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Midland CAO takes time to praise North Simcoe through pandemic

David Denault highlighted and praised struggles, accomplishments by residents and businesses over past two years
CAO David Denault (bottom row, left) provided an update report to Midland council on the town's achievements throughout the past year, with the discussion turning into wide praise over society's handling of the pandemic through trying times.

Residents and businesses have had a tough time through the pandemic, including municipal corporations which function as the machinery of how a region operates.

Midland CAO David Denault voiced recognition of this struggle, and its perseverance, in a recent report to council.

Entitled "Finding Our Way," the report provided a summary of eight overarching initiatives which aligned with council’s strategic vision throughout 2021.

However, Denault took the time during the regular meeting to heavily praise everyone imaginable in fighting, succeeding and even overcoming the many challenges faced since COVID-19 began.

“What you’re doing is being accomplished through unprecedented times, with unprecedented pressure, with unprecedented change,” said Denault to council. “I think we all have to keep that context in mind: you’re doing this through a pandemic. All of the things that we’re doing at the town, I think the real people who will benefit the most from that will be the next council.”

Denault spoke highly in regards to the neighbouring municipality of Penetanguishene and the townships of Tiny and Tay, in banding together to help one another over the past two years.

“It has taken anywhere between 20% to 80% of our capacity out of our capabilities at times. When we get changes coming at us, as we do frequently -- and I’m not just talking about the town, I’m talking about business and residents -- in order to adjust to all these things, we have to dedicate time and attention to dealing with that. New protocols, new procedures, coming up with new ways to do things. Dealing with supply shortages.

“All of those things have had an impact, yet we still made significant progress. That’s what I’m so proud of,” Denault praised.

According to Denault, every commitment the town made had achieved some level of progress.

Data and technology were developed and utilized, along with formatting to a team-based structure to get people involved in the town’s processes. Implementing technology allowed Midland to find better customer services, in turn providing greater response to community engagement.

“We looked at the traffic calming, and that’s illustrative of the kind of professional advice you get across the board,” Denault noted.

Denault also spoke to the reexamination of fee structures for cost recovery.

“That’s a really important part about being sustainable; to make sure that those people using those services understand the costs of them, hopefully they see value in them, and they’re willing to pay for them. But to have a fee structure that is below cost just puts more burden on our taxpayers and that’s not where we want to be.”

Early in the meeting, Coun. Jonathan Main inquired about striking distance achievements in the strategic plan which council could get in before the end of the term.

Denault looked at three areas in the strategic plan, with the first being accountable, responsive and innovative governance.

“Council plays a big part in that, technology might also play a big part in that, but we also have to be mindful of those people who are in that digital divide; people who don’t have the means, or who aren’t interested in using digital. We want to make sure we can engage with them. I’d say community engagement is one,” said Denault.

Economic and community development was the second area, with the CAO emphasizing Midland’s waterfront as a remarkable opportunity.

“I think we’ve got an unparalleled waterfront with a contiguous downtown that makes us so, so special. And I think that is a tremendous opportunity for the entire town that we want to make sure we do carefully and in concert with what our public wants,” said Denault.

Affordable housing was Denault’s third area choice in regards to safe and sustainable healthy communities. Empowering youth and focusing on active transportation were also included.

Coun. Bill Gordon raised a point about unannounced construction work which occurred at Midland Bay Landing, catching residents and council unaware, and noted that better communication within the organization still remained to be improved upon.

Denault agreed with Gordon’s comments, and was willing to accept criticism about communication not happening quick enough.

“Some of that was done because of the weather that was available to do some of that work. I don’t think anyone should be surprised about the work that’s being done to clean up an area like that,” Denault replied. “We’ve tried to make some safety improvements down there; unfortunately, vandalism took place two days later, which was very disappointing in that area.”

The CAO also asked for trust in the operations staff handling some of the physical challenges to the town while receiving unwarranted criticism.

“They’re taking care of this town when there’s flooding, taking care of this town when trees are down when there’s environmental concerns, and they’re only trying to make it better.”

Council passed the motion to continue focusing on corporate and strategic improvements listed in the report, with a direction that the CAO provide another update no later than the end of 2022.

The Midland 2021 - Finding Our Way update report is available in full in the council agenda on the town of Midland website.

Council meetings are held on the first and third Wednesdays of each month, and can be viewed on Rogers TV cable channel 53, or through the livestream on the Rogers TV website. Archives of council meetings are available through Rogers TV and on the Town of Midland’s YouTube channel.