Hello Breezes Readers and Happy 2017.  I hope it will be the best year yet for all North Enders.  For Council, the year began with all of us diving back into the budget books and for your Councillor, along with budgets, there has been a strong emphasis on pier planning and consultation and neighbourhood planning.

In recent budgets, Council has been as economical as possible with average annual tax increases regularly coming in around 2 percent and consistently ranked amongst the lowest tax increases in Ontario without dropping any city services you have come to enjoy and rely on.  We continue to work off that same templet with what we can control respecting the taxes you pay.

There is an added challenge this year as we are ever so mindful that many of you have received your assessment updates from the Province.  While it is great to see the unprecedented North End home value increases showing North End homes to be a prudent investment, with in many cases drastic increases in your homes assessment, comes higher taxes on that assessment.  If ever you have questions about your tax bill or foresee some challenges respecting rates, never fail to contact our office and we will get you engaged with the taxation office.  We are here to help.  Your tax bill should delineate what you are paying taxes toward.

On the Piers, there has been an incredible amount of progress in the last few years.  You can see for yourselves some of the examples of this (Discovery Drive Pier rehabilitation from Guise to Williams Café).  In addition to the servicing studies and urban design plans in 2017 you may also expect to see much more.  On Pier 8 expect demolition of existing structures as we continue to implement our council approved plans to create a new mid-rise community with up to 1,600 residential units and 13,000 sq. m. of commercial and institutional space. The real estate strategy for the sale of the Pier 8 lands was approved by Council on November 9, 2016 and much of that work will be done in 2017 as well. Also expect to see more Harbour West Marina reconstruction (began in 2016), news on our Bay Front Beach assessment and with guidance from the Waterfront Development Office in Public Works, the HWT will begin the planning and design for Pier 6 + 7 in 2017.

As has always been the case, you always have opportunities to engage on West Harbour development.  You may email Diedre.beintema@hamilton.ca or call her at 905 546 2711 to find out about our next West Harbour engagement session.

Finally  let’s hit the roads in the North End.  I have heard from many of you to date and have witnessed myself over countless occasions that some of your residential streets are in need of TLC.  I am happy to report that throughout the next few years you will notice we are taking action on some of these issues.

You have heard a lot in the past that many of Canada’s older cities are in a state of infrastructure crisis.  Obviously Hamilton is among these cities and we are encouraged that the Federal Government has acknowledged the issues and we welcome the pending partnerships on funding.

While Hamilton spends close to 85 million local tax payer dollars annually on roads, the emphasis tends to be on major arterial roads where most of the cars, trucks and buses travel.  Residential streets are also funded, but this is a much smaller percentage of the already low spending pie and so many residential streets remain as hard to get to priorities.  It is because of this, over the years I have grown an annual 200 thousand dollar Councillor priority road reserve.  In addition to that funding source, I will be committing Ward 2 Area Rating Capital Reserve funds toward fixing your local streets.

In your North End we are set to begin some of this needed work. For starters, the approved Capital Budget for 2017 shows 150 thousand toward design, another 100 thousand in 2018 and 1.1 million for a full rehab of Ferguson Street in 2019.  We are also looking at addressing poor conditions on Strachan and I look forward to future discussions with residents on possible alternatives like surface treatments on other North End streets.  There is also 200 thousand budgeted this year for the North End Traffic Management capital works projects.

As spring approaches, so does construction season, North Enders.  Any questions comments or concerns respecting local roads or anything regarding this latest Breezes update from your Councillor?  As always, I am available and happy to engage with you.  Please keep in touch and until next time Breezes readers, all the best in 2017.