Woodstock council deals with a variety of issues, including enhancement and use of the town’s waterfront Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

1, Downtown art project gets go-ahead

Council approved and strongly supported a downtown art project involving an animated sculpture created by well-known local artist Kerry O’Toole. 

During the June 27 council meeting, Woodstock Tourism Director Tobi Pirie outlined plans to give O’Toole’s eight-foot-tall depiction of an angler in action a permanent home on the Woodstock waterfront along King Street. 

Dooryard Arts Festival executive director Gloria Yachyshen later confirmed plans to introduce O’Toole and unveil his sculpture at 9 a.m. Saturday morning, July 22, during the festival. 

In her presentation to council on June 27, Pirie said the new downtown sculpture is part of the town’s ongoing efforts to invest in public art. 

“This is a great asset for our community,” she said. 

Pirie explained the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton displayed the sculpture for several years before completing its regular rotation of displays. She said the art piece remained in storage for three or four years. 

Pirie explained Yachyshen and Woodstock Public Works Director Greg Stokes planned to visit the downtown waterfront to chart out the most viable location for the work of art, which would be placed on a 12-foot wide cement slab. 

She explained the moving art piece needs wind, and adding Stokes will ensure the permanently placed sculpture would not interfere with public works crews. 

Mayor Trina Jones and several council members expressed support for the art installation. 

2. New water rates get final approval

After approving some text adjustments to the final draft, Woodstock council unanimously approved the final reading to Water and Sewer amendments affecting utility rates and the billing system. 

The new water and sewer rates, which will eliminate, at least temporarily, water metres for residential use, sets a four-tier flat rate system. Homeowners will see a significant jump in their annual utility costs. 

Finance Director Kristen Pelky said the town expects to issue the 2023 utilities by the third week of July. 

Mayor Jones noted that property owners will have the option for equalized payments. She added that low-income families can apply for financial relief. 

The mayor also pointed out the rate changes reflect the town’s need to meet the demands of an aging water and sewer system in need of significant upgrades. 

Jones also explained the changes are not designed to be permanent, noting staff and council will review all fee schedules and billing systems within a year. 

She said the town would also closely monitor water usage under the new structure, including any negative impacts on water conservation. 

Jones said the town still wants to consider the potential of smart metering and will study that and other options over the next two to three years. 

3, Planning for the solar eclipse

Tourism Director Tobie Pirie said the town is preparing for the influx of people from across the globe next April as western New Brunswick becomes one of the best spots on earth to view a total solar eclipse. 

Pirie said Woodstock, like other regional municipalities, is partnering with the Western Valley Regional Service Commission to develop a comprehensive plan to accommodate and benefit from the expected thousands visiting the area to experience the eclipse on April 8. 

Mayor Jones said people are already planning to visit the area, noting the Best Western Woodstock is fully booked.

“There has been a lot of conversation on a regional level over the past couple of years,” she said. 

Noting the eclipse is on a Monday afternoon, Jones said visitors may stay in Woodstock and other Upper Valley communities for two or three days. 

“We have an opportunity to showcase ourselves,” she said 

Pirie said Woodstock has formed a small committee and, in conjunction with the RSC, hopes to develop visitor activities and events. 

“There’s a ton of ideas out there,” she said. 

Jones asked Pirie or committee members to keep council informed of plans and ideas, noting it will have to establish a budget for events and potential merchandising, including specialty glasses to view the eclipse. 

4. Are the Dragon boats coming?

July 1st Floats committee member and organizer Lisa Porter addressed the council about ideas, including using dragon boats, to enhance the Woodstock waterfront. 

Only days after Porter visited the June 27 council meeting, the inaugural July 1st Floats event on Canada Day proved a great success. It also indicated plenty of room to grow. 

Porter described dragon boats, a sizable human-propelled watercraft, as her ” passion. ” She said several communities, including St. Andrews, use the boats as a great tourist attraction and races as a community-building event. 

Porter told council she has access to a pair of used dragon boats from an Ontario supplier, which her committee could bring to Woodstock for a demonstration. 

She said Woodstock downtown, where the Meduxnekeag and St. John (Wolastoq) rivers meet, is ideal for dragon boat racing and events. 

During discussions with council members, Porter explained the town, in addition to purchasing the boats, would need dock space and a place to store the approximately 12-metre-long and 500-lb vessels over winter. 

Most councillors spoke positively of the potential benefits to tourism and community activities, agreeing to ask staff to investigate the idea.

By Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 17, 2023 at 18:59

This item reprinted with permission from   River Valley Sun   Woodstock, New Brunswick
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