staff are looking forward to working with council and the residents of Minto to put our priorities together to develop these plans and lay a strong foundation for the future.”