Yorkton Mayor Mitch Hippsley provided a ‘State of the City’ presentation during the annual general meeting of the Yorkton Chamber of Commerce.
Hippsley began his presentation to a small live gathering at St. Mary’s Cultural Centre, with others watching via Zoom, by pointing to the recently approved 2021 budget.
“We managed, as City Council, to deliver zero per cent,” he said, adding that was important given “... the unknowns of the COVID world.”
Hippsley said the effort to achieve a zero increase was a good one for a Council that took over only last fall with him as a first time Mayor, and two new faces on Council.
“It was a valuable process to delve deeply into annual spending habits and question just about everything,” he said.
Of course 2020 will always be most notable as the year COVID-19 hit, and Hippsley said the pandemic certainly hit City operations, with recreation facilities closed March 17, and all City facilities a few days later. They would re-open in June but with reduced services which remains the situation today.
COVID has meant some additional revenues for the city too, with $975,000 from the federal and provincial governments to help deal with costs associated with the pandemic, said Hippsley. He added $340,000 has been used, with the remainder set aside as something of a buffer against additional COVID-19 impacts.
Hippsley also looked back on 2020 in terms of some of the major projects undertaken, including the City Operations Building, which he said was on schedule and on budget.
The new facility on York Road will consolidate a number of City services under one roof when completed.
In terms of staff Hippsley said the City employs 215-- 90 of which are unionized and 26 summer students are hired as well.
Hippsley also noted the City’s re-vamped website.
“I’m very, very proud of our new website,” he said, adding the “very clean” design is a result of thousands of hours of work.
The website includes a place for online payment of City bills, and a spot to report concerns such as potholes on City streets.
Looking to the future, Hippsley said the City has room to grow, noting 81 residential lots for sale “and almost 800 acres of commercial land” for sale.
Having land available is important as recently the City sold 240-acres of land to Richardson which has announced it will expand its canola crushing facility here, allowing it to process 2.2 million metric tonnes of canola annually, said Hippsley.
It will be the largest canola crushing facility in North America.
“Yes, right here in Yorkton,” said Hippsley, who added the construction will bring “significant revenue to the city,” and the permanent new jobs will be long term as well.