Hello to all residents of our beautiful rural Municipality of Pictou County.
We’re in a difficult time of year when spring still seems to be a long way away and yet winter seems to have been here too long, even though it was a bit late starting.
We do have some good news. Pictou County is growing in population for the first time in many years. We slipped from a total population of close to 48000 to nearly 44000 over recent years. This is not good for businesses looking for customers, for organizations looking for volunteers, and for municipalities looking for taxpayers.
But now we are on the upswing with all the opposite effects. Our rural municipality is growing at more than twice the rate of new construction than any in the previous 10 years. However, we, along with much of Nova Scotia, are in the middle of a serious housing crisis. We are working closely with the five towns and province and federal representatives to look for short and long-term housing solutions.
We cannot continue to grow unless we have suitable and affordable housing options. Our council is pleased to be working with a local company examining the potential in converting the former East Pictou School to affordable housing with some added services. It is also promising to see the new Somerled housing project, the Dunkeld, being built at the East River Business Park, jointly owned by the MOPC and the Town of New Glasgow. This is all good news but much more needs to be done and we will jointly work with others to make it happen.
Throughout our rural communities, many people are living alone, often in good-sized homes. With this comes another problem, loneliness, and sometimes with it, mental health challenges.
It has been discussed at some housing meetings about exploring co-habitation where some people living alone in a larger home could share some living space with someone who cannot afford their home but can contribute in other ways to a household plus help with the loneliness problem. Not for everybody for sure and it would have to be well-matched and administered but we must be willing to think outside the box.
The very significant growth comes the demand for more services including sidewalks, streetlights, water and sewer, and recreational opportunities. These are all vital for our safety, the environmental health of our communities, and physical and mental health. The challenge of our municipality is to continue increasing services but to do so within our budget to keep our tax rate at a level that allows people to stay in their own homes.
And one big service that we are very much looking forward to and I know many of you are anxiously awaiting is our county-owned high-speed internet. I have been told that we should have the first homes operational by the end of March. It looks very promising that our network will be superior to any other out there at a competitive price. Don’t be misled into taking any other offer when you can support your own municipal system.
I appreciate hearing from many of you and I know my fellow councillors do as well. Please keep contacting us with your input and concerns and we will do our best to help being fair to all.
Warden Robert Parker