“It will be a very exciting year in 2019,” Winkler Mayor Martin Harder said as he looked ahead.
The City of Winkler will see continued action on some projects, and may see the start of several more.
Harder said the biggest highlight will be the construction of the Meridian Exhibition Centre which is beginning.
“From the sounds of things in the next week piles will start going into the ground,” he said.
While the construction of the $20 million recreation facility is eagerly anticipated, there is another project that Harder hopes the city will get the go ahead.
“The other thing that we’re very much hoping for is that the province and the infrastructure minister will finally see fit that we will be able to four-lane Hwy. 32 through Winkler,” he said. “That will alleviate some of the pressure there.”
The intersection improvements at Hwy. 32 and Pembina Ave gave the community a small taste of what an improved road through town could offer.
A twinned highway has been the agenda a long time. “It’s been recommended 15 years ago,” Harder said. “We really hope this opportunity will come this spring so we can get it underway.”
Harder said work will continue on Northlands Parkway, and they expect to see more developments open up to allow the city to grow.
The Regional Waste Water Treatment facility remains on the wish list as well, and Harder hopes the federal and provincial budgets will allow for at least an announcement.
“I think we’re certainly in a position where we’re ready to start building that one as well, but chances of getting construction started in 2019 may be a little slimmer than what we hoped for,” he said.
With growth comes a need for more money, and Harder said taxpayers will notice higher increases than they’re used to.
“We’re not oblivious to that,” he said. “We anticipate some increases which are probably a little higher than what we’ve had in my tenure, the 12 years I’ve been in. It’s a necessary thing that has to happen with a growing community that we have.”
Harder said the Meridian Exhibition Centre is the single biggest infrastructure project in terms of cost the city has tackled. Tax bills this year will show a separate line item for the cost.
Growth is also rewarding, and Harder said other communities look to them for answers.
“It doesn’t matter which community you go to,” he said. “Winkler is noted as an enviable community to be able to replicate.”
“I’ve had calls and requests from communities all over Manitoba that want to know how we do what we do and the growth is really second to none.”
The most recent data showed Winkler was the fastest growing community over 5,000 in Manitoba.
Harder attributes their growth to industrial development. “Economic development is a high priority for every community,” he said.
But it’s not what makes a community.
“A community grows and is a good place to live because of how we treat our people,” he said. “One of the things we don’t want to forget is vulnerable people in our society.”
Harder said they’ve made positive changes in their work from taking over housing from the province, and said there’s more interest in developing more affordable housing.
He also credited Central Station and the Horticulture Society for making a difference.
“It just creates an environment where Winkler is a great place to live,” he said.