Decision on Waterfront Needed — big public construction projects underway — new large companies in town — people are stepping up to meet the challenges of the pandemic

Article by Valerie MacDonald/image by TAP

It’s barely begun and already 2021 has surprised people and is challenging residents and politicians in Cobourg and throughout Northumberland County.

Mayor John Henderson, a former County Warden, shared an overview of the year ahead during a wide-ranging interview earlier this week with the News Now Network discussing everything from the impact of the pandemic to the storming of the U.S. Capitol.

Henderson offered thanks that anti-democratic rioting and occupation of the seat of government that occurred in Washington hasn’t taken place in Canada but said the event will impact democratic ideals everywhere.

“It’s a sad statement on democracy,” Henderson said. “That’s not how it’s supposed to work”.

Henderson called this lead up to the changing of leadership south of the border, spearheaded by out-going U.S. President Donald Trump and his supporters, as “very disconcerting” and that he “felt sorry” for what is happening.

Whether it is at the municipal, county, provincial or federal level, any leadership change should move forward in a “democratic” manner and “graciously” and this is not what was seen in Washington, he said.

While the U.S. and countries around the world deal with spiking case numbers of COVID-19, Northumberland County is not immune to the ongoing pandemic either. With this past spring’s experience, “hopefully it will get a little easier” with people following safety protocols as well as supporting the local economy, Henderson said. People have worked in a myriad of ways to help others, beyond social distancing. “It costs nothing for an individual to be kind, caring and giving” to others during this stressful time, he said.

It is what he does personally and as head of the municipality.

“It’s been a challenging time for all” and everyone is doing their best in working through this COVID-19 environment,” Henderson said, adding a huge thanks to frontline workers and first responders who “keep moving us forward.”

As mayor, Henderson said he supports shopping locally – about 95% of his is done in Cobourg – because small business is the backbone of the economy. There are about 300 small businesses in Cobourg, each employing five to 12 workers – and that adds up.

In his position as mayor, Henderson said he and council will continue to support long-time industries, like Horizons Plastics which has just signed another five-year lease in the Northam Industrial Park, even as they welcome new companies like Baxter’s Bakery. This is done by delivering all the services they require, he said. 

The Mayor listed several business highlights from 2020 that bode well for 2021: The Lucas Point Industrial Park is going to be home to RJ Packaging; 10 new businesses have come into the downtown core; the Smart Centre on DePalma Drive is seeing changes; a new six-plex commercial site is already up near Northumberland Mall. Year-over-year building values are up $30-million, he said.

At the county level, there is the $86-million new Golden Plough Lodge long-term care facility under construction in Cobourg that is slated for completion in 2022 as well as the Elgin Park Redevelopment Project in the east end of town that will turn subsidized and market rental housing units at this location from 18 to 40.

With 1,000 people on a waiting list for affordable rental housing in Northumberland there is a huge need, Henderson explained.

More immediately, however, town council is facing a key infrastructure decision about its waterfront. It is evaluating whether to follow through with the shoreline engineering report that calls for the rebuilding of five areas from the water basin to  the north wall promenade, breakwater and mid and east piers, or to pursue a conceptual design of the waterfront/east pier area, the Mayor explained.

A decision has to be made because each project will cost “millions of dollars” and both can not be tackled at the same time.

These kinds of decision will be part of the upcoming January 21 budget debate that will not only shape 2021, but the years to come, he said.

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