SUMMERSIDE – With construction on the upswing in 2013, Summerside Mayor Basil Stewart predicts 2014 will be a banner year for the city.
© Mike Carson/Journal Pioneer
Summerside Mayor Basil Stewart leafs through a pile of telephone messages awaiting return calls. The mayor reflected on the activities of 2013 and predicts better things for Summerside in the new year.
In his annual year-end review of the activities within Summerside, Stewart sees all of the construction begun in 2013 as a strong foundation for greater employment opportunities for area residents.
“Overall, it’s been a pretty good year,” the mayor said. “I think we’re on the cusp of a big year in 2014.”
Stewart pointed to the two developments on MacKenzie Drive, a 57 lot development subdivision in Wilmot, the Tim Banks development on North Granville Street, the medical/professional office on north Central Street, the construction on Walker Avenue, the student residences in the downtown, the new sports bar and the County Fair Mall Giant Tiger project, as signs of growth.
“It’s great to see that construction, and I think as a result of that, we will see the jobs in 2014,” Stewart said. “At Holland College, there must be 400 people in there with all of the students, the teachers and the staff. What a shot in the arm for us that is. It’s growing too. After Christmas they have a nursing school coming in there. That, and the Department of Education downtown is quite a plus for our downtown. As I look back at 2013, you try and set the table to make the community attractive for these future developments.”
Stewart said the community is only as strong as the people within it who are willing to work to enhance life in Summerside.
“There’s strength in numbers and things will happen,” the mayor said. “There are a lot of things that are going to happen here development wise and when you get development you get jobs. We need the jobs. It’s kind of the chicken and the egg. You need the jobs to get the development and you need the development to get the jobs.”
Stewart said there were close to $20 million in building permits issued during 2013 but the figures are not all in and that total will rise.
“It has been an interesting year,” he said. “We have a new CAO in place, a new director of finance, a new director of communications, a new director of community services. Everybody’s working together. Council is working good together.”
This past year closed the door on the contentious Michael Jackson Tribute Tour concert proposed in 2009 which cost the city over $1.3 million for a concert that never materialized.
Stewart reflected on that issue which dominated public discussion for several months.
“In any area of politics, whether it be provincial, federal or municipal, things are not always going to go the way you want them to,” he said. “You’re going to get blindsided sometimes and that was one that we did. We’re moving on. We’ve gone to the smaller type concerts and they’ve all been successful.”
Stewart said the city also lost the Summerside Storm basketball team last year but has replaced them with 16 tournaments that bring in teams, coaches and families and friends to the city.
“I think the city did everything it could to keep the Storm here and he just decided quickly to ‘See you later,’” he said. “That’s behind us.”
Stewart said the organizers of Atlanticade have expressed an interest in extending their association with the city and major changes are in the works for the 2014 edition of the Summerside Lobster Carnival.
“There’s great potential there in the lobster carnival for growth,” he said. “I’d like to see a winter festival come back for at least a few days.”
“Every year is interesting but I guess it’s that way in life,” the mayor said. “I’ve always gotten a strong mandate from the people for mayor. I work hard at it, try to do my best, and just continue on from there.”