The past year was a big one for Corner Brook Mayor Jim Parsons.
In early summer, he threw his hat into the political ring and, after a relatively lengthy municipal election campaign, won the mayor’s seat in late September.
Since then, he and his fellow elected city council members have been busy both learning the ropes of municipal government and doing the work needed to keep the city moving and growing, including planning the 2018 budget released just before Christmas.
The learning curve has been steep, but Parsons said he knew that before he jumped into the fire. He is embracing his new leadership role in Corner Brook and looking forward to making the city a better place.
“I can’t think of better words than interesting and exciting for the possibilities that exist here with the city,” said Parsons. “There is a lot of work going on that we can continue with and a lot of new things we can start doing. It’s an exciting time right now.”
Here are the top five priorities for Parsons as Corner Brook heads into 2018:
The City of Corner Brook will be developing a new economic development strategy, which Parsons — a business man in his day job — said is one of his personal priorities. He said this will involve getting all of Corner Brook’s institutions, businesses and community organizations on the same page in terms of where they want the city to go and where Corner Brook needs to go from an economic point of view.
Since the election, the City of Corner Brook has begun establishing new community-based committees, including one to make the city more accessible and inclusive to those with special needs and a community services committee to tackle other social issues. Parsons foresees other committees being struck to focus on such things as recreation, the arts and environmental issues.
“These community committees will be a great resource for us all and a better way to break down the barrier between city hall and the city,” he said. “I’m really curious to see what’ going to come out of those.”
Municipal infrastructure work
While Corner Brook will see the continuation of major infrastructure projects like the new Main Street bridge and the storm sewer separation project in the lower West Valley Road area, Parsons is hoping the city will also make advancements in the long overdue replacement of the Jubilee Field clubhouse and construction of an outdoor splash pad somewhere at a site yet to be determined. The city has allocated funding for these undertakings, though the ball field work is pending funding help from the provincial and federal governments. He’s also hoping to see progress with plans for the longer-term goal of a new regional aquatic centre for Corner Brook.
“I think an important focus going forward will be how we can attract young families to this city,” said the mayor.
As part of the economic development strategy mentioned above, Corner Brook will also be developing a tourism strategy specifically. Parsons said this will entail seeking out funding sources for projects and working with tourism operators throughout the Bay of Islands region to come up with a plan, driven mainly by these operators, to get more tourism industry dollars spent in this part of western Newfoundland. He said harnessing the power of the area’s tourism product is something that cannot wait any longer.
“This has to be something that comes from the community,” said Parsons. “We have a lot of tourism operators in the region who know what we need and who can lead the charge to get that going.”
Making this council’s mark
Now that this year’s budget is set, Parsons said council and city staff have to get down to the nitty gritty of finding more efficiencies in operations to free up money that can be spent on other things residents need and want.
“The only way we are going to be able to look at new needs like wastewater treatment and a new pool is to find efficiencies elsewhere because it is not easy to find new revenue,” he said.
One key area he believes can be focused on is the civic centre. He said there have been enough consultant reports and there is enough expertise within council and staff to start making decisions that will make the centre a more viable and valuable resource for Corner Brook.
“We have cut to the bone with how much we spend on the civic centre and I don’t think we can spend less on that facility and make it worthwhile,” said Parsons. “The key to that facility to is to attract more revenue … I think we can find a way to get a few more hundred thousand dollars in net revenue and make the centre more affordable.”