It seems that, after almost two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, the word endemic is much being used lately from our Local and Provincial Medical Officers of Health. Easing of restrictions and new guidelines are being announced and it appears that, very soon we hope, the need for Provincial direction will lessen, and we can return to making individual decisions about our activities and behaviour again. But, in the meantime, we should continue taking care of our own personal public health: wash your hands often, sneeze into your arm. The provincial Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Moore, is expected to review in March whether masks will be mandatory or recommended: wear a mask being a personal health decision.
And, as we gradually open up our community once more, Merrickville-Wolford residents and businesses have done well, and what we have done together has helped the province fast track the reopening plan. We may not be completely out of the woods – the word endemic does seem to apply – but we are moving in the right direction. Something we can take pride and pleasure in achieving.
So many individuals and organizations have helped us all get through these past two years, from our Food Market grocery store, local shops, coffee shops and restaurants, our Library, Lions Club, Emergency Food Cupboard, Fire Department, Municipal Staff – individuals helping neighbours.
One local business owner wrote to me and our CAO Doug Robertson: “I started to reflect on the past two years of the pandemic. I think it’s fair to say that Merrickville-Wolford has managed reasonably well, despite all the challenges. We never really experienced a major outbreak in our community, and our business community seems to have weathered the pandemic reasonably well. We lost a few businesses, but we lose a few businesses every year, so it’s difficult to say if that was a result of Covid. In any event, I think you folks deserve some of the credit for our fortunes, it could have gone much worse. All this to say, thank you for helping our community navigate this crisis!”
And a sign of some return to normal was our celebration on Family Day – Snowflake Festival 2022! Organized by our Chamber of Commerce, a fun day involving our Trails Society, Firefighters Association, Christmas in Merrickville, OPP, our Library, and, most importantly, all of you who joined in a safe and fun community event. That was a great way to celebrate as a community family.
And, in spite of the challenges and obstacles, we have been able to keep our tax increases to a minimum, replenish and increase our reserves, and reduce our debt index from moderate to low. As our Auditor has stated, we have managed our municipal finances very well, while continuing to invest in capital roads projects.
The EORN (Eastern Ontario Rural Network) cell gap initiative has resulted in Rogers moving forward to expand, enhance and, indeed, fill the cell gap, by improving the reach and quality of cellular service in the rural portions of our municipality. There is another positive sign for us to enjoy, as corporate investment in Merrickville-Wolford shows a real confidence in our future. And Bell is investing in internet fibre, soon to include over 1,000 residents and businesses. Investment Ontario is in the process of working with Internet Service Providers to bid for provincial subsidies, resulting in successful proponents to deploy high-speed internet infrastructure to connect our remaining underserved and unserved areas. The positivity continues.
And there will be more good news to announce in the coming months for residents and businesses throughout our municipality. Between moves to reopen, investment in our community, and encouragement from investment, what we have is a good foundation for our future.
Mayor Doug Struthers