Billings releases five-year plan

Tom Sasvari

The Recorder

KAGAWONG—A Township of Billings Sustainability Plan to guide the municipality for the next five years has been finalized with eight priority issues and 24 action strategies being developed. Waterfront upgrades have been put at the top of the list of priorities.

“The plan will be presented at a public meeting on April 17,” Billings Mayor Austin Hunt told the Recorder last week. “It’s been released and is also available on our municipal website. The plan outlines the direction and guides council on what we can try to put in place over the next five years and beyond.”

Mr. Hunt stated, “one of the surprising things is when we did a similar plan about 15-20 years ago, maintenance of roads was the biggest thing and probably still is, but the waterfront has received more attention than the other priorities this time around.”

It was noted by Mr. Hunt that the plan was completed by Lacloche-Manitoulin Business Assistance Corporation (LAMBAC), with input and ideas provided by individuals and groups in the township. “There were about nine meetings held with various groups in the township. The exercise was quite good, and residents provided good input on what they feel should be the priorities.”

Mary Nelder, manager of LAMBAC, told the Recorder the plan was completed and presented to council on March 6, where it was given approval by council. She indicated a full public launch of the report will take place on April 17, “where I will be providing a power point presentation and council will answer questions from members of the public.”

The eight priority issues include the waterfront upgrades, water and sewer, waste management, roads and safety, municipal communications, environmental stewardship, economic development and culture, tourism and recreation.

Under the waterfront upgrades, the action strategies include: “applying for grants and hiring a consulting firm to develop an implementation study for the harbour. Implementation would take place as soon as funding can be obtained. Hire a local expert to investigate and recommend to council the improvements needed for launch ramps and facilities on the inland lakes. Implement one each year. And, pending a report from a consultant, hire an experienced marina manager to oversee summer staff and administer the entire harbour.”

The consulting firm would cost out and evaluate the various options for dockage, breakwater, dredging, transient and seasonal accommodation. It would investigate costs for all the necessary amenities, e.g. washrooms, showers, laundry, fuel, diesel, pump-outs, and hydro. It would also develop a marina business plan for the first three years of operations including recommendations for fees and management structure.

Under water and sewer it has been recommended the township institute an effective pay-per-use system at the public water outlet; create a water advisory committee; and determine the cost/benefit and funding options for a sewer system under the community improvement plan.

The third priority issue has to do with waste management. With input from local residents it is being proposed the township should hire an intern to develop a comprehensive waste management policy for the next 10 years. As well, there is a need to reactivate the waste management advisory committee, and actively encourage recycling and composting; collaborate with other municipalities on a recycling contract.

Roads and safety were also one of the eight priority issues listed. The action strategies on this issue, as helped along with the suggestions of local residents is to have staff develop a five-year plan for road upgrades and maintenance, and to budget every year for some improvements to municipal roads. As well it was recommended council continue consulting with the Ontario Provincial Police regarding speed issues within the village and on all municipal roads. Also, a request should be made to the Ministry of Transportation to install no parking signs on the bridge and a pedestrian crossing on Highway 540 at the falls.

Municipal communications was another priority listed by residents. It has been suggested the township should hire a local web developer to update and expand its website, take advantage of tax bill mailings to enclose pertinent information to ratepayers, and develop a long-term plan for maintenance of all municipal properties.

On the priority of environmental stewardship, the action strategies include continuing rehabilitation of the Kagawong River with Manitoulin Streams, and strictly enforcing the township’s contract with Kagawong Power Incorporated, as well as investigating ways to improve fish habitat in Mudge Bay and inland lakes.

Economic development has also been cited as a priority issue and an action strategy has been developed in the plan for this. It is being recommended the township apply for funding to hire a consultant to develop a community improvement plan; and hire an economic development officer and investigate ways to increase availability of medical and alternative medical services.

Culture, tourism and recreation were also cited as a priority issue. The action strategies listed under this include promoting and advertising attractions, looking for opportunities to develop/expand themed tourism attractions and festivals, and work with the local arts community on Manitoulin to re-brand Kagawong as the ‘prettiest village in Ontario.’

“This is a plan for council to take direction, and for instance the waterfront upgrades will be a costly thing, but for this and other priorities I think most will proceed based on when we can afford to implement them, or when grants become available that we can taken advantage of,” added Mr. Hunt.