Construction near the corner of Hwy. 32 and Pembina Ave has been ongoing for some time. It could be the first step toward twinning the highway. (JOEL NICKEL/Winkler Times)
Construction projects are high on the list of highlights for Winkler Mayor Martin Harder, who said life in Winkler is always exciting.
Harder said the work on 3rd St. South was top of the list, because it was so long in coming.
“Next for me would be the completion of Roblin Boulevard, because it opens up the community directly into the industrial park,” he said.
Both of those programs received what Harder described as “significant funding” from the province through granting programs.
Add to that sewer relining and lift station upgrades and Winkler saw some serious infrastructure improvements in 2015.
“All of those projects, which were phenomenal projects to be done in one year, would not have been possible had we not received funding from the province,” Harder said.
Staffing was one of the ongoing challenges for the city, as one engineer moved on. Another was hired, but Harder said that didn’t work out. He hoped to be able to announce another new hire in the coming days.
“Those are not easy times,” he said. “Those are probably the most stressful.”
Watching city manager Dave Burgess move away also presented a challenge, and Harder praised the work Burgess had done over the last five years.
“It will be a significant job to fill,” he said. “We need to have somebody there with the personality that will be able to relate to staff and community.”
The planned recreation complex will see more discussion in 2016. “We have made significant progress in our recreation complex, exhibition centre expansion,” he said. “But we didn’t get down to the final details, as far as what it’s going to look like.”
Winkler will see the result of their request for proposals for the centre in early January. “I think that’s exciting,” he said. “We may be able to start construction in the coming year, we may not, but we will get closer.”
Harder isn’t expecting to see the current level of growth maintained.
“I think there will be challenges in 2016 because I don’t believe we will see the kind of growth we’ve seen in 2014/15,” he said.
That said, there’s still plenty of projects on the go.
Harder said the Winkler Arts and Culture centre getting the go-ahead last week is one them, while the Buhler Active Living Centre completion is another.
“It will be an exciting year to see the Buhler Active Living Centre come on full stream, to be able to provide housing for seniors and services to our seniors that have been missing in our community forever,” he said.
“I think that in itself will free up other opportunities for housing in the city.”
“It may not be adding the tremendous amounts of new housing units, but it will bring a whole new perspective to the community,” he added.
Keeping pace with a growing population can place enormous demands on the city, but Harder said they’ve had a solid approach.
“We’ve done a great job of making sure that our infrastructure is right and is being maintained and expanded at a reasonable yet manageable pace,” he said. “I think that’s very important.”
There’s always something new being built in this community and Harder said that makes his job interesting.
“There’s never a time in Winkler when it’s not exciting,” he said. I think for me, that has been the greatest satisfaction being the mayor of the City of Winkler the last, going on 10 years.”