Making Decisions That Matter – June 21 edition5 min readReading Time: 4 minutes
This is a summary of Regional Council’s decision from its June 21, 2023 meeting. With input from the community, Council sets the direction for the Region of Waterloo as an organization and makes decisions that help improve the lives of Waterloo Region residents every day.
Please refer to the minutes for an official record of the meeting. You can also watch video of the meeting at the bottom of this post.
Moving ahead to build Stage 2 of the Market Trail
The Region of Waterloo is preparing to build the next phase of the Market Trail. Council has approved expropriation of a small piece of land in the City of Waterloo to expand the new multi-use trail.
The new Market Trail lets pedestrians, cyclists and other users travel to the St. Jacobs Farmers Market without a car. Stage 1 opened in 2022. The trail follows the existing railway line between Northfield ION Station and Farmers Market Road.
Stage 2 will add a path behind the fire station on Northfield Drive, connecting the Market Trail to the intersection of Northfield Drive and City of Waterloo’s multi-use path on Parkside Drive. Once complete, Stage 2 will be part of the Trans-Canada Trail route, completing an off-road path from the Village of St. Jacobs to the Iron Horse Trail in Kitchener and beyond.
Work will start in 2024.
All schools to get Automated Speed Enforcement by 2028
The Region of Waterloo is investing in road safety by expanding the Automated Speed Enforcement to 175 qualifying schools by 2028.
Automated Speed Enforcement began in 2021 and has successfully reduced driver speeds. The program is currently in 16 school zones, expanding to 32 by the end of 2023. The cameras capture an image of anyone driving over the speed limit and issue a ticket.
The rapid roll-out will see 25-30 school sites added each year. Expanding to 175 sites over the next five years will see the Region invest in more staff to administer the program and process tickets.
Bus Route 34 expanded to serve west Kitchener
Grand River Transit is expanding Bus Route 34 to improve service for residents in west Kitchener.
Starting Sept 5, 2023, Route 34 will be extended to run from Central Station in downtown Kitchener to the Sunrise Centre in west Kitchener during peak morning and afternoon times. This will provide service for riders in the Greenbrook/Stirling and Forest Heights areas.
Regional Council has implemented these changes to reduce the impact on transit users from the closure of Route 2, which is being cancelled due to low ridership.
On the same date, Grand River Transit will also improve service in this area of west Kitchener with new iXpress stops in both directions in the area of Highland Road at the walkway to Burnaby Crescent in Kitchener.
Regional Council to explore 2024 Budget options
Regional Council have directed staff to draft a 2024 Plan and Budget with a six per cent tax increase.
Early projections for the 2024 Plan and Budget suggest a 10 per cent tax increase would be needed to maintain current service levels. High inflation will again pose a challenge for many municipalities, including the Region of Waterloo.
Regional Council has asked staff to prepare a budget with a smaller tax increase in order to see how Regional services and capital projects might be affected. Council will begin work on the 2024 Plan and Budget in October.
Investing in local arts and culture
Regional Council has approved $340,000 to support local arts and culture through its new 2023 Major Arts and Culture Organizations grant program.
In April, Regional Council changed how it provides arts and culture grants so more organizations would be eligible. Now, six new local organizations will receive operating funding to deliver arts and cultural programming in the region. The 2023 recipients are:
- Button Factory
- Drayton Entertainment
- Fashion History Museum
- Inter Arts Matrix
- MT Space
- Neruda Arts
Region funds environmental stewardship
Regional Council is supporting 20 environmental stewardship projects in our community with $103,795 from the Community Environmental Fund. This year, the work across urban and rural communities includes:
- reducing the spread of invasive vegetation in natural areas
- planting trees
- developing pollinator-planting areas
- initiating or improving Community Gardens
- producing a series of videos documenting the Region’s Climate Action Strategy
- research into Stormwater Management Ponds and local lakes
The Community Environmental Fund was established by Regional Council in October 2011. Since then, it has granted nearly $2 million to over 250 projects. Recipients have included individuals, municipalities, community groups, schools, universities, colleges and stewardship groups.
The grants go to projects that provide a positive, measurable environmental outcome, engage citizens and encourage collaboration, and seek innovative solutions.
Committed support for rare Charitable Research Reserve’s environmental work
Regional Council will provide $50,000 annually for five years to support the rare Charitable Research Reserve.
rare is a registered charity, environmental research institute and land trust. It provides educational environmental stewardship programs to children and youth.
The Region of Waterloo began providing funding in 2017. This new agreement extends the same funding through 2027.
This partnership helps accomplish Regional environmental stewardship initiatives. It has helped rare secure hundreds of acres of land for future conservation, for example.
Pedestrian crossing upgraded in Elmira
The pedestrian crossing at the intersection of Arthur Street and Mill Street in Elmira will be replaced later this year with standard pedestrian signals.
The current pedestrian crossover was built in 1991 and is the last of its type in the Region of Waterloo. Parts for this type of crossing have become harder to find.
The new replacement will instead use standard pedestrian signals that pedestrians and motorists are used to. It is also more cost-effective and accessible than the older cross-over.