West Highlands project creates opportunity
© Eric Sparling – Amherst Daily News
Robert Small speaks to Ella Mae Porter during a stop at Northumberland Hall on Wednesday. He is one of two candidates in the running to be mayor of Amherst.
AMHERST – Robert Small is not a proponent of the status quo. He wants Amherst to continue the growth it has experienced over the last four years.
Small, who was first elected mayor in 2008, is one of two candidates seeking the position this time.
“We have accomplished a lot as a town over the last few years and council and residents can hold their heads high when we look back,” Small said. “There were a number of things people spoke about during the last campaign such as a skate park and Dickey Park. We talked about redeveloping the downtown.”
Small said soon after the 2008 election, the new council spent a day sitting in a room talking about what they heard and developing a plan that would carry the town forward.
From that, he said, the Centre First Downtown Action Strategy saw a lot of work done on redeveloping the town, including new paving and curbs and a completely refurbished Victoria Square.
Other priorities included redeveloping Dickey Park, building the skate park near the Amherst Stadium and creating the Amherst Youth Town Council to give young people a voice in town affairs.
The mayor said the town was also fortunate to work with the federal and provincial governments to complete the wastewater treatment plant on the marsh near Amherst. It marked the culmination of a project that has been in the making for several decades.
Looking ahead, the mayor wants to repeat what took place in 2008 by sitting down with the council in the days following the election to plan for the next four years.
He sees the West Highlands School being a major project for the town in that it will allow a number of improvements to be completed around the Lions Park and give the town a tremendous opportunity to develop the existing school site into something else.
“I’m pretty confident the province is going to accept the recommendation of the school board on the location of the school,” he said. “It’s going to give us a tremendous opportunity to redevelop the whole West Highlands area with new curbing and nice things you see around Spring Street Academy.”
Small said he has several ideas for the present site of West Highlands. One of the options, he said, would be to put something new in the area such as an outdoor skating rink.
“That would be a perfect opportunity for people in the middle of a residential area to go in the winter and enjoy some skating,” Small said, adding there are other recreational possibilities in summer.
Small said council will be working hard over the next four years to lower commercial taxes. He said the tax rate seems high because the former business occupancy tax was dissolved and absorbed into the commercial rate. Council has heard what business owners are saying and wants to bring relief.
He said the town will also soon have a plan for a permanent home for its police department. He said he has heard some great suggestions on a possible home and a different direction for policing services.
“We’re trying to utilize the facility we have because we own the building and the land. It just makes sense, but there is still more talk at the council table that has to happen,” Small said.