The year 2012 was one of both highs and lows for the City of Weyburn, said Mayor Debra Button in a year-end interview, adding she has great optimism for the coming year based on the solid financial footing the city is in heading into 2013.
One of the lows of the past year was the precautionary boil-water advisory that was a challenge for the city and for residents and businesses, as it dragged on week after week.
"We have addressed those challenges. We certainly put a lot of money into the water treatment plant and made corrections to our processes there. It wasn't the worst thing that could happen to a community, but it was enough of a challenge for the city, and with this city council we have met those challenges head-on," said the mayor.
Another challenge the city stepped up to address was that of housing, which has been a major problem for many communities as more and more growth takes place in the city and area.
"We didn't duck and cover when there was a challenge in housing in the city. We had a needs and demand assessment study done, and a housing business plan, and both of these have been invaluable documents that have attracted many of the new developers who have come to Weyburn," said the mayor, adding she is looking forward to more positive work by the housing advisory committee, including organizing the building of one and possibly two Habitat for Humanity homes in Weyburn, in conjunction with the Weyburn Ministerial Association.
One of the highs of the year for Mayor Button was putting through the second consecutive zero-increase budget for the city, in spite of a nine-per-cent increase in costs to the city.
A positive development for City Hall was the addition of a new qualified professional, and a new department under his supervision. Mayor Button noted the hiring of Martino Verhaeghe has been a major plus for the city as the director of planning and development.
"He's very upbeat and is a great asset to our team here," said the mayor. "I think we are fortunate that his family was here; that helped him decide to leave Regina and join us here. He comes with a fresh eye on things, and has noted where we needed to make changes and update our bylaws. He's also changed how we do bylaws, to try and get more feedback from the public."
Winning another civic election was also a high for Mayor Button, noting she was nervous for this vote as she has been for every previous one.
"I've said so many times, it's like facing the teacher on report card day, or having a performance review with 11,000 people giving their review," said the mayor. "It's unnerving."
The election brought in two new councillors, Laura Morrissette and Mel Van Betuw, and she had praise for the work they've already done for the city.
"I think about when I was first elected in 1997 and how much learning there was to do. It's exciting, and I wish them well. I hope they both have long careers with the city and enjoy every moment," said the mayor.
As for being the mayor, Button said she continues to enjoy being in the position, in spite of the challenges the city has to deal with.
"Not very many people get to do what they love in life as a job; I get to do what I most love doing. I have a real passion for the City of Weyburn and the people in it," she said.
An example of why she loves this community was seen recently when the CP Holiday Train rolled into the city on Dec. 17.
"I looked in the back of the Salvation Army van, and I don't think they could've packed in another bag of food, and the amount of food we took over from City Hall, and what the Credit Union contributed, all of it just warms my heart, because of this community. The basis of what makes Weyburn great has remained strong," said Mayor Button.
"That's what it's about to me. As mayor, I get to see all the annual general meetings of all the organizations, like the United Way or the Cancer Society, and I see who the volunteers are what they're doing behind the scenes. That means a lot to me and keeps me working hard and moving forward."
One of the challenges of this past year was recovering from the flood damages of 2011, as there were infrastructure damages that still had to be addressed, such as the damages to Aitken Street near the Comp School, caused by an extremely high water table. The road was finally able to be fixed, with money provided under the PDAP (Provincial Disaster Assistance Program) program, as well as roads and paths in River Park that needed repairs.
Some of the repairs were done, but some still remain to be finished, plus city council is making plans for a second water spray park for the city, to be located in River Park.
"We don't have a lot of play equipment on the South Hill for the kids who live there, and there are more young families with children who have moved in on the Hill, so I think the water park is needed there, and in fact is overdue," said the mayor.
She pointed out the spray park is part of the long-term plan for the Leisure Services department, and hopes there will be some private-sector assistance with the funding for that project.
Weyburn also saw a new police chief hired in the past year, Marlo Pritchard, who was originally born and raised in the Pangman area but who spent a long and colourful career with the Regina Police Service before coming to Weyburn.
Coming up right away is the centennial of the City of Weyburn, kicking off on New Year's Day with a public reception at the Allie Griffin Art Gallery, with cake, champagne and orange juice. She will also be doing the puck-drop at the Red Wings-Bruins game that day, and she and others from the centennial committee will be serving cake to the hockey fans at Crescent Point Place.
"I feel no celebration is complete without cake," she said, chuckling as she noted they will have enough for about 600 people. "If we have a blizzard, I'll never hear the end of it from Coun. (Rob) Stephanson. I believe it'll be a year like we've never seen before."
Mayor Button will start with two major events in January; the first, on Jan. 13-15, is a national policing conference in Ottawa, which is by invitation only. The second is a "Retail Revolution" summit in Whistler, B.C., on Jan. 27-29, which she will attend with Jeff Richards of the Chamber of Commerce, where they will talk to retailers about locating their stores in Weyburn.