As Sarnians focus on battling COVID-19 this month, Mayor Mike Bradley says he plans to engage the community in planning for a post-pandemic city.
The coming year will be a time to recruit community leaders to assist with everything from population growth to a large addiction treatment facility, Bradley said at his annual “State of the City” address.
He is also spearheading an economic and environmental summit in the coming months open to anyone with ideas about Sarnia’s future.
“I want an honest, authentic debate,” said Bradley. “I see (a summit) as a major step in the first quarter.”
A similar summit was held 30 years ago when heavy job loss plagued the city’s industrial sector. The summit focused on how Sarnia would recover economically and ultimately resulted in the Western Research Park at the former Dow property.
Bradley called the local research park, which specializes in biofuels, energy and alternative clean tech, one of the best in North America and said it is thriving despite the pandemic.
“We’re still running at almost 90% occupancy despite what’s happened in the world, and there are a lot of exciting things happening,” he said.
Bradley delivered his annual address online to Golden K and Seaway Kiwanis Club members. He said other items on this year’s agenda include:
* Some “big” announcements coming soon, including one for the Trans Alta property in Chemical Valley.
* Progress on the Seasons Retirement Communities project at the former Bayside Centre downtown. The first tower should start taking shape within “weeks to months,” he said.
* New residential development, including 600 new housing units approved by the current council. Bradley said a study related to city growth coming to council this year could be controversial because some politicians want unrestricted residential growth.
* The release of a new waterfront study that reflects a local desire for an active and accessible waterfront.
* A report on integrated transportation in Southwestern Ontario, due after 18 months of collaboration between several mayors. Bradley said he worked “under the radar” on the plan and his contribution focuses on air travel.
* Hiring four new police officers for Sarnia Police Services.
* Optimism that Line 5 will be saved and ensure a dependable supply of feedstock for the petrochemical industry.
Bradley said the prolonged pandemic is highlighting the city’s need for “decent” housing and better addiction services.
If the province doesn’t approve a permanent addiction withdrawal management facility this year, he said he will send a delegation to Queen’s Park to again plead the community’s case.
The ongoing pandemic is frustrating and makes it more difficult to be optimistic, the mayor said.
“Yes, it’s been a long two years, but please be hopeful and be compassionate.”
He said he never could have imagined so many waves of COVID-19 when he signed the city’s emergency order 657 days ago, but believes “we’re nearing the end of the marathon.”
He urged the community to stay in good humour, get vaccinated and follow public health policies.
Information on future and prior topics and speakers at Kiwanis Club of Sarnia-Lambton Golden K’s meetings is available at https://www.sarniakiwanis.com/.