Based on what mayors Chris Odishaw and Ian Hamilton had to say, the state of the Battlefords is very good indeed.
Odishaw and Hamilton spoke to a crowd of Battlefords Chamber of Commerce members Tuesday at their first State of the City and State of the Town Address, held at Western Development Museum.
The mayors highlighted the achievements of their respective administrations and the burning issues and challenges facing their communities.
Odishaw spoke mainly off the cuff in his remarks before the gathering Chamber members and civic officials.
“All is well in the town of Battleford,” Odishaw said.
He spoke with pride of the accomplishments over the six years he and his council have been in office, pointing to efforts to have the community grow and to make it more competitive and friendly for business.
“I campaigned on running the town like a business,” said Odishaw.
Odishaw spoke of some of the challenges he faced during his terms as mayor, pointing to a scathing Canadian Federation of Independent Business survey that did not sit well with him early on. The report ranked Battleford as 63rd out of 67 communities in the province in Saskatchewan for taxes unfair to business.
“I took that to heart,” said Odishaw. He said he was determined to turn it around, saying “I never aspired to be 63rd out of 67.”
Within a couple of years, council brought in a 6.79 mill rate that hasn’t changed for residential and commercial property. Odishaw also talked of adopting a base tax that was fair for all concerned. He noted the CFIB now ranks Battleford as 15 out of 63 reporting communities and the town is now considered one of the most business-friendly municipalities.
Odishaw also talked about the “attitude change” of his council to one that was “open for business,” and pointed to achievements in increasing building permits and the growth of 10 per cent in population in the last census.
Odishaw also referred to completion of projects like the water treatment plant as well as the twinning of Highway 4 and development of Battleford West.
“Today we can proudly say that besides a few holes in the road, which is short term pain for long term gain, things are looking beautiful,” said Odishaw, crediting the decisions of council for the progress.
Hamilton repeated many of his familiar themes about the city of North Battleford, referring to an “attitudinal change in our community that hasn’t been seen for decades”— an attitude of “yes we can.”
Hamilton referred to the city’s pending 100th anniversary celebrations coming in 2013.
“We’ll celebrate from one of the best positions we’ve ever been in when it comes to capitalizing on our opportunity for growth and expansion. You can physically see it happening all around us,” said Hamilton.
He said he witnessed that attitude over the weekend during the annual community cleanup sponsored by the United Way and Communities in Bloom.
“They care about how our city looks and how our city is perceived.”
Hamilton said the Credit Union CUPlex will solidify North Battleford’s place a “hub of northwest Saskatchewan.”
He also spoke of several areas of progress in housing, business development and other areas, including attracting Grit Industries to North Battleford and the pending construction of a new Saskatchewan Hospital.