The County of Elgin is located in southwestern Ontario along over 80km of pristine Lake Erie Shoreline. The County is comprised of seven (7) Local Municipal Partners (Municipality of Bayham, Township of Malahide, Town of Aylmer, Municipality of Central Elgin, Township of Southwold, Municipality of Dutton Dunwich and Municipality of West Elgin) and serves over 50,000 residents.
A broad range of services provided by the County include maintenance of County roads and bridges, three long-term care homes, ten library branches, an extensive archival collection, economic development services, tourism promotion and a museum that preserves Elgin’s rich cultural heritage.
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When 2020 began none of us could have expected how much our lives would change over the course of the year. Over the past year the County of Elgin has faced challenges that we have never seen before. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost every aspect of our operations and we have been required to adapt rapidly to ensure that we continue to meet the needs of our residents while keeping our staff and the community safe.
I can say with certainty that Council and staff have risen to the occasion. We have implemented new ways of communicating to ensure that the business of the County can continue to be conducted in a timely manner, we have adapted our services in accordance with health and safety requirements and we have taken on roles and duties that we were not previously accustomed to.
In the early days of the pandemic many County staff were redeployed to work in non-care roles at our three long-term care homes. This allowed us to allocate all available resources to preventing the spread of COVID-19 within our homes and protecting our vulnerable residents. We also saw over the course of the year the true strength of our Long-Term Care Homes staff who seamlessly navigated rapidly changing conditions with the constant goal of continuing to provide high quality care while maintaining the safety of our residents.
Even in the face of a global pandemic we have been able to continue the important work of running the County. Council completed a new strategic plan, reconstructed the Port Bruce Bridge, rehabilitated the King George Lift Bridge and established the Community Safety and Well-being Committee, the Environmental Advisory Committee and the Connectivity Committee. We broke ground and launched the fundraising campaign for the Terrace Lodge Redevelopment Project, and completed a comprehensive Municipal Service Delivery Review. These are only a few of the initiatives we have been able to accomplish during this unprecedented time. With the COVID-19 vaccine rolling-out across the Province, I look forward to better days and to what Council can accomplish during the remainder of this term.
2020 Warden Dave Mennill
Elgin County Council takes a long‐term approach to financial management focused on financial sustainability and financial flexibility to ensure that the services and programs provided to residents, and the related infrastructure, are maintained at the highest levels. The County strives to provide services to residents and ratepayers at a reasonable cost, while maintaining its ability to mitigate the impacts of economic downturns and changes in funding and operational requirements by other levels of government. Elgin’s detailed ten-year plan ensures that we have the ability to provide and maintain service and infrastructure levels without resorting to unplanned increases in rates or cuts to services. The plan is a living document, constantly being revised and enhanced. In 2020, we completed a Service Delivery Review which will guide Council in refining our 2021 ten-year business plan.
Our ten-year plan includes the prudent use of debt to fund significant long-term capital investments, such as the Terrace Lodge redevelopment. Debt levels are currently at $6 million and a further $38 million in debt is planned, leaving significant room for further incremental debt if an unexpected event were to arise. Ensuring that debt is not used to fund ongoing capital investment ensures that we provide future generations with the financial flexibility to enable their economic success.
As we work to recover from the impacts of the pandemic, we will be concentrating our collective efforts on addressing identified needs of the community in a methodical prioritized recovery plan designed to responsibly lead Elgin’s economy to a renewed vibrant and resilient future – growing stronger together with our area municipal partners and community agencies.
Elgin County Council is comprised of nine (9) members. These include the Mayors of the Municipality of Bayham, the Township of Malahide, the Town of Aylmer, The Municipality of Central Elgin, the Township of Southwold, the Municipality of Dutton Dunwich and the Municipality of West Elgin; and the Deputy Mayors of the Township of Malahide and the Municipality of Central Elgin.
The County was able to rapidly pivot to continue providing fulsome services to residents. Close collaboration between the County, the City of St. Thomas and Elgin’s Municipal Partners ensured a consistent approach to emergency response. Elgin County staff redeployed to LTCHs for screening and administration support.
In 2020 Elgin County Council completed the strategic planning process which began in 2019. The Elgin County Strategic Plan for 2020-2022 will provide a shared purpose and common direction for County Councillors and Staff. This plan will be revised and reassessed over the course of the next two years to ensure it is in alignment with changing priorities and legislative requirements. The plan is divided into three goals Serving Elgin, Growing Elgin and Investing in Elgin and is further broken down into tangible strategic priorities which will guide staff and Council actions for the remainder of this term of Elgin County Council.
In 2020 the County of Elgin received a grant through the Province’s Municipal Modernization Program to undertake a Service Delivery Review in order to find key efficiencies that will streamline the way services are delivered to the community. This process included a review of the County’s shared municipal services with its local municipal partners, the County’s internal operations, and social and community services.
After a comprehensive stakeholder consultation process, over 110 different improvement initiatives were identified for the County of Elgin. Council will consider and evaluate the merits of these recommendations in 2021 and beyond.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic the County of Elgin began to livestream Council and Committee meetings through Facebook. This process of livestreaming has increased Council’s visibility with the public, allowing for greater participation by residents.
King George VI Lift Bridge
Rehabilitation on the historic King George VI Lift bridge in Port Stanley began in the Spring of 2020. Keeping this important and historically significant piece of infrastructure in peak condition is a priority of County Council. Construction is ongoing and is anticipated to be completed in the spring of 2021. More information and regular project updates can be accessed at https://portstanleyliftbridge.ca/.
Imperial Road Bridge
On February 23, 2018 the Imperial Road Bridge collapsed leaving only one access point in and out of the village of Port Bruce. In addition to the inconvenience that this caused the residents of Port Bruce, the loss of this critical piece of infrastructure created several logistical and safety concerns, particularly related to emergency service access to the village. The safety of Port Bruce residents was of the utmost importance and the Council of the day mobilized to arrange for the installation of a temporary bridge while the planning of a replacement bridge was underway.
In February of 2020 County Council awarded the construction tender to Hayman Construction Inc. to build the replacement structure at the site of the collapsed bridge. On December 18th, 2020 the Imperial Road Bridge reopened to the public.
The County of Elgin in conjunction with the Municipality of Central Elgin completed a reconstruction in the Village of Sparta. This reconstruction included road reconstruction including curb, gutter, sidewalk and asphalt; storm sewer replacement and private drain installations; and, new storm sewer outlets.
The Estate of Donna Vera Evans Bushell has committed $425,000 to the Elgin County Museum to support the introduction of a new augmented reality app for St. Thomas and Port Stanley, add murals and historical signs along cycling trails across Elgin County, establish two new positions to boost the capacity of the Museum to both digitize archival collections and generate content for the new app, acquire more artefacts for the collection at the Museum and conserve existing pieces, and purchase tables, chairs and other amenities to build a welcoming outdoor learning environment for visiting students and community groups.
Elgin County Council and the Terrace Lodge Redevelopment Steering Committee celebrated the official ground breaking of the Terrace Lodge Redevelopment Project on December 1, 2020. The Terrace Lodge Long-Term Care Home has operated in the community since 1977. Elgin County Council has committed to the redevelopment of the facility in a phased approach that will result in minimal disruption for the 100 residents that call Terrace Lodge their home. The redeveloped home will better meet the growing and complex needs of residents while ensuring their comfort and safety. Bids on the project were completed in early December with construction to begin in February of 2021.
The Terrace Lodge Redevelopment Fundraising Committee launched a fundraising campaign entitled “The Comforts of Home” on December 1, 1010. This campaign will raise money to purchase the value-added items that will make the facility feel like home for the residents that live there. A virtual catalogue has been developed to allow for online donations (www.donatetoterracelodge.ca) and donations by cash or cheque can be made through any Member of the Fundraising Committee.
The need to increase high-speed internet connectivity throughout Elgin County was identified as a key priority in Elgin County Council’s Strategic Plan 2020-2022. In September 2020 County Council established a Connectivity Committee with the goal of identifying high-speed internet solutions for Elgin County’s rural residents and organizations and championing high-speed internet across the County. The Committee has been working to collect feedback from residents, businesses and Internet Service Providers; gather information from neighbouring municipalities; and, develop a Made in Elgin solution for increased connectivity in rural areas.
The Elgin County Budget Committee continues to implement a budget process that is transparent, accessible and incorporates feedback from residents regarding their priorities for the budget. The 2021 budget process included a resident survey and the Budget Committee website was revamped to include a glossary of budget terms, an educational budget video, a budget fact sheet and copies of all relevant documents.
Elgin County Council established an Environmental Advisory Committee in accordance with its Strategic Plan Priority to grow quality of place in Elgin. The Committee began meeting in December and is tasked with considering Elgin County’s environmental footprint.
The County of Elgin is currently developing a Community Safety and Well-Being Plan with the Town of Aylmer and the City of St. Thomas. This plan will be an integrated approach to service delivery by working across a wide range of sectors, agencies and organizations to proactively develop and implement evidence-based strategies and programs to address local priorities related to crime and complex social issues on a sustainable basis. This plan is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2021.
On July 2, 2020, Minister McLeod, Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport was joined by Minister Yurek, Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks to announce funding in the amount of $15,000 for the Elgin County Museum. The Minister also announced funding for other cultural organizations who were adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.