Toward a new Strategic Plan

We all know Penetanguishene is a remarkable small town with many opportunities, both today and for the future.  At the same time, our community, like others, is not without its challenges.
In order for us to anticipate the future and plan for it, we need to first identify what’s most important, so we can then act in a way that is most effective and responsible.

That’s Where We Need Your Help
To make sure we get it right for 2023 and beyond, we are requesting your input on the most important issues and opportunities you feel should be the focus for the Town moving forward.

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* 1. Our Strengths
When you are talking to someone from another Province, what are the TWO things you most often tell them about Penetanguishene that make our town great to live in?

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* 2. Our Challenges
When you get together with neighbours or relatives, what are the TWO things about Penetanguishene you most often say need to be improved?

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* 3. Building Tourism
Penetanguishene has some unique advantages of things for visitors to see and do, whether it be boating, Rotary Champlain Wendat Park, bicycle trails, the presence of the French language and history, our Winterama carnival, etc. What ONE thing do you think would be most effective at bolstering the number of tourists here with money to spend?

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* 4. Downtown
Despite the Town's substantial recent investment to reconstruct Main Street, there remain a number of vacant properties in the commercial core.

Is that a concern of yours?

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* 5. Downtown
There are a variety of active measures which the Town could take to spur investment in the commercial core AND support our existing businesses. These range from small loans to help owners spruce up their properties to acquiring downtown property with which to attract potential investors. If the Town were to consider such active measures, how much of a tax increase on the average home would you think is reasonable?

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* 6. Arena
Our arena was built in 1954. It is outdated in design, has reached the end of its useful lifecycle, and requires $2.4million in repairs over the next 5 years to keep the facility operational. Building a new arena would serve the town longer and provide more efficient operations. The construction cost of a new arena could be approximately $15 million, more if it included other amenities such as an indoor walking track or relocating the curling rink.

Is dealing with the arena a concern of yours?

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* 7. Arena
Either option would require the Town to borrow and probably repay the loan in part from future tax revenue.

How much of a tax increase on the average home would you think reasonable?

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* 8. Reconstruction of infrastructure
We are proud of Penetanguishene's history, but it has its disadvantages too.  In parts of the Town, the infrastructure (roads, water pipes, sewer pipes, storm drainage works, etc.) was built generations - even a century ago.   Naturally some of it needs repair or reconstruction.   In some parts, pure rain water is channeled into the sewer pipes and being treated unnecessarily at our recently expanded sewage treatment plant, instead of running into separate pipes.   In some areas the water pipes are leaking water that we have paid to make drinkable.  In places where the road base has broken down or eroded, potholes and washouts are the inevitable result.
 
Is the timely repair or reconstruction of existing infrastructure a concern of yours?

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* 9. Reconstruction of infrastructure
Reconstructing older infrastructure is costly. The reconstruction of the Main Street in 2018 cost $10.45 million to rebuild 1.2 kilometres. Under some parts of Fox Street the water pipes are 23 feet deep. Under some parts of Church Street, the solid concrete would have to be removed to do water or sewer work. The Town has a carefully considered asset management plan, but current budgets do not provide for a rigorous program of road, water, and sewer reconstruction.

How much of a tax increase on the average home would you think reasonable?

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* 10. Residential Growth
In the last few years, Penetanguishene seems to have been "discovered" for new development.   Since 2015, approximately 200 new homes have been built and the town's population is on the rise again.  More residential development has already been approved for the next few years.

What would be your TWO highest potential concerns about continued residential growth?

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* 11. Residential Growth
What would be the TWO highest potential benefits that you would expect from continued residential growth?

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* 12. Affordable Housing
Concern about affordable housing dominates the news these days, as much in small towns like ours as in big cities.  Any solution would call for a variety of approaches.   Encouraging more units for rental is certainly a factor for keeping young people and young families, attracting new employees, and helping retirees to downsize.   Row homes and condos can offer lower-priced homes for purchase.    

Is more affordable housing in Penetanguishene a concern of yours?

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* 13. Financial Sustainability
A sustainable balance between taxes on the one hand and projects and services on the other hand, is and has always been, a concern of Council.   Through community and senior government contributions, as well as careful management of borrowing and reserves, we have done some remarkable things like the Rotary Champlain Wendat Park, the Main Street reconstruction, and the expansion of Main Street sewage treatment plant.    

Our tax rate per dollar of assessed value is high, but our property taxes on a per-person basis are low compared to other similar municipalities.   Relative to similar properties in other similar municipalities, our taxes are low on single dwellings, small apartments, stores, and offices. Our water and wastewater rates are just below average relative to most comparable municipalities.  By the same token, however, the average household income in Penetanguishene is low. 

Even in a small town like ours, we want good services, well-maintained assets, and signs of progress and community pride, but within a sustainable tax range. 

What is the sustainable balance for Penetanguishene?

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* 14. Community Engagement and Communication
We hear conflicting messages about the interaction between the Town and the public.   Some don't get involved in the community much, just want what they want, and don’t want to hear much from the Town.   Others just want good information and responsive service when they need it.  Others are more involved; they want to be consulted about whatever interests them and want full and timely information about what's going on.  
 
These days of course electronic communication is a must, and the Town has put new channels in place such as Facebook and broadcast e-mails.   Yet still many prefer to get their information via newspaper or face-to-face.  What do you expect from the Town?

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* 15. How else would you like to be engaged with the Town and consulted about decisions to be made? (more than one answer permitted)

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* 16. Just one thing
If there was just one thing that the Town could do right now to improve Penetanguishene, what would it be?

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