Kalynn Sawyer Helmer
RUSSELL – The Villager spoke with Township Mayor Pierre Leroux to take a look back at 2017 and to discuss what will come next. “This year was definitely a busy year for the municipality. The most positive note that I can think of is that Russell Township was named by Moneysense Magazine as the 21st best place to live in Canada. That was a feather in our cap for sure,” said Leroux.
Being so close to Ottawa and seeing a steady rise in population growth and local jobs, Russell Township became a place to remember. With the release of the census in 2017, the municipality showed a number of positives. “Overall we have positive growth, more than the provincial average. Being in the surrounding area of Ottawa definitely helps. I think any National Capital, depending on economic times, will see a boom at one point, so that is the situation we are in now. We fared well within the United Counties, only one municipality had a little more growth than us, but that is by percentage and not total population growth. The outlook across the board is positive, which is great,” said Leroux.
The rise in population and the desire to live in the municipality makes sense considering the many new businesses and developments happening in the area. “This year we completed servicing of our commercial park in Embrun. We also completed the expansion of the bike trail and are finishing off the Sports Dome which is a big plus for the municipality, that will open in a couple weeks. We are also finishing up an environmental assessment to see what our options are for servicing our 417 Industrial Park,” he explained. The Township has also been busy completing the Official Plan review and the Strategic Plan review for economic growth.
For Leroux, the 417 Industrial Park will be a major focus for 2018. “It has seen tremendous growth. We had about a dozen new businesses open up and some new warehousing was built as well, so that park is a big gain for the municipality. That is why we are doing the study [environmental assessment], how do we service it in our economic development strategic plan, that is essentially priority number one. Bringing services there so we can capitalize on that growth potential. Obviously the park is a three-year project that won’t get completed next year but I’d like to see the project go ahead and the final decision to go ahead. The environmental assessment is probably coming to council in January. We’ve been lobbying the provincial and federal government for funding for that for the last three years so hopefully that can come to fruition,” said Leroux.
Not just from the economic growth side, the municipality is being considered as a great place to live because of the vibrant community. “The community here is fantastic. We moved here about 17 years ago and that was a big reason why we came here, the community as a whole. It doesn’t matter whether you were born here or are new here, you tend to feel like family, so the community is great,” he said.
Many events throughout the year included the work done by the Russell Kin Club in partnership with the municipality to fundraise for the Sports Dome. “They have had quite a few projects this year, including Andre Philippe-Gagnon’s two concerts, one in Embrun and one in Russell that were very successful. He is probably the biggest star we’ve had come to the Township for a show. That was a really fun event to have someone of that caliber come to the municipality. There are always events going on in the community which is nice,” he said.
Other projects and events included the Canada 150 celebrations. For Russell Township, that celebration involved a lasting addition to the community in the form of the extended bike trail. “We wanted something that would have a long-lasting impact, not just a big party that after it is done there is nothing left. That’s why we applied for the extension funding, which had some opposition, but since it was completed I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback,” explained Leroux.
As for Mayor Leroux himself, he said he is looking forward to working hard for the municipality in 2018 and also said he intends to run for Mayor during the fall election. “I’ve always said that if I’m enjoying it then I would do it and I love [my work], so yes I will most definitely be running again. I think that we’ve had a fantastic last three years. I think we are going in the right direction and there are so many projects to do. When you find something in life that you love doing, you stick with it, and that’s my plan. That won’t be up to me though, it is up to the residents,” he concluded.
Overall, it was a positive year for Russell Township with a number of projects on the horizon to make 2018 even better.