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PART 1: What is council's biggest accomplishment this year?

Orillia's City Council is entering the final year of its four-year mandate, so we asked them six questions as they head into the home stretch. Their answers may surprise you

Orillia's City Council, elected in 2018, is entering the final year of its four-year mandate. The next municipal election, slated for Oct. 24, 2022, is just one year away.

With that in mind, we canvassed Mayor Steve Clarke and all eight city councillors to answer six key questions heading into the home stretch of their tenure. Questions range from asking about their greatest accomplishments, their regrets, their legacy and if they plan to see re-election. They were given a limit of 150-words per response. Their responses will be published, verbatim, over the next six days.

What do you think is this council's biggest accomplishment this year? Be specific.

Orillia Mayor Steve Clarke

The number one accomplishment can be seen in how Orillia responded to the pandemic. We were reminded very early on that our top priority during COVID was the health and safety of our community. Establishing key partnerships from the beginning was, and continues to be, crucial.

Our relationships with our local health unit, Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital, the OPP, the fire department, the Department of National Defence, the County and local media have been key with resulting actions seeing our local COVID case rate kept low and our rate of double vaccinations among those eligible very high at over 92%.

As well, our establishment of the Economic Recovery Task Force as an economic reaction was necessary and very successful again with strategic partnerships with our Chamber of Commerce, our Community Development Corporation (CDC) and the Orillia Downtown Management Board. Our citizens should be very proud with how they have handled this pandemic.

David Campbell (Ward 1)

I feel that council’s biggest accomplishment this past year has been our continuing to navigate the pandemic in such a way that businesses have survived (and some new ones have opened) and people have remained safe.

It has certainly not been easy, and the work continues, but I feel we are in good shape going forward. Working with the other members of the Economic Recovery Task Force, we tried to come up with innovative ideas that would help businesses to survive. With many different opinions, it’s not always easy to find middle ground, but we were able to do that, and I feel that has created some very positive working relationships that will help us to remain strong economically

Ted Emond (Ward 1)

Identification of and agreement with the preferred developer of the Metro and former railway lands and obtaining permission to extend Coldwater Street through the plaza.

Ralph Cipolla (Ward 2)

Our biggest accomplishment this year has been the way the council has handled the COVID-19 pandemic. We have made our community safe and had extremely good feedback in adhering to all government protocols. 

Also, the completion of the Rec Centre was an amazing accomplishment. I, personally, have been waiting for this Rec Centre for 40 years when I first introduced it when I was on council in 1978. I am so happy we have a place where people of all ages can have a safe place to go and encourage well-being.

Rob Kloostra (Ward 2)

The completion and opening of the Lighthouse Supportive Housing and Walter Henry Park. The sale of 2 Hunter Valley Road to a local business meant stable jobs and business expansion and the closure of the RFP Front Street redevelopment means more commercial and residential tax base along with beautification and better pedestrian access.

Mason Ainsworth (Ward 3)

The biggest accomplishment this year would have to be the opening of Walter Henry Park on Orion Boulevard in Ward 3. It is an incredible park and for those who have not checked it out yet, make sure to do so!

The park includes an adventure playground with a tree fort and oversized tube slide and a zipline. Also included are pickleball courts, a half basketball court, a toboggan hill, splash pad, shade structure, washroom building, butterfly garden, accessible trails and walkways, and an oversized concrete salamander designed as a climbable play feature. It is an incredible park and creates a wonderful sense of community during such an unpredictable time.

Jay Fallis (Ward 3)

I believe that the city and council’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is something to be very proud of. At the start of the pandemic last March, everything was unprecedented. Our society had not experienced a pandemic on this scale in the modern era. Our council did not have a model in which to base its decisions off of and there were a lot of unknowns.

Despite this, the city (led by the Emergency Management Team) has done an admirable job addressing the situation. Additionally, it was important that our council work together on addressing various matters to do with the pandemic, and we have done just that. Finding common ground to ensure safety was given the utmost importance, while simultaneously supporting the community in ways that we could.

Pat Hehn (Ward 4)

Council functioned well holding meetings virtually and has accomplished much. We closed the Waterfront Redevelopment Project which will transform our waterfront for many years. The “See You on the Patio” and “Buy Local” programs proved to be very popular. As a council representative on the Library Board and member of the Personnel Committee, I was part of the process to hire our new Chief Librarian.

Last year I was extremely disappointed when council voted to close the Terry Fox Circle as I felt that the majority of Orillians wanted to see if left open. I was delighted that council voted to reconsider this decision and decided to leave a version of the circle open. The reason I feel that this is council’s biggest accomplishment, is because it showed that we listened to what the citizens of Orillia had to say and reacted to it.

Tim Lauer (Ward 4)

I would have to mention two significant accomplishments this year and would note that although not quite done deals, if all goes according to plan they will be.

First up, I think the waterfront project has progressed nicely. There were some very complex legal, land and procurement issues to work through and I think council and staff showed great resolve and competence working those issues through to a good result.

Secondly, the Climate Action Plan has been an accelerated file and depending on some very significant decisions yet to be made, the plan will give this Council the opportunity to map out the actions necessary to ensure a positive environmental future for those that follow.

TOMORROW: Check back tomorrow for responses about the challenges municipal elected officials are facing in their final year.