DECEMBER 27, 2020 – 7:00 AM BROCK ORMOND

Right from the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, all sectors of the Quinte West region have responded at a high level to mitigate virus threat.

That was what Mayor Jim Harrison indicated as he spoke to InQuinte.ca about the year that was and showered specific praise on the staff at 8 Wing CFB Trenton for jumping in and taking the lead on quarantining several people coming off cruise ships.

“The base set a pattern and put together policies as to what had to be done and how everything had to be handled,” the Mayor noted.

“They followed those policies. They stuck right with it and they quarantined almost 1,000 people with two positive cases.”

The Mayor noted base commander Ryan Deming in particular for having staff members in their specific departments all ready to respond.

“He has a bubble, so to speak, where he’s got people in certain situations and he knows where they are and what they’re doing,” said Harrison.

“He led the way for me. They do this all the time, they are leaders in everything they do, around the world.”

Harrison also credited city staff’s response later in the summer at the end of the first wave for providing a safe environment for city employees and residents.

“We have policies in place. If you come to city hall, and you don’t want to wear a mask, we’ll have somebody somehow accommodate you with another process,” he said.

“I believe we’ve done well. People have responded in a favourable fashion and have done their best to keep things on an even keel and showed that we have a lot of respect for each other.”

Another positive news story to take away from 2020 for Harrison and Quinte West is the promotion from within of sorts in filling the Chief Administrative Officer position.

Long-time city employee Charlie Murphy announced his retirement early in the year and city treasurer David Clazie was appointed to take his place in July.

“He’s a great guy with finances and great with the public. He fits in well and has a team of people here supporting him, including council.”

“When you don’t have to break the chain, it’s really nice to keep it going,” Harrison added.

“We have a team here that works so well together. Everybody has a plate full, but if something falls off one person’s plate, another one is there to pick it up.”

Harrison also touted the completion or securing of funding for projects such as the first phase of the King St. rehabilitation project, the wastewater line across the Trent River, boat launch improvements, and expansion of closed-circuit television cameras in the city, thanks to federal and provincial funding support.

A business retention strategy developed earlier this year is also currently underway to help the municipality better understand what operators will require moving out of the pandemic.

As everyone is anticipating, COVID-19 vaccines and their effectiveness are at the top of mind for 2021 for Harrison and he said he hopes to see everyone in the region get it, from long-term care and hospital workers on the frontlines, to those most vulnerable, to councillors and the average citizen.

Harrison stated a sector that he’s hoping is covered more frequently in the near future is farming, a topic that he said he’s discussed and communicated consistently with provincial and federal government officials.

Harrison, a farmer himself, told InQuinte.ca that some progress has been made, as a quota system was recently supported by the feds to help milk and chicken producers recover after they lost it in the Free Trade Agreement, but he’s hoping for more assistance.

“Ontario grain farmers need help as well. They’re producing a product that’s number one in quality, but they’re not reaching the value of production,” he explained.

“In many cases, producers are working at three or four per cent, if that, in terms of profit, so it’s a pretty tight market. They’ve been after the government for support, which hasn’t been achieved at this point in time.”

Harrison said he will be helping the farmers promote their value, what they’ve accomplished, and how hard they’ve worked.

He stated other plans on the docket for 2021 include continuing to support local small businesses in their financial recovery from the pandemic, completing the second phase (west end) of the King St. rehabilitation project in the spring and helping to keep local activities such as minor sports, clubs and committees going.

Harrison said they will be moving forward with the “status quo” process early in the new year as the pandemic continues in terms of mask-wearing and other safety measures around the city.