Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton described 2016 as “definitely a good year” for the Town of Port Hawkesbury.
“Two exciting projects began their planning phases with our former town council and will be continued with our present town council,” she said in a year-end email interview with the Casket.
Chisholm-Beaton noted the Reeves Street revitalization includes “a lot of working parts.”
“Reeves Street is unique to our town because it is our main throughway, but it is also a highway, with a lot of truck traffic accessing industries in Point Tupper,” she said.
“Of course, safety is a big part of this project, and we are working with TIR to improve the safety of Reeves Street, including a safer connect between Embree’s Island and NSCC Strait Area Campus to our town’s core.”
Chisholm-Beaton said the project is also about rebranding and working with our businesses on Reeves Street “to improve their properties.”
“So that we have a street that is aesthetically appealing, so potential customers will want to shop on Reeves Street and so that citizens will feel comfortable and safe to bike and walk,” she added.
“We would also like to see more mixed use space develop so that Reeves Street can feel like a ‘complete street,’ so that people can also live in the uptown core, not just work and shop there.”
Chisholm-Beaton said the hope is the revitalization project “will ultimately serve to retain and attract businesses in our uptown core.”
“Although this vision arose from a grassroots group of community leaders, there are a lot of players involved now, including a community-driven advisory committee who works with our town to see this project develop in 2017,” she added.
The rehabilitation of Pitt and Napean streets will include sewer, water, curb, gutter, asphalt and sidewalks.
“Four years ago, in 2012, our former council knew we needed to do something about our aging street infrastructure, so our staff and our council looked for ways to decrease our expenses and increase our revenues and, whenever we needed to draw any monies from reserves, we did so with a re-payment plan,” Chisholm-Beaton said.
She added “we looked for other creative ways to grow our reserves,” including ‘in-house’ snow removal, which improved service and lessened costs.
“I am happy to report that the fiscal responsibility of the staff and former council positioned us to be able to plan for, and apply through the Build Canada fund, rehabilitating two of our major streets,” Chisholm-Beaton said.
“We are in a much better financial position in 2016 to be able to leverage our money in order to participate. We wouldn’t have been able to participate four years ago.
“This is something to celebrate and to be very proud about,” she added.
Chisholm-Beaton said these two projects “set the stage for an exciting 2017,” with both contributing to “a more vibrant Port Hawkesbury.”
When asked about the town’s accomplishments in 2016, the first-time mayor said “there are a lot I could list,” including the aforementioned projects, but she wanted to discuss one “that might not be as obvious.”
“When I decided to run for council in 2012, I was very much interested in community engagement,” Chisholm-Beaton said, adding she was and remains active on social media, including Twitter and Facebook.
“I like to keep our citizens informed about council meetings and also to share information and answer questions.
“As elected officials, we must be approachable and open to all modes of communication,” she continued.
Chisholm-Beaton noted “amazing things can happen, when you have an engaged community.”
“Our biggest resource in our communities is our people … there is power in community engagement. You can’t have a truly great community without it,” she said.
“Our community here in the Strait is a proud one. It has been my privilege and honor to work beside them, and I look forward to working beside them in 2017.”
Chisholm-Beaton said the 2016 municipal election “definitely changed the landscape of our town council.”
“We have a new mayor, an incumbent councillor, Trevor Boudreau, who will fulfill the first year as our deputy mayor; two former councillors (pre-2012), Hughie MacDougall and Mark MacIver; and one new councillor, Jeremy White,” she said.
“The dynamic is very positive and our council is eager to begin our strategic planning in 2017 and to look at directions and goals we will set, or course, with the help of our citizens.
“We plan to discuss how the process of strategic planning will unfold in the New Year,” Chisholm-Beaton added.
She said she is “very excited” about that process.
“I hope the strategic directions we set for our term and beyond will be attainable, measurable, and reflective of our individual councillors’ goals for growing a vibrant community, as well as our community’s vision for the town in the years to come,” Chisholm-Beaton added.
In the past, she noted they have looked at issues, such as doctor retention and attraction, seniors’ housing and becoming more ‘investment ready.’
“I am sure that some of these priorities will be revisited and perhaps others. It will be important, when we do set our priorities, that we revisit them often and create action pieces that will be reviewed several times a year,” Chisholm-Beaton said.
She added strategic planning “creates a road map and a vision for council.”
“But, if you put the map away on a shelf, it’s easy to get side-tracked. We would like to have our map with us on a regular basis and work it into our committee of the whole meetings,” she said.
“This practice will be new to those meetings, but we are willing to change our practices to ensure greater success into the future.”
Chisholm Beaton was asked about the importance of regional cooperation, including through initiatives, such as the Eastern Strait Region Enterprise Network (ESREN).
“The One Nova Scotia report cautions us that, unless we change and work together regionally, our Province will not grow,” she said.
“We recently attended the fall UNSM (Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities) conference and this was a big message shared – that we can achieve much more together than we can working separately.”
As an example of cooperation, Chisholm-Beaton noted the town and Municipality of the County of Richmond plan to work together on a housing think tank.
“We plan to engage our housing stakeholders and interested citizens to talk about our housing needs, housing gaps, and to determine next steps.
“It will be interesting to see what unfolds through this process,” she said.
Chisholm-Beaton added “we are open to working with our neighbours.”
A month or so before the UNSM fall conference, she noted she and Municipality of the County of Inverness councillor Jim Mustard and Warden Betty Anne MacQuarrie came up with an idea to charter a Strait Area Transit bus and invite other elected officials and administrators “to hop on the bus” to travel to Halifax for the event.
Chisholm-Beaton said 11 councillors and CAOs made the return trip, Nov. 29, for the cost of two mileage claims.
“Not only was this a cool example of working together by ‘thinking outside the box,’ but we were also supporting our local transit,” she added.
“We were being fiscally and environmentally responsible, and we had the unique opportunity to talk about our municipalities and forge great relationships.”
Chisholm-Beaton said they will “most definitely do this again.”
“It was a wonderful experience,” she added.
For more information about the Town of Port Hawkesbury, visit www.townofporthawkesbury.ca