Morenet still high on priority list

Morenet was announced in April, and after some construction setbacks mayor Brandon Burley said the service is high on the city’s priority list for 2019. (FILE PHOTO)

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Rolling out Morenet to residents and putting together the budget are high on the City of Morden’s priority going into 2019.

Morden mayor Brandon Burley and his council have only been in office for a couple months, but with some brand new council members and some key city staff positions empty, November and December were months of transition.

“2018 posed a lot of challenges in the [last] two months, especially with the turnover of staff,” Burley said. “The auditing of financials remains our top priority right now along with delivering the 2019 budget. We’re confident we can do that in the first part of January and have that budget meeting and let citizens know where their hard earned tax dollars are going.”

Morden’s new city manager Faisal Anwar began work in December, and Burley said he is learning quickly. “Every week we’re gaining operational efficiency and experience,” he said. “We’re still lacking a deputy city manager for operations and a public works foreman, which have to be priorities in terms of filling those offices.”

Burley said despite the challenges, he has been pleased with how public works has been able to operate without the foreman position.

The city will also be adding a marketing and communications director in 2019 to help keep the public better informed to bring accountability to the city’s communication strategies.

Morenet is also still high on that priority list. The service was initially set to roll out throughout the city by the end of summer 2018.

In December, the city put out a notice that the towers they had purchased (and had been told were CSA approved for necessary loads) were not actually up to the task. After consultations the city determined Morenet would go forward, but would require an additional tower. Work has now resumed on bringing the network to Morden residents.

“We were happy to have finished [2018] on a high note with the news that we could deliver Morenet,” Burley said. “That was a big question mark for us and it was a big question mark for the community as well.”

There is still no firm date for when Morenet will be available for the whole city, but Burley said he is confident it will roll out within this year. Grant Street should be online this month and a tower at Rampton Park will be going up soon.

Burley said he is looking forward to 2019 and being able to get a full year in and work off a budget council creates.

One other thing Burley said is on the list is to create a land sale tendering policy and a tax incentive policy to let businesses and investors to know Morden is open for business.

“I intend to be very active in that role and work with MCDC to ensure that we can deliver on the promise of economic development,” he said.

“Development is of critical importance to the government,” he added. “This council is not just interested in providing jobs, but providing good jobs, jobs that exceed their standard of living. That’s how economic development is working, not just by providing a bunch of low end jobs, though we need them, but ensuring that our median household income improves and we can improve the quality of living for residents in the community.”

Some highlights of the upcoming budget will be capital costs for Morenet and a ‘significant’ contribution to the newly re-named Menzies Medical Centre.

Burley said council has put aside money for a potential swimming pool, and have allocated funds for economic development.

The cost of the proposed roundabout at Highway 3 and La Verendrye Boulevard has gone up significantly. “We are going back to the drawing board on that,” Burley said. “My promise was that we would go back and examine the facts.”

Burley said the roundabout project is not moving forward at this time. “It seems like a complicated solution for a very simple problem,” he said. “There are, in my opinion, more pressing concerns including traffic signalling at 1st and Thornhill and Mountain and Thornhill. We need to figure out what the simplest solutions are first and then figure out what the residuals are after in terms of traffic.”

The cost increase was because of various things like infrastructure and land acquisition costs. The scale of the roundabout also had to be stepped up, but Burley said a big factor was also steel tariffs.

“That’s been a big problem for us in terms of capital costs, the steel is killing us,” he said. “Every capital project is going to cost more now, which is unfortunate but it’s a reality. We can’t simply wait until the United States government decides to drop those tariffs to deliver projects.”

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