Access to high speed internet and new services for water and sewage were two of the topics of an all-candidates meeting in Belleville’s Thurlow Ward Wednesday night.
Also on the agenda – a discussion on Belleville Ward 1 decisions that impact Thurlow Ward 2, and a made-for-Thurlow transit solution.
Members of the public packed Signal Breweries in Corbyville to hear from three of the four mayoralty candidates and six people running for Thurlow’s two seats on city council, at the session called “Field of Dreams.” The fourth mayoralty candidate Councillor Egerton Boyce did not attend.
The discussion centred around the following four questions:
High speed internet – We cant live without it…anymore
Water and Septic – A new pumping station to deliver water and septic services further into Thurlow.
Transit – A made for Thurlow transit solution noting our residents can’t afford higher taxes.
Ward Parity – Ward one decisions that impact Ward two
The meeting had opened with an hour-long session with the six candidates for council, Kathryn Brown, Councillor Paul Carr, Nicholas Mulhall, Barry Robinson, Bill Sandison, and Lisa Warriner.
Hi-speed internet service:
Brown said 5G broadband is coming to Thurlow area and will be in very good shape by 2020. Warriner indicated the improved service is greatly needed in the area. Robinson said there would be 15,000 customers on broadband by 2020. Mulhall said it was a “drop in the bucket” of what was really required. Sandison indicated the only thing not laid out is the time frame for it all to happen. And Councillor Carr pointed to the fact Bell is already “laying down the fibre” and the Eastern Ontario Regional Network is working on towers for the area.
Lack of water and sewer:
Warriner said she would look at what solutions are feasible to improve water access. Robinson said more capacity is needed before going for a water tower or reservoir. Mulhall pointed out it needed a “hard look” at major investment so Thurlow can grow. Sandison said a 15 year plan is needed. Carr indicated maybe there needs to be a movement of the “urban boundaries” regarding water service. And Brown said if a water tower is needed the answer is “yes.”
Transit for Thurlow ward:
Robinson said more people are requesting it and alluded to a regional system and how to get it. Mulhall said people are “prisoners in your own community” and he’s a”huge proponent of a subsidized system.” Sandison said he had talked to city staff about it but reminded people it would be on their taxes. Carr put forward the idea of expanding the city’s new transit “app” system into Thurlow Ward. Brown said she doesn’t want taxes to go up and “Ward 2 would have to look at that.” Warrner expressed concern that the rural areas do not have bus service and would be concerned if it were only along the southern ward corridor.
Mulhall put forward the idea the city needs to “revisit the ward system, “move away from the little brother system.” Sandison said that regarding the ward system, the key is “who is elected mayor.” Carr indicated he would support what the people want and pointed out that the road maintenance for instance, is spent equally despite the difference in population. Brown said it would mean opening up the entire ward system. Warriner indicated it relates to the demographic change. Robinson said “it is a long history with deep scars” and “we are different” and he is not in favour of change..
Candidates for mayor, Mayor Taso Christopher, Jodie Jenkins and Councillor Mitch Panciuk also faced the questions in an hour-long session.
Jenkins said “it’s not complicated…pay attention to everything in the community.” Christopher pointed to millions of dollars spent on Thurlow roads and pointed out Ward 2 is nine times the size of Ward 1. Panciuk indicated he has heard it “loud and clear” and it’s time to shift attention to quality of life issues, including roads.
Leadership skills of the candidates:
Christopher pointed to the 22 projects his council had and had achieved them all and he supports wholesome discussions and good debates.” Panciuk referred to his business background and would work together with others. Jenkins said he has the ability to “sell the city” and pointed to the success he has had with developing the shelter, Grace Inn. When Christopher and Panciuk differed on budgeting of projects, Jenkins pointed to this, saying “nitpicking” will change when he’s elected.
Vision for the future:
Panciuk said he would work with the province to build low cost housing, and extend the trail system to Ward 2. Jenkins says “the best is yet to come” and it’s all one big community. Christopher says he’s looking forward to the waterfront development now that downtown infrastructure is complete.
Retailing for cannabis:
Jenkins said “yes” to retail outlets for marijuana since there are so many dispensaries “down the road” and the planning process can be used. Christopher pointed to the fact the online system begins in October. He also pointed to the cannabis operation coming to the former Sears plant in the industrial park which he said will create 250 jobs. Panciuk said there are “50 outlets down the road” and it should be controlled in the same way the payday loans outlets are being controlled.