Chichester council chips away at waterfront development

STEPHEN RICCIO
CHICHESTER April 7, 2021 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Over the next several months, THE EQUITY will be reporting on the progress each municipality within the Pontiac has made since the last slate of municipal elections in 2017. This series aims to uncover and expand on what key accomplishments, challenges and notable events each community has dealt with over the past four years.

The cozy, riverside Municipality of Chichester stayed on track with its council’s goals since the beginning of the electoral term in 2017, all while weathering the storm of flooding in 2019 and COVID-19 since last March.
A small community with roughly 350 residents, Chichester council’s main priority was the development and launch of its Waterfront Development Project, which was thought up in 2016 and is still in its early stages.
“[We] purchased some land next to where their current fire hall is and it goes right down to the river and we had some project managers do development plans for that,” explained Director General Alicia Jones. “Where we could have some kind of a structure at the upper part near the highway and then have some walking trails down towards the river and maybe even a future boardwalk or something like that along the river.”
Mayor Donald Gagnon said that the plans also included a potential for several campsites in the park as well as a large gazebo, with the project’s main goal being providing more recreational options for its residents. 
“Later on when COVID is over ... we might have some events and that way we can use our gazebo because we’re building it like 30 [feet] by 40 [feet] … which is big enough to put the picnic tables in it,” he explained.
A key component to the development plan is the location of the municipality’s Culbute Museum, which is home to historical information and artifacts related to the community’s heritage. Gagnon said that purchasing land across the street from the museum was a great solution to making it a more popular attraction.

The Culbute Museum is located directly across the street from the riverside property purchased by the Municipality of Chichester several years ago. The main project during the current electoral term has been the implementation of the council’s Waterfront Development Project.

“That’s been our biggest and most developed project to date, but we are relying solely on grants to complete that project,” added Jones. “Chichester received some funding through the MRC’s [territorial development] fund in the last couple of years just to get as far as we’ve gotten.”
According to Jones, the project has received over $75,000 in grant funding from various sources over the past several years to help pay for project plans and cleanup. In addition to that sum, another $41,500 was granted recently by the MRC Pontiac which will be spent on putting washrooms on-site and establishing some sort of structure.
“Our hopes are to have our walking trail completely finished, our gazebo and bathrooms if possible,” Gagnon said of the goal for the end of 2021.
The impact of COVID-19 has weighed heavily on the extent to which the project could receive focus throughout 2020, and Gagnon said that trend should continue throughout this year.
“The biggest challenge right now is contractors, it’s hard to get a contractor,” he said. “So many people are doing renovations and projects … even though the cost of materials have gone up too.”
“There was too much uncertainty  [in 2020],” Jones added.
The municipality is forced to seek out grants for projects such as the waterfront one due to its limited budget, which allocates much of its funds to major road work.
Jones said that the allocated amount of road work funding for 2021 is $227,500, which is largely assisted by the gas tax credit (2019-2023 TECQ program). $150,000 was spent in both 2018 and 2020 on roads, with only $50,000 being used in 2019 due to awaiting the gas tax assistance as well as managing the floods.
Gagnon said the focus for this year will be on improving Church Line and Nichabau Road, as well as the usual brush maintenance that happens every year.
Jones said that the largest road project since 2017 was done in 2018 and 2019: the double surfacing of nearly 3.5 km of Old Nichabau Road.
While the flooding did not impact Chichester as significantly as it did municipalities such as L’Isle aux Allumettes, roughly 20 permanent residents were still affected.
“That was another challenge, but here people work together,” he explained. “We didn’t have a lot of people that got flooded out … but we did have some and we kind of all worked together and helped each other out.”
Come election season this fall, the municipality hopes to have upgraded all of its municipal street lighting to LED, which both Jones and Gagnon said will be a cost-friendly investment. 
“After five years, it will save us in hydro costs anyway, it’ll pay for itself,” Jones said.
She estimated the project’s cost to be around $20,000 when it’s all said and done.
Other key accomplishments include the municipality’s contribution to help establish the Résidence Meilleur du Haut Pontiac in Chapeau, as well as the merging of the municipality’s fire department with that of L’Isle aux Allumettes and Sheenboro, which has created savings over the past several years. Gagnon also said that the introduction of clear bags has increased recycling and reduced the municipality’s garbage disposal.
Coming out of the 2017 municipal elections, Jones said there was a rise in community engagement throughout the municipality after going into the elections with two vacant council seats. Coming out of them, all six council seats were full.
“So it was really good for the municipality, I think it got a little bit of excitement going knowing that there was so many vacant seats,” she said. “[And] we have a really young council.”
According to Jones, the current council works quite well together.
Gagnon said the council’s biggest focus throughout its achievements since 2017 was maintaining a low financial burden on taxpayers. 
“That’s our focus of our council, is [to] give the best service we can for our residents with the least amount of cost,” he said.

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