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Brittany Merrifield delivers the inaugural State of the Town of Grand Bay-Westfield address on June 22, 2023. Image: Brad Perry

Grand Bay-Westfield holds 1st State of the Town address

By Brad Perry Jun 22, 2023 | 3:00 PM

‘Always moving forward’ was the theme of the inaugural State of the Town of Grand Bay-Westfield address.

Mayor Brittany Merrifield spoke Thursday morning before a crowd of business leaders and municipal staff.

“This is part of our commitment to transparency and communication,” Merrifield told reporters after her address.

“We want everybody to know what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, how we make the decisions that we make, and our vision going forward.”

Merrifield highlighted council’s long-term strategic plan, which was updated just a few months ago.

It includes several goals over the next decade, such as increasing the tax base by $200 million, adding 1,000 more residents, increasing transit access, and exploring curbside collection of solid waste and recycling.

The mayor said they are pursuing three projects with the province, including a community hub at the WorkSafeNB workers’ rehabilitation centre.

Merrifield said the concept includes 90 child care spaces, a potential Service New Brunswick location, a health clinic, a café, multigenerational programming, community meeting space, indoor walking space and town offices.

“Our partners at the City of Saint John have been working with us to move the municipal border should this project come to fruition,” said Merrifield. The building is currently located within city limits.

The town also wants to take over the former Lonewater Farm property, located along the Nerepis River, from the province.

The property used to be home to a residential addiction recovery centre operated by Horizon Health. The program moved to Horizon’s Ridgewood campus in Saint John in 2021.

Merrifield said residents have told the town that they want to see more recreational opportunities available.

“River access is a rapidly dwindling asset. If you don’t own property on the river, the ability for the general public to access any sort of river is getting smaller and smaller,” she said.

Both pieces of property are currently going through the province’s surplus property process, said Merrifield.

If no provincial departments have any use for the properties, the town would have the right of first refusal.

In addition to those projects, Merrifield said they are still working with the province to get a new kindergarten to Grade 5 school.

“Each of these projects would have a significant impact on our town,” she said.

But the mayor said it is not all good news, pointing to a number of challenges the town currently faces.

A “healthy” assessment base is 80 per cent residential and 20 per cent non-residential, she said. Currently, the town’s assessment base is 98 per cent residential.

“Until this starts moving the other way and we have more new growth, there will be pressure on the tax rate,” said Merrifield.

The town’s financial position is also fragile due to low reserves, she said. One of the town’s long-term goals is to establish $2 million in reserves.

Merrifield said future funding from the province is also uncertain after its equalization and funding grants were cut by almost $400,000 over the past two budget cycles.

Challenges also include a “significant” infrastructure deficit related to buildings, water and wastewater issues, she said.

But along with those challenges come opportunities, said the mayor, such as labour and housing shortages, economic growth and migration.

“Our region needs more workers and that’s an opportunity for growth for us,” said Merrifield. “We are working with Envision Saint John to make development easier within the town.”

“Through the Economic Development Action Plan, we are working to encourage increased amenities and services that our residents would like easier access to.”


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