By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
With the budgets approved, councillors will now be turning their eyes to 2016 and the months ahead.
Large multi-million-dollar budgets have been approved for each of Oshawa’s departments and, along with that, business plans are set to act as a framework for directing those dollars into the right places.
A quick read through each of them will ring a few familiar bells for any city hall watcher, as they also appeared on the 2015 list, but others are new and could prove big steps for the city if completed over the next year.
“2016 is going to be a great step forward in an open and accessible City of Oshawa,” says Councillor Amy McQuaid-England, the chair of the corporate services committee. “These projects will add a fresh layer of transparency and accessibility while embracing technology.”
With an approved $15-million budget, McQuaid-England’s committee and staff will have a few big projects to wrap up this year.
Both the designated driver bylaw and new additions to the responsible pet owner’s bylaw are set to be implemented this year following an extensive public process in 2015.
The review of municipal law enforcement and licensing services is set for completion this year, despite
being labelled for completion last year, and both food truck standards and a corporate complaint process are set to be placed under the city’s legislative microscope.
“As always, I will remain focused on issues that matter to residents like empowering and improving tenant rights, animal welfare issues and improvements for the taxi drivers to relieve some of the pressures they face in a changing environment,” McQuaid-England says.
Another question mark exists in the city’s security audit of current facilities. Despite the committee’s plan stating recommendations from audit will be implemented in 2016, a Freedom of Information request completed by The Oshawa Express revealed this document has yet to be completed.
For community services, a $62.8-million budget will help to address several priorities that received a serious amount of public attention in 2015.
Pending approval of funds from the federal government, the safety improvements at the Wilson Road CN level crossing are set to be installed. Also on tap for 2016 are downtown improvements and reviewing options for the old Ritson Street depot site and the former McCord concrete site at the corner of Simcoe Street South and Wentworth Street East.
After discussions during budget deliberations, funds were also designated for improvements at the harbour. According to the committee’s business plan, the land is set to be converted for passive parkland uses by the end of the year.
For Councillor John Aker, chair of the development services committee, an extensive plan needs to be created for the waterfront as the city moves forward with its rehabilitation.
“We have some people approaching us now for what they would like to do, but I think the city has to have a comprehensive plan of what the city wants in that area, and then have the development industry respond,” he says, referring to a waterfront master plan.
A draft plan was created in 2011, but an end product has never been finalized. Mention was made by Mayor John Henry early in 2015 of such a plan being a priority, however no discussions have materialized.
On the development services side of things, Aker says pushing forward with the city’s current development boom is the top priority.
“Oshawa has tremendous economic growth and this growth will continue for 15 years,” he says.
Aker says he also hopes to focus on developing the city’s intellectual economy and the downtown.
“The downtown is an easy sell now. People want to invest in the downtown,” he says, pointing to the developments on Bond Street East, the redevelopment of the Genosha Hotel and the current work underway with Medallion Developments on a 24-acre site fronting on Bruce Street.
For his committee’s business plan, a corporate climate change program and a city-wide broadband strategy are top items.