When the excitement of the holiday season calms down and our lives begin to ease back into some sort of routine, the rear view mirror will show 2018 was a year of progress in the City of Selkirk. And that’s the kind of reflection that has been the norm of late, as mayor and council, along with administration, follow the vision laid out by the city’s Strategic Plan.
The plan, created through an extensive citizen engagement process and adopted in 2014, represents an evolution in municipal governance, with council and administration tying all decisions to the plan’s vision, which, by design, is a long term one.
Mayor Larry Johannson said adoption of the Strategic Plan signalled a shift in the way the city operates, ensuring decisions have an anchor and a benefit that extends years, if not decades, down the line.
“Leadership and vision are the things that we hang our hats on,” Johannson said.
“We have that long-term vision, we’re not just focused on the four-year election cycle, we’re thinking about Selkirk in the context of the next hundred years, as opposed to Selkirk in the next three years.”
Chief Administrative Officer Duane Nicol said leadership and vision are key for Selkirk’s elected officials and city staff, who strive for continuous improvement in all areas, strong economic development and effective and efficient management that benefits all residents.
“Selkirk council is stepping out of the traditional role of local government and into a role that citizens more and more are expecting local governments to play, sort of municipal government 2.0,” Nicol said.
There was a municipal election in 2018 that saw plenty of upheaval in the region, but not in the City of Selkirk. With a strong voter turnout of 53 per cent, citizens returned all incumbents – Kelly Cook, Darlene Swiderski, April Hourie, Doug Poirier and John Buffie – and voted Lorie Fiddler to take the seat vacated by Ken Beerman, who chose not to run after two terms on council. The return of all five incumbents along with Fiddler, who ran of a platform of continuing the good work the previous council had been doing, is a strong vote of confidence from the public.
City breaks ground on two major projects
Council’s long-term vision was front of mind when the city broke ground on its new $36 million waste water treatment plant (WWTP) in August. The plant, which will be equally cost-shared by the city and Governments of Manitoba and Canada under the Building Canada Plan, will utilize the latest technology and position Selkirk as a leader in waste water treatment and environmental management.
The plant was designed to handle the city’s waste water, today and into the future, as well as waste water from other clients. The first potential client is the RM of St. Andrews, whose council and administration are exploring the possibility of connecting to Selkirk’s WWTP.
Johannson commended newly elected St. Andrews Mayor Joy Sul for her leadership and vision to consider the Selkirk connection. Selkirk’s plant is a more environmentally responsible option and is a better economic option for St. Andrews’ residents.
Nicol said the Selkirk plant was designed to be able to service neighbours, and should St. Andrews resolve to connect to the city plant, it would be a historic decision that would positively impact generations to come.
The WWTP is the largest capital project in the city’s 136-year history, but it’s far from the only investment the city is making in the community. Construction of the much needed fire hall expansion began in 2018 and is expected to be completed in early spring 2019. The city also invested in a new rescue truck for the Selkirk Fire Department and an aerial truck will arrive next year once the expansion is finished.
Selkirk prompts province to reconsider much needed road and bridge program
The city took advantage of the Province’s Road and Bridge program and turned $400,000 for road work into $800,00 with the program’s matching dollars. When the province later announced it was cancelling the program, Selkirk co-authored a resolution at the Association of Manitoba Municipalities to lobby provincial leaders to reconsider. The councils of 102 municipalities passed resolutions of support and a whopping 97 per cent of attendees supported the resolution at the AMM annual general meeting, prompting the province to say it will reconsider its decision.
Economic Development is vibrant
The city has been experiencing a well-planned growth spurt in recent years, and 2018 was no exception. Construction on the Easton Place health centre began and Selkirk Town Plaza has undergone a major, multi-million dollar renovation and facelift. In-fill housing starts in the city’s north end, such as the new six-plex on Jemima Avenue, are continuing, providing affordable housing options. The city also launched its façade and site improvement economic incentive program and is working with the Peguis First Nation on its commercial development on Manitoba Avenue.
Recognized and rewarded for leading the way
The city has made it a priority to take a lead role whenever possible to enhance not just our city, but the province and even the entire country. Selkirk is seen as a leader in asset management and in the past 12 months members of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities as well as Catherine McKenna, Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, came to the city to see its progress first hand.
After the FCM visit, Leanne Brannigan, Manager of Corporate Asset Management for the Region of Peel in Ontario, had high praise for Selkirk’s efforts.
“It was wonderful to see that Selkirk is not only on a journey to set themselves apart as asset management leaders for small municipalities in asset management, but is on the road to establishing itself as a national example of how it should be done,” Brannigan said.
McKenna, who came to see the innovative ways the city is incorporating climate change into its asset management practices, was especially impressed with its will to make lasting change, not just change that occurs during a four-year elected term.
“It’s great to see you’re doing this and thinking longer term…you’re talking further down the road and I like the fact that you’re thinking systems change, so that (the changes are in place) even if you’re not going to be here,” McKenna said during a meeting at the Gaynor Family Regional Library.
The city’s ability to lead was also recognized at the AMM annual conference where Mayor Larry Johannson was named chair of Cities Caucus and Coun. Kelly Cook was named Interlake Director on the AMM board, marking just the second time a Selkirk councillor has held the position.
Coun. John Buffie was also named chairperson of the Red River Planning District in December.
Connecting the community
The city is focused on serving its citizens, and was rewarded in 2018 with the Selkirk Transit Authority receiving the Selkirk Biz Customer Service Award. The city’s transit service is well known for its customer service and in 2017 Selkirk Mobility, also run by STA, was the recipient of two Selkirk Biz awards.
The city also improved the way it deals with the public through its service request ticketing system with better tracking and management of requests. Dedicated staff now field questions and requests and process all transactions.
The city’s web site continues to evolve and in 2018 campground bookings became available online and on election night, the city had up-to-date results posted so an engaged public could monitor results on their computer, tablet or phone.
Selkirk has always been a great place to live and in 2018 the city became the talk of many towns on several occasions thanks to the terrific things happing in Selkirk.
The first season of the CBC drama Burden of Truth was a filmed in Selkirk in 2017 and cast and crew returned in 2018 for season 2. Holiday Alley lit up Manitoba Avenue East for a second year and drew thousands out to enjoy Manitoba’s winter and Selkirk’s fine people and talent.
The city was named the Canadian Fair Trade Town of the Year and received a 5 Bloom Bronze rating by Communities in Bloom judges. Selkirk was the only city with a population over 5,000 to receive the 5 Bloom Bronze score.
Selkirk continued its cutting edge leading ways by launching its Virtual Museum, which takes people on a self-guiding walking tour where past meets present and vice versa, all courtesy of a website designed for your mobile device.
Two new murals on Manitoba Avenue help beautify the city and tell its unique story and detailed designs of the Manitoba Avenue East commercial district signal the start of construction in spring 2019 that will transform the block into a pedestrian friendly shopping and dining destination.
Selkirk also launched some of the coolest clothing to hit the streets in years, with Chuck-Wear and GetOutside-Gear. The line of t-shirts, hats, onesies and travel mugs give residents a fashion statement that declares they are #SelkirkProud and lets visitors, who are discovering how cool the city is, a chance to take some Selkirk home with them.
Thirty per cent of the sales of the promotional material go to the Selkirk Heritage and Selkirk Parks Endowment funds. The Parks Endowment Fund itself is a 2018 innovation – it’s held and managed by the Selkirk and District Community Foundation. Income generated by the fund will be used to provide a stable, long term base of resources to support the management and enhancement of Selkirk’s park system.
The year 2019 has arrived, and in Selkirk, it’s poised to be as exciting and productive as 2018 – even more so in fact, as council and administration move forward with projects that will further the city’s reputation as one that leads and works hard for a better future for all.