2018 was an eventful year with a number of activities, completion of projects, announcements of new initiatives that show promise for the next several years and unfortunately the sale and closure of a major employer in the area.
We were delighted to participate with Sherbrooke Opportunities Society (SHOPS) and the Strait Regional Centre for Education in the grand opening and the startup of the SHOPS program at the St. Mary’s Education Centre/Academy. SHOPS has hired a staff member and have been very successful in attracting volunteers to assist in offering programs to their clients.
The waterline replacement project for the east side of the Sherbrooke Water Utility was completed in June. This is a $1.9 million project that was funded through the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund, the Sherbrooke water utility and the municipality. The new system has been performing above expectations with reduced plant operation times and costs.
The Municipal welcoming signs project was completed with signs now at all entrances to our municipal boundaries as well as way-finding and facility signage installed this year.
Financially we had a small operating surplus of $8,240 for the fiscal year ending on March 31, 2018.
With funding from the Province the municipality undertook a project to match property identification numbers to assessment account numbers and met with Property Valuation Services Corporation (PVSC) to reconcile assessment accounts. This improved billing information helped in reducing the amount of uncollected taxes.
Unfortunately the closure of the St. Mary’s Smoke House occurred in June of 2018 following the change of ownership in October 2017. The Smoke House was an important employer in the area with upwards of 30 people employed during peak operations.
We continue to partner with our municipal partners in the Eastern Strait Regional Enterprise Network (ESREN) to promote and support regional economic growth in the area. The ESREN continues to work on regional initiatives such as tourism promotion, improved internet and cellular connectivity and business readiness improvements.
The municipality has been working with Chinese interest looking at a project for this area that would include blood worm farming, natural medical products and a health enhancement centre. We signed a memorandum of understanding with Zhongshou Taiyang Group in November to agree to continued cooperation in advancing the project in the District of St. Mary’s.
Atlantic Gold Corp. announced their intentions for a major gold mining operation in Cochrane Hill and that project is currently undergoing an environmental assessment through the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. If approved by CEAA the mine could start by 2021.
In September the municipality and Engage Nova Scotia held a one day Engage St. Mary’s event to seek public input on the St. Mary’s 2026 Strategic Plan. We were pleased with the excellent attendance at the event and over the coming year will be implementing ideas and changes to the Strategic Plan that reflects what was discussed at the September meeting.
The Recreation Department ran a number of recreation programs for youth in the past year. One very successful program was our Trail Blazers program which focuses on getting children aged 6-13 outside and learning about the many different aspects of outdoor recreation. Other events included Winter Fun Fest with a Free Skate with Anna and Elsa from Frozen making an appearance at the St. Mary’s Recplex, Canada Day activities, the Guysborough County Older Adult Games held at Liscombe Lodge, and a number of organizational partnerships including Guysborough County Kids First, Schools Plus, SMECA and Sherbrooke Village. All of these organizations had multiple programs that took place in the last year and the recreation department was very pleased to work alongside them to make the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s a strong and vibrant community.
We are anticipating the new Municipality of St. Mary’s web site, which we have been working on with the help of the Association of Municipal Administrators of Nova Scotia, to go live in early 2019.
The Municipality continues to provide support to local organizations through our grants for programs and we want to thank the many volunteers who give tirelessly to the continued success of those organizations.
The Municipality of the District of Saint Mary’s would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year.