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The newly-elected council will set their priorities during strategic planning sessions early in January, but Bernier said he wouldn’t be surprised if those issues were top of mind, as they have been for several years. He said he will be excited to see the completion of two major capital projects in the New Year – the Calvin Kruk Centre for the Arts and the Water Reclamation Project – but he said he believes council’s focus will shift away from larger projects and focus on debt reduction and core infrastructure such as roads and sidewalks.
“Council has not alluded to any big projects,” he said. “It seems like council is really focussed on spending the next year or two worrying not only about debt reduction, but making sure we keep on top of our roads and sidewalks. I have a strong feeling those will be quite high up on the list when we go through strategic priorities.”
He cited the Sewer Master Plan, which will be forthcoming late next year, as an example of that focus.
As for economic opportunities in the coming year, Bernier said there is every indication that Dawson Creek and the surrounding region will continue to see a boon from energy and natural resource development, and not just from natural gas, but from wind energy and the potential for another dam on the Peace River.
“It’s going to be a great year for our area, when you look at the energy and natural resources we have, with the possibility of exporting to world markets. If that happens, we’re going to see a big change in activity in the area.”
He said with that economic activity, there will no doubt continue to be pressure put on housing in the city, and he said council will have to continue making the case to developers for affordable, multi-unit rental housing. He said while council is not in a position to directly invest in housing, they can look for efficiencies and incentives through zoning bylaws and the official community plan to encourage that development, and he cited recent changes to zoning bylaws that have allowed for more housing options.
The Mayor said tourism will continue to be a big part of the local economy in 2012, and he said he is very encouraged to see the number and variety of events scheduled for the EnCana Events Centre.
“When you look at everything from comedy to curling to rock bands, it’s going to be another good year at the Events Centre, and that’s really important in bringing people into the community,” he said.
As for the highlights of 2011, Bernier said he has been struck by the positive feedback he has received about the investment climate that has been created in Dawson Creek.
“I think one of the biggest highlights is how we continue to get provincial and federal recognition as a city that is one of the best places to invest,” he said. “When you look at the way our community is growing and the positive feedback we’re getting, that’s a real highlight for us as a council, because we have to continue to be looking for ways to attract businesses and people. The development this year has been right up there as one of our top years, and it’s nice to now there’s confidence in the economy of the area.”
Bernier said he is excited to work with the new council on how to move the city forward in 2012, and concluded by wishing its citizens a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year on behalf of council.
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