Mayor of Belleville Mitch Panciuk speaks to crowd at annual New Year’s Levee with council in background. (Photo: John Spitters/Quinte News)
The new mayor of the City of Belleville Mitch Panciuk looked out at a packed gymnasium at the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre Saturday and called the turnout “overwhelming.”
The occasion was the annual New Year’s Levee and more than 400 people attended, many more than showed at last year’s levee.
Councillor Paul Carr said the turnout indicated that many residents are as excited about the future as the new council is.
Meanwhile, Mayor Panciuk has a clear priority list for this term of council.
He said priority number one is dealing with the shortage of housing, particularly rental housing in the city.
“I will soon call a special meeting of council which will be, in essence, Belleville’s first housing summit. The Quinte Home Builders Association and the All-Together Affordable Housing Corporation have already agreed to take part and other organizations will also be involved. This is a serious issue and we invite the public to get involved.”
A date for the special meeting of council has yet to be set but will be announced.
Mayor Panciuk also listed a number of other issues that council will deal with over the next four years, saying that solutions aren’t easy to come by but that council is committed to “thoughtful change together as a community.”
Other priorities include the always present road and street upgrades, public transportation, more facilities for kids and families, and more resources for the vulnerable population.
“We will try to build a Belleville that offers an improved quality of life for all people, no matter their circumstances or where they live in the city. Of course, we have to balance spending with the fact that we must keep tax increases to a minimum,” he said.
Mayor Panciuk reminded people that council had not yet made a decision on whether or not to allow retail marijuana product outlets in the city. Apparently, response to an online survey on the issue on the city’s website has been very strong.
The mayor let the crowd in on some good economic news, in his levee address. Vision Transportation, a trucking warehouse company in Belleville, is going through the planning process at city hall for a huge 300,000 square foot building on College Street East. Its expected construction will start in March.
Mayor Panciuk also said there’s an application before the city for another hotel along Bell Boulevard.
He also hinted at another announcement to come soon about another major development on Bell Boulevard West that will spur a lot of new jobs and new business.
The mayor is not at liberty to divulge what the development is, at this time.
The mayor opened his address by saying he and council have a great foundation to build on and thanked former Mayor Taso Christopher and councillors Egerton Boyce, Jackie Denyes, Mike Graham, and Jack Miller.
Providing entertainment at the levee was jazz band Starpainters Trio and the St. Michael Catholic School Choir.
Here is an excerpt from the song that members of the choir composed themselves. It’s called “The Belleville Song”.