Friday, 21 December 2012 16:12

Mayor feeling confident about Swift Current’s future

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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At the start of his second mayoral term after being elected by acclamation in the October municipal election, Swift Current Mayor Jerrod Schafer is feeling upbeat about the city.

He reflected on the year’s events and the challenges ahead at the final council meeting for 2012 on Dec. 10.
“I’m very excited for the next four years and what’s to come,” he said. “2013 is our 99th year and we’re getting ready for our centennial. I think it’s going to get busier than ever as we approach that, so we’ve got a lot to be excited about.”
He referred to the economic development data for Swift Current that indicated a record number of building permits, valued at $82.3 million, have been issued until the end of November. This already exceeds the previous record of $71 million from 2007.
“We’ve got a great base heading into the new year,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of momentum and one of the most important things we can do as a council and a community is do all we can to continue to move that momentum forward.”
The City has issued 51 single family residential building permits during the year at an average value of $360,000 per unit. There has been numerous sod turnings for new developments that included two new schools, new affordable housing units for seniors and the first personal care home in Swift Current.
“I really appreciate those business owners who continue to invest in our community, those investors who are putting their dollars into our community and of course our residents that continue to put their dollars at work,” he said.
Schafer was also excited about the vibrant downtown area, where the Lyric Theatre celebrated its 100-year history and started a $1-million renovation project and the City is investigating the possibility of acquiring the CPR station buildings for development as a heritage site.
Only in its second year, the summer activities on Market Square expanded with the addition of various theme days and the participation of the Swift Current and District Farmer’s Market.
“It wasn’t that long ago that it was our downtown business owners who had concerns with not enough commitment to the downtown core,” he said. “Now I think when you talk to most of them, they’re pretty excited about what’s coming forward with the development of the Market Square.”
Schafer is excited about the contribution that the the City’s proposed local economic development committee will make towards regional development. The committee will include business owners located in the city as well as the Rural Municipality (R.M.) of Swift Current.
“We’re going to do everything we can to grow this region and that group is going to be very much focused on helping us do that,” he said.
A proposed SaskPower combined cycle gas turbine facility has become a key focus of future regional cooperation between the City and the R.M.
The City submitted an unsolicited proposal to the Crown corporation to highlight the area as an ideal location for such a development. SaskPower announced in November that the Swift Current area has been shortlisted as one of two potential sites for a future facility.
“I know everybody is excited about it and I think residents are appreciative of the effort that we're putting in,” Schafer said.
But relations between the City and the R.M. remained strained during the year as a result of the City’s annexation application to the Saskatchewan Municipal Board, which resulted in a public hearing by the Municipal Boundary Committee on Nov. 29. Its ruling on the application will take place no later than Feb. 4, 2013.
“Certainly, I’m hopeful that this is going to finally put that to rest and we can move on as a region from there and focus on economic development and growing things going forward,” he said. “Annexation isn’t about tomorrow, it’s about our community growing and being prepared for that growth over the next 20 years.”
The provincial government announced in May that there will be an open process to ask for expressions of interest for the construction of a new state-of-the-art long-term care facility in Swift Current. According to Schafer this will be a priority for the City in 2013.
“We’re looking forward to some clarity,” he said. “That’s a huge part of our infrastructure dollars going forward and how do we contribute. ... That’s such an important need for our community and getting some clarity on that is certainly on top of the wish list for us.”

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