There are a number of successes that have made it to Morris Mayor Scott Crick's 2022 highlight reel.
The first, noted the Mayor, was Council's ability to hold the line on reduced taxes. Something he says they've been able to do for the entire previous term.
"When I first ran for Council, and one of the things I was very strong on, was that we needed to be very responsible with taxpayers' money," said Crick. "To me, I take a lot of pride in that. I think that we show good governance and respect for taxpayers' money. And it also does show, I think, it speaks very well on behalf of staff. They are our partners in this, in finding ways to deliver services efficiently and finding more cost-effective ways to do things."
Headway was also made on a few economic development efforts this past year.
Papers were signed in November confirming the first sale of land in the Town's new industrial park, selling ten percent of all available real estate in the park.
"Considering all of the challenges we've had over the last few years - basically, we opened the park followed by COVID-19, followed by flooding - these have been challenging times for this sort of economic development. And from my perspective, the fact that we have that first signature on paper has been really good," said Crick.
Additionally, the Town of Morris has been in discussions with the Municipality of Emerson-Franklin which is in the process of developing its own industrial park near the Canada/U.S. Border along Highway 75.
"We have seen some great opportunities for us to work together with them and look at ways that we can market these facilities together to different businesses," explained Crick. "Potentially, Morris represents a better location. Potentially, Emerson-Franklin represents a better location. But, overall we are representing the area and working with each other to help bring economic development to that entire Highway 75 South corridor."
In fact, each municipality has hired the same consultant to work on the file, and the two parties will be looking at ways to continue developing the relationship in 2023. According to Crick, Council believes this partnership is the conduit in which to sell additional industrial park land in the coming year.
2022 also saw the groundwork laid for an assisted living project in the community that, according to Crick, will serve the entire region.
"Tip of the hat to Deputy Mayor Chris Hamblin...and I know that she's going to be working diligently on that in 2023."
"Fundamentally, if we don't have the right partners, location, funding model, and if the facility is not designed in a way that it won't appeal to people, it's very difficult to make that happen," added Crick.
Meantime, flooding again served as the number one challenge for the community this past year.
"It's difficult for a community like Morris, located in a flood plane, to engage in economic development and be a good service centre for the area if access to the community is closed on all but one side," explained Crick, noting not only is this challenging for the community, but also for the people in the greater area who depend on coming to town. "Whether it's for groceries, to go out for a meal, or to be able to get to work in under an hour and instead, get to work in ten minutes."
The disappointment added Crick, came when the floodproofing work on Highway 75 south of Morris wasn't done in time for spring when the high water arrived.
"As we look forward towards next year, the construction still does not look complete. And if we have a flooding incident again in early 2023, I'm not confident in our ability to keep Highway 75 South open again."
The Mayor notes Deputy Mayor Hamblin has forged some contacts within Manitoba Transportation and Infrastructure. "I know we are asking some questions about this, and I'm hoping we're going to get some satisfactory answers," he said, adding completing this work is key to future economic development in the community.
Looking ahead, efforts to improve access to childcare in the community will remain a priority for Council in 2023. Crick feels this is a critical part to furthering industrial and residential development in Morris.
"As you're aware, we were somewhat disappointed that we were not part of the discussions when it came to different models to deliver childcare within rural Manitoba," said Crick. "The Province did have an intake for additional communities to apply for a facility which was provided by the Province. The Town has submitted its application on that, and we're hoping to get some positive feedback on that early in the New Year."
As well, he says Council remains committed to improving two-way communication with citizens, a 2018 election goal that got started in the previous term but was derailed by the challenges of the pandemic.
"We may have our ideas as councillors of the direction we think the town should move in...what citizen priorities are, but we're not always right, and so developing good two-way communication with our citizens is very important," said Crick.