The City of Selkirk has been making bold moves for years, ensuring that it is in charge of its future. In 2022, one of the boldest moves came to be when the city started providing planning services in-house to the community at large as well as building and land developers.
It was a move that made sense, and ultimately resulted in improved delivery and quality of services and gave the city control over its own planning and building inspections.
For Mayor Larry Johannson, taking over planning was a defining moment for the city in 2022 and in a way it was representative of the entire year.
“For all of us, 2022 was a bounce back kind of year. For as much as we can, we’ve moved past Covid and we’re returning to normal and in Selkirk, that normal meant that the hard work that’s been going on behind the scenes for years came out from behind the curtains,” Johannson said.
“We see that with the in-house planning, and we’re starting to see it with the success of the city’s sustainable economic development department. We’ve got businesses about to break ground and they’re going to bring jobs to our city. We’ve made infrastructure improvements and we’ve rebuilt Eveline. It was a big year in Selkirk.”
The city launched its planning division on May 1 with the goal of providing excellent service to its clients and to do so in a timely fashion. The last time the city had its own planning department was in 1977, so this department was built from the ground up and among its staff are a full-time planner and building inspector.
CAO Duane Nicol says the city is succeeding in reducing turnaround times for issuing commercial and residential building permits.
“Our mindset is that our job is to support development in our community and help people. We want to minimize bureaucracy and red tape while still upholding standards.”
Selkirk recognized as major contributor to Manitoba’s circular economy
The city’s Sustainable Economic Development Department had a busy 2022, working with Charbone Hydrogen Corporation and Canadian Premium Sand (CPS), both of whom will be opening plants in Selkirk.
The lease agreement between the city and Charbone was finalized Nov. 7. Charbone will build the province’s first ever green regional hub for the production and distribution of green hydrogen on 4.6 acres of land west of the city’s decommissioned wastewater treatment plant.
The facility will produce and distribute green hydrogen, and being built on land west of Selkirk’s decommissioned wastewater treatment plant will allow it to use reclaimed water or ‘re-water’ from the city’s new treatment plant and provide residual oxygen to the city’s wastewater pond which improves the treatment process, thus reducing waste from both processes and creating a more circular water economy.
The facility is expected to bring a significant number of jobs to the city. Charbone is in the process of environmental assessment with the province and will begin construction of the multi-phase project at the same time, with an expectation to begin operating and delivering by the fall of 2023.
Selkirk entered into a land sale option with Canadian Premium Sand this summer. CPS plans to locate North America’s only patterned solar glass manufacturing plant in the city. An investment of $350-plus million into the city and the creation of some 300 jobs when the plant opens is the largest investment into Selkirk in more than 100 years.
Johannson called CPS’s decision to locate in Selkirk ‘a strong indicator of the city’s growing reputation as a place businesses want to be’.
Both Charbonne and CPS are green industries and Tim Feduniw, Selkirk’s Director of Sustainable Development, says neither landed here by happenstance.
“Selkirk is becoming recognized as a major contributor to Manitoba’s circular economy by working with and attracting green industry with the ability to support existing companies, attract new investment and provide employment opportunities as market demand for carbon-free energy alternatives continues to increase,” Feduniw said.
“Sustainable, intentional growth is at the core of what we do here and we’re looking forward to new partnerships, new investments, and a clean and green future.”
Selkirk’s green attitude attracted a lot of attention in 2022, so much so that members of the Manitoba Environmental Industries Association (MEIA) – of which Selkirk is the newest member – came to the city for a tour.
The city has long been making the environment part of day-to-day life in Selkirk through strategies and plans and policies and bylaws. When it’s what you live and breathe, others take notice.
“When I think of Selkirk I think about the mill and recycling of metal. It’s an example of a long history of business enjoying success in a circular economy. Today Selkirk community leaders have positioned themselves to not only embrace the concepts of circular and sustainability but put this into action by working with industry to thrive in a growing green economy,” MEIA Executive Director Jack Winram said prior to the visit.
“Then they kick it up a notch further with policy and investments in infrastructure that position the community as one of the greenest communities I am aware of. It’s good for industry, it’s good for community and it’s good for the environment. A win-win all around.”
Earlier this month the city’s Sustainable Economic Development Department teamed up with Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) to host an executive Round Table to gain insight into the regional challenges that will inform advocacy, programs and supports in the areas of labour, supply, technology and more.
It’s another example of the city taking the lead and making things happen. There was interest in the Round Table, and interest on the part of MEIA to come to Selkirk because of its Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, Capital Asset Management Strategy, GHG Accountability By-Law, state of the art wastewater treatment plant and more.
Investing in our downtown ‘in a big way’ with Eveline reconstruction
In 2022, seven blocks of Eveline Street were rebuilt. It was a $7.2 million investment into a historic section of Selkirk, the largest single city street rebuild in the city in decades, if not ever, and it has many upsides. It will improve safety for motorists and pedestrians, make the street more accessible and connect it to active transportation pathways and sidewalks that allow for walkers and riders to go from Selkirk Park all the way to shopping on West Manitoba Avenue.
Johannson said the total reconstruction of seven of the city’s most important blocks is more than historic – it’s the kind of improvement that alters not only the city’s view of itself, but the view from beyond our borders as well will never be the same.
“It’s something that 2022 will be remembered for, it’s the year that Eveline Street, in the downtown of our city, came into its own,” Johannson said.
“We rebuild streets all the time, but we didn’t just put down some asphalt, we brought the street up to modern standards and we made it safer for vehicles, for people to walk or ride bikes and we made it accessible for anyone with mobility issues. These seven blocks of Eveline in our downtown are key, and in 2022 we invested in our downtown in a big way.”
In May, the Manitoba Metis Federation showed its belief in Selkirk and a rebuilt and redesigned Eveline Street by breaking ground on a $14.8 million mixed-use 55-plus development that includes residential as well as commercial space on four consolidated lots the MMF owns on the street.
The six-storey, 55-plus building will have 49-units ranging from one bedroom, one bedroom and a den to two- and three-bedroom. There will be commercial space on the second and main floors, office space for the MMF and heated, indoor parking.
Johannson said the city’s work on policies and strategies that have shaped the city’s revitalized downtown is what attracted the MMF to Selkirk.
“The MMF shares our goals and appreciates our environmental efforts. I’m thrilled that President Chartrand and the MMF have selected our city, and our downtown, to invest in.”
Wastewater Treatment Plant is a Centre of Excellence
The city’s new wastewater treatment plant only began operating last year, but it is already recognized as a state-of-the-art facility. In 2022, students from Red River College came to learn about new research taking place at the plant.
Raven Sharma, the city’s Utilities Manager, said the city is committed to availing the plant to partners who can participate in helping the city achieve the financial and environmental successes the plant is destined for.
“I reached out to different professors from the University of Manitoba and Red River College, before the new plant was even commissioned, to let them know that we have a centre of excellence and that we were looking for partners to work with,” Sharma said.
The city applied for, and received, a $10,000 Strategic Transformation and Applied Research (STAR) grant from Red River College, to work with three environmental engineering students from the college to study ways to turn sludge removed from raw sewage into a reusable product as well.
Sharma said with the students, they will characterize the biosolid sludge from the wastewater treatment plant and lime from the water treatment plant to determine if they can combine the two and use it as a resource instead of a waste product.
“There’s a potential that we can use it as biochar and it can be used in the soil when we plant trees, it would be a renewable resource,” Sharma said.
An awesome summer in Selkirk
Camp Awesome returned in 2022 with programming that linked to the K-5 curriculum and targeted learning in an outdoor environment. The city worked with Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) to develop Camp Awesome’s activities. CPAWS is a national charity that advocates for the effective, long-term protection of ecologically – and culturally-significant land, freshwater and ocean areas in Canada.
With the Waterfront unavailable due to construction on Eveline Street, the Waterfront Concert series didn’t miss a beat, it just moved to Manitoba Avenue East. The street was closed to vehicle traffic during the evening shows, and the events were a summer of 2022 favourite.
Summer of 2022 also saw the Selkirk Watertower lit up like never before. The newly painted tower was a focal point and was used to recognize important dates throughout the year – including being bathed in yellow and blue in support of Ukraine, colours of the rainbow for pride, orange in recognition of truth and reconciliation, and many other colours supporting other important initiatives.
Some firsts in 2022
The year 2022 will also be remembered as the year Selkirk got its first EV charging station and the year citizens got their first chance to have a say in the rebirth of the historic Garry Theatre, which the city purchased in 2020. Public consultation started in November.
In October Manitobans went to the polls for the Municipal Election and in Selkirk the entire council was returned. It’s a vote of confidence, Mayor Johannson said, and acknowledgement the city is heading in the right direction.
Democracy was alive and well in Selkirk during the election, with two letting their names stand for Mayor and 12 in the running for six council seats. Elected on that night were Mayor Johannson along with returning Couns. John Buffie, Kelly Cook, Lorie Fiddler, April Hourie, Doug Poirier, and Darlene Swiderski.
“I know I speak for all of council when I say we appreciate the support from the citizens and the vote that lets us know we’ve been doing a good job. We’re determined to keep up the good work for the City of Selkirk and we look forward to working hard for the city for the next four years.”