WELLINGTON NORTH – Ward 3 Wellington County councillor Campbell Cork told Wellington North councillors the county’s Ride Well public transportation program may have positive health impacts for residents of the county’s northern municipalities.
In an update to Wellington North council on June 1, Cork noted that reports from Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public health have identified the township, and the Town of Minto as having a higher percentage of low-income households, a higher percentage of adults without a high school education and higher rates of poor health outcomes.
The latter, he noted, include higher rates of emergency room visits, higher incidence of cancer-related deaths, higher hospitalization rates for injuries and also for diabetes-related conditions.
“What the report notes,” explained Cork, “is a lack of public transportation is one of the largest barriers in accessing services including health, mental health, parenting, assisted living, social supports, general social and recreational activities, employment and really, that covers just about all the waterfront in terms of what life’s all about.”
Cork stated Ride Well, a county-wide rideshare program officially launched on Oct. 1, could play a key role in improving outcomes for local residents.
“We can really hope that Wellington County’s new Ride Well transportation system … that it will in fact be able to address this lack of affordable transit, particularly for rural Wellington.”
Cork noted that a recent move of Ride Well to provide service to any location in Guelph for rides originating in Wellington County is “good news” for users of the Uber-style service.
“Before you had to get dropped off at the Walmart at the south end of the city and get a cab or public transit,” he noted.
Cork advised council that three Wellington North businesses were among those accessing funds through Wellington County’s Keep Well – Emergency Business Sustainability Fund.
The fund, administered through Wellington-Waterloo Community Futures and the Saugeen Economic Development Corporation, provided low-interest loans of up to $25,000 to Wellington County businesses to help support them during the economically challenging period brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cork reported that nearly all of the $1 million allocated by the county had been disbursed thorough the program. In total, 73 loans averaging about $13,000 each were approved. Four of the successful applicants were located in the Town of Minto and three in Wellington North. Businesses in Centre Wellington and Erin, with 39 and 13 successful applications respectively, were the heaviest users of the programs.
“Hopefully that money comes back to Wellington once those businesses get back on their feet and they’re able to repay the loans,” Cork commented.
Cork pointed out Wellington North is the recipient of a $25,000 grant from Wellington County to cover 27 per cent of the cost of downtown revitalization projects in Mount Forest and Arthur
The grant also funds Community Improvement Program projects.
Cork said the grant is designed to assist community and local businesses starting to reopen following COVID-19 and includes funding for an online shopping program known as Shop Wellington North being developed by local chambers of commerce.
Cork advised council that while county council meetings continue to be held via teleconference, starting in June, Wellington County committees return to having in-person meetings rather than conference calls.
Committees will observe physical distancing by spreading out around the county council chambers at the administration centre in Guelph, rather than meeting in smaller venues.
The public is able to access the meetings via teleconference with call-in numbers available on the agenda, which is posted on the county website.
“So with no meetings in July and August … maybe by September we will be all be back to meeting face to face,” Cork suggested.