News

Oxford County politicians look to possible big issues and trends in 2018

By Heather Rivers, Woodstock Sentinel-Review

Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch at his home on Dec.23. HEATHER RIVERS/SENTINEL-REVIEW

Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch at his home on Dec.23. HEATHER RIVERS/SENTINEL-REVIEW

Dramatic growth, capital projects and looming elections are on the minds of local politicians as they say goodbye to the old year and usher in the new.

Woodstock Mayor Trevor Birtch said he predicts 2018 will be a year of involvement for local residents.

“Citizens will get to wield the ultimate political power twice this year – first casting a ballot in the provincial election in June and then selecting their municipal politicians in October,” he said. “In both cases, ask the politicians what their views and plans are beyond the election cycle, and see if their vision matches yours.”

Birtch also reflected on the recent boom the industrial sector in the city has encountered.

“We have had unprecedented growth in our industrial sector in recent years and continued interest in further expansion,” he said. “Our boundaries have now expanded after successful discussions with Norwich Township, and we will be starting secondary planning to get the services ready for continued growth in employment opportunities. Much of this good news would be the results of our continued involvement in trade missions to the Far East.”

He also noted apartment buildings are sprouting up across the Friendly City while new home construction continues at a record pace, which means more housing options for local residents.

He also urges citizens to follow the recent announcement by the South Gate Centre of expansion plans that would open up gymnasium space for our youth after school and on weekends.

“We need public input on this project so the final plan suits our current needs and the needs of generations to come,” he said.

On a personal note, 2018 will see a haircut for Birtch.

He will be cutting his hair for the third time and donating to cancer wigs.

County Warden and South-West Oxford Mayor David Mayberry said township highlights included the grand opening of TransCanada Trail through the southwest corner of the township and the grand opening of Folden’s playground, as well as the approval of the community improvement plan.

In the fall, South-West Oxford council approved the fourth phase of the Eldon View Mt. Elgin subdivision so it can begin in the near future.

“At the last council meeting of the year, council passed the draft 2018 budget and accepted the tender for building the new emergency services facility in Beachville,” he said. “The budget indicates an approximately two-per-cent increase in expenditures, but with growth, this should be reduced to approximately a one per cent increase in tax levy.”

South-West Oxford also has had several discussions with both Ingersoll and Woodstock regarding potential boundary adjustments, he said.

“In both cases, because of the serious implications for the future of SWOX, these negotiations have been slow,” he said. “SWOX is looking forward to progress on both fronts in 2018.

For the 2018 municipal elections, SWOX council also made the decision this year to use phone and Internet voting.

“This will allow voters to vote at their convenience from their homes,” he said. “Training on how the system will work, for anyone wanting to run in the election, will be provided after nomination day."

Larry Martin, mayor of Norwich, said his township a saw a record amount of construction in the past year.

On Dec. 20, there was a ground-breaking ceremony for yet another new subdivision in the Village of Norwich that will consist of 48 new homes, he said.

A new senior’s development is projected to be underway in 2018 and consists of 40 units each over the span of three phases.

And there are four other subdivisions that are either in the planning stages or already underway.

“I look forward with anticipation and hope the momentum from 2017 will carry forward into the new year,” Martin said. “For the first time this term, we did not have our provincial funding cut.”

The demand for construction has also had other effects in the township.

“We had hoped to have the new fire hall in Burgessville either operational or at least closed in. However, due to the demand on all the trades in the building industry, this did not happen,” Martin said. “We all have our fingers crossed in hope and anticipation that the much-needed fire hall will become a reality in 2018. However, there are still a few hurdles that have yet to be cleared.”

Martin said the township’s 2018 capital budget has addressed some concerns in all departments from public works to recreation to deficiencies in municipal buildings to accessibility issues with its sidewalk program.

“With everything that is pending or is a work in progress, I see 2018 as being a very fruitful, busy and progressive year,” Martin said. “This is a great time to be in the Township of Norwich. I would like to wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.”

HRivers@postmedia.com