PARRSBORO - After another year of ups and downs in Parrsboro, Mayor Lois Smith took time to look back at 2010 and ahead to the coming year in an annual year-end interview with The Citizen.
Citizen: Your worship, thank you for taking part in this interview again. I don't have a set order of questions, but rather a group of ideas on things I thought we could talk about. At the top of the list is the tidal power project. There was some problems with the test turbine this year, but I guess you could look at that as a positive or a negative because the purpose of it is to test equipment.
Lois Smith: It's an experiment, yes, and in the very early stages of it. I'm not saying it was good that something happened to it, because it would have been great if it hadn't, but, now with examining the turbine they were able to remove, they will be able to determine what happened to the blades. I have not heard if they have been able to retrieve any information at all.
C: Do you know how far this has set things back? Because there were supposed to be two more turbines added this year and that didn't happen.
LS: No, it didn't happen, and I think a lot of that was because of the ordering of the subsea cable. But that's now been ordered and the properties that the transmission lines will cross... the property owners have all been contacted, and to my understanding approval has been given for it to go ahead. I wouldn't say it has set them back. I'm sure they anticipated there would be some problems. It could have been worse. A date has not been established for the official opening of the interpretive centre, but it will be in the spring.
C: So you still feel good about the way things are going there?
LS: Absolutely. It's on track, as far as I'm concerned. There have been requests for 2-3 more berths from other companies, so there is some interest.
C: One disappointment we had this year was the province's announcement that the proposed nursing home for Parrsboro would not be going ahead. I'm sure it wasn't a surprise, because an announcement had been delayed for months...
LS: That's right, even though we had been in contact with the company, High Crest, who still wanted to locate here. They were interested, right up until the very end.
C: What are your feelings on how that turned out?
LS: Disappointed, from the point of view of the two obvious reasons of how it would have benefited Parrsboro: seniors would have been able to be kept in their local community, and the job opportunities, with very little chance that a large company would actually set up in Parrsboro. It was a ray of hope that this might happen, and various good jobs would have been created to help keep younger people in the area. I'm still optimistic that, maybe not in the next year or two, but that perhaps the need will still be here.
C: During the provincial byelection campaign, NDP candidate Scott McKee said the government was planning to issue another request for proposals.
LS: He did say that at the debate, so I am hopeful the NDP government will not just put it on the backburner. Even if another company puts in another proposal, I hope that they will look at all options that might be there. Because 65 per cent of our population in 10 years will be seniors, and we're certainly not drawing a lot of younger people to the area. There's not a lot of opportunities.
C: During last year's interview, you mentioned the strategic plan for recreation and Communities in Bloom (CIB) as priorities for 2010. How did the year go as far as those priorities are concerned?
LS: There were some difficulties along the way with CIB that held the committee back in accomplishing its goal. The intention was there, and the obstacles were not issues of the committee itself, they were waiting for approval, funding issues, etc. It got late in the season. We were waiting for quite some time to finish the gazebo on the town property. It was no one's fault, panels were being prepared, waiting for suppliers, a combination of things didn't make it as successful as the committee would like to have seen. Our flowers on Main Street also did not hold up this year. We are going to order earlier this year. It should have been more vibrant on Main Street.
C: There was a staffing change in the recreation department. Is it still on track with the priorities that had been identified in the strategic plan?
LS: It is. We have a new employee on board, Tissy Bolivar, and she will be coming out with a recreation newsletter in the coming month. She is very much on track. She has started the walking club three mornings a week at the fire hall, and 14-20 people are attending. She will now be in contact with Pam Hoar to set up evenings of volleyball and basketball at the high school. Lisa and Dawn reviewed the plan after Tissy arrived, and she really likes the strategic plan and that's how she's approaching her work. She's following through on that.
C: One of the interesting things that came about this year was the Phinney Lane development, with the town taking over that road.
LS: Yes, I signed that agreement not long ago. (Developer) Matt Brewer met the requirements we requested, so yes we will be plowing the road.
C: What would you like to see happen down there?
LS: Development. In the heart of the town, we don't have many building lots, so if people would like to build in town we would more than encourage them to. Besides the fact it's tax dollars and those people are going to participate in community activities as well. I believe Matt has had interest from 2-3 folks and one plans to start building in the spring.
C: is the town in good shape financially? The audits seem to show that it is.
LS: Yes. We had a surplus of about $64,000 and it was transferred to the operating fund. We have reserve accounts for every department, so you want to have a fair amount in those. With having reserve funds, generosity in contract with county, we were able to purchase the new rescue vehicle for the fire department. Some work was also done on the library, with new signs and air conditioning. We also this year contracted out for our cleaning services for town hall, the fire hall and the library.
C: A personal highlight for you this year must have been being the guest speaker at the PRHS graduation?
LS: Oh, I enjoyed that. It was like being back home, 15 years later. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that we lost some citizens this year, in particular the two young men (Jordan Lake-McGrath and Bo Lattie), that saddened the town and entire surrounding communities. These are things that really hit a small community and it affected everyone in town. It was a rather sad time.
C: What are your priorities for 2011? What tops your list of things you would like to see?
LS: We are talking about Phase 2 of our sewer project. Ray (Hickey, town CAO) and I are going to visit my former hometown of Pictou, where they recently put in a new sewer plant. So we are continually looking at treatment plants, and the cost. Phase 2 is connecting the two outflows first and then Phase 3 would follow. Sometime in 2011 we will have Phase 1 paid for, and once that happens we will seek funding for Phase 2, but I think we need to be ready for Phase 2 and 3. I would say continuing on with that would be a priority. Also improving Main Street to bring more visitors, keep our own folks here and encourage local shopping. One of our big priorities for 2011 is to start planning a new town hall. In this building I would like to have the VIC back here again, the library, and somplace for the recreation department to store things, as well as a common room for monthly meetings. We've also started new list of streets that need to be paved and didn't get done in the recent program of 13 streets.
C: Thank you for doing this.
LS: Thank you and Happy New Year to all.