OTTER LAKE May 26, 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.
Nestled in the Pontiac’s hills roughly 700 feet above sea level, Otter Lake has a driven municipal council and makes for a highly sought out destination for full-time residents and cottagers alike.
Mayor Kim Cartier-Villeneuve spoke with The Equity about the council’s many accomplishments through the last several years since the electoral term began in late 2017, and she said the council and its work is built on teamwork.
“I think that as a team we work together and we can do this together,” she said. “The more we work as a team and the more we have transparency, honesty and good communication with everyone, that is actually the key element to a successful municipality I believe.”
Beginning with infrastructure related projects, the council was able to plow through its priorities while remaining mindful of its budgeting.
“We can’t do a lot of work on every road every year so we have to prioritize and pick different roads every year, and depending on our budget of course,” Cartier-Villeneuve explained.
One of the major road projects was the raising of Yates Road in 2019 to protect it from flooding, which had been impacted by that year. Road improvements were made on many different gravel-based roads, including but not exclusively: Stephens Road, Leslie Road, Belmont Road, Beaudoin Road and Polish Hills Road.
Another major project is being planned for this year, as she said that $200,000 is being spent on Picanoc Road rehabilitation of gravelling and levelling. She explained that Picanoc is one of the most heavily travelled roads in the community and that the work was in the municipality’s 2021 eight-year road plan.
As is the case with every municipality, a major source of funding for Otter Lake’s infrastructure work is the gas tax credit (2019-2023 TECQ program). While use of the credit must be prioritized for sewage and water related projects, such as when the council extended the water line on Second Street in 2017, it can also be used for roads.
In 2019, the council also secured an agreement with a local gravel pit owner to use their property to crush gravel for road use, which she said was able to lower expenses on crushing costs and especially on transportation costs.
That year was partially characterized by the municipality becoming more self-reliant, as the council also took snow removal and maintenance into its own hands after having prior snow contracts expire. Cartier-Villeneuve said the municipality purchased the required equipment, hired extra winter hands and decided to have a go at it.
“I can proudly say that our road crew, they have adapted very well to the new change, to us snow plowing the roads and having the responsibility of that,” she said. “They have done an outstanding job at ensuring road safety for our citizens. So that was … one of the challenges but you know what I can proudly say that we have adapted very well to that [challenge].”
With the COVID-19 pandemic interrupting municipal projects, community events and everyday life, Cartier-Villeneuve said that she was proud of how the people of Otter Lake responded to the crisis.
“It’s hard not just for the council members, it’s hard for everyone to adapt to the change,” she said. “But I do thank my residents’ assistance for listening and obeying, understanding the compliance of health measures, what it really entails and what the outcome is going to be.”
One of the significant moments in community life was the changing of the Recreation Association (RA) Centre to its new name: the Raymond Johnston Community Centre.
The name-changing, which honours former Member of the National Assmebly Raymond Johnston, was celebrated during Otter Lake’s Canada Day celebrations in 2019.
Cartier-Villeneuve said that when things are normally all opened up, the community centre organizes all of the local community events, and ultimately reinvests what it raises back into the park, the grounds and the community. Recently, the RA and the council were able to collaborate and put a grant to use to significantly extend the baseball fences, which she said will help ensure safety.
In addition, a cell phone booster was installed at the community centre thanks to a joint effort from the 50 Plus club, the fire department, the RA and the municipality. Without the booster, people inside the centre can’t use their cell service, and therefore it was a key acquisition.
Security cameras were also installed at the community centre, as well as the municipal office and the garage, which she said would continue to protect the community’s investments.
This year, the council is working to get the community mural restored, as she said it is nearly 20 years old and in need of work.
A newly paved 5 km, lake-side walking trail was also established surrounding the community centre. The mayor said the trail is a great spot for non-motorized users to enjoy the local beauty.
“A lot of people go and get their dinner, and they go and sit there and they just look at the view, and I mean it’s really beautiful.”
Maintaining the pristine nature of Otter Lake’s beautiful lakes is always a top priority for council members, and one key accomplishment in that regard was a bylaw that Cartier-Villeneuve said the council passed in 2020 which requires a boat wash for all new vessels that enter the municipality’s lakes.
Another major administrative accomplishment was the reduction of the mill rate for Otter Lake ratepayers. She said that it has been lowered from 70 cents to 62 cents in recent years. While it was 70 cents in 2017, the council lowered the rate to compensate for increased municipal assessment value.
“We’ve actually decreased it in the last five years so I mean, I think that that’s pretty good so overall our finances are very good for the municipality,” Cartier-Villeneuve said.
She also touted the council’s decision to purchase and install an emergency telephone system called Telematic, which can notify residents of relevant information through email, call or text.
“It’s so good because we can reach out to our citizens anytime, and … it’s very quick,” she explained. She added that it’s convenient because if, for example, a particular water zone was being worked on, the system would notify the residents who live in that particular zone of the work being done in a prompt fashion.
The council also initiated having two free garbage weekends each year, one in June and another in September, to help encourage cleanup of people’s properties.
Cartier-Villeneuve ended the interview by sharing just how much she appreciates what each member of Otter Lake contributes to the community.
“I always thank our residents, our municipal employees for all their hard work and their dedication and always making the success of our community, we appreciate their contribution,” she said. “And our council members for working tirelessly and passionately to make our village a great place for the people to want to be.”
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