How Van Turken made her mark

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by Mayor Nancy Peckford

This past week, a whole community got behind a wayward turkey who appeared to have lost its tribe, or maybe never had one. Amid all the flurry of selfies, memes, viral videos, tributes, poems and news stories, what defined this story was how much our community cared about its fate, and derived some good-natured joy from watching this wild turkey try and find its way.

A thriving Facebook page started by local resident Lisa Brownrigg had 2000 followers by the end of last week, providing opportunities to strengthen connections between and among new and old residents alike. He was christened Van Turken, as per the outcome of an informal online survey. The people had spoken.

While local and national media globbed onto the fact (no pun intended) that a wild turkey regularly found itself in high traffic, what residents saw was a turkey in desperate need of a flock. Now that Van Turken has been safely re-located outside of town, many are missing the daily sightings, not to mention the speculation on how long Van Turken would manage to avert authorities, given what is starting to feel like another long winter.

As North Grenville grows and evolves as a community, my sense is that this turkey tale speaks to things we need to hold onto – a genuine sense of caring for all of our residents, the importance of maintaining a crucial balance between rural and urban life, the capacity to not take ourselves so seriously, and how important it is to ensure that, as a community, there are lots of ways to stay connected and engaged.

Over the next couple of weeks, Council will be debating the municipality’s first multi-year budget. This means that Council has asked staff to anticipate expenditures and revenues over the next four years to allow for better long term planning. We will have the first crack at this four-year budget this month and will return to the table every year to made adjustments and approve spending and revenue for the upcoming year.

Above all, ensuring life remains affordable in North Grenville for residents and businesses is a priority. Because we are growing, property values are increasing for both land and buildings, making life in some respects more expensive. But we also need to recognize that quality of life matters greatly to people here, whether they have been here for several generations or are relative newcomers.

That’s why Council is carefully balancing badly needed infrastructure investments, with opportunities to enjoy our built and natural assets, whether its heritage buildings, more trails and improved amenities when it comes to parks, recreation and culture.

While the United Counties largely oversee things like housing and community services, Council can be influential in helping to define priorities, as we have with the Mayoral Taskforce on Affordable Housing.

Overwhelmingly, however, the municipality’s capital budget is spent on maintaining and upgrading rural and town roads, water, sewer, the municipal centre and related facilities, as well as fire and emergency preparedness. These are our municipality’s core needs and responsibilities.

But in and of itself, these things do not build a community, they help to create the conditions for one. The opportunities for residents and business owners to meet and greet each other, to sustain a local economy, to create new connections, understand our history, and be active and engaged is critical to our future too.

In a growing place like North Grenville, which is blessed with a brilliant blend of rural and urban, the capacity to meet our basic needs while also enriching our quality of life is, in fact, possible. Sadly, many communities in eastern Ontario are not in as fortunate a position.

At the recent Rural Ontario Municipalities conference, your municipal Council was out in force attending workshops, engaging with elected officials, meeting with other municipalities about how we can do things better, and more efficiently. Not a moment was wasted to highlight to several Ministers that federal and provincial investments in a growing community like ours are well worth making. In fact, they are imperative, like is the case for County Road 43.

In the coming year, our Municipality will embark upon a modernization exercise to review service levels and identify opportunities for innovation. Council is cognizant that as we grow, we must create a solid foundation for that growth, and make sure no one is left behind. It is our job to make excellent use of our precious resources while strengthening our community in ways that benefit everyone.

You can find the 2020 municipal budget package at www.northgrenville.ca.

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