This isn’t an attack, this is a fact check. I know many people feel that when someone points out what’s wrong with Hawkesbury, that they are attacking the Mayor, the Director of the Cultural department or city council as a whole but the fact is we expect good results, we expect improvements and we are owed them. We pay our taxes to the Corporation of the City of Hawkesbury and we’d like to know that the money is well spent. We also want to know that the efforts made at a community level, the clubs, the businesses, the people that put in their blood, sweat and tears to try and do good are appreciated at the very least and not seen as a threat by the city.
Hawkesbury has an operating budget of X amount of dollars. That means there is a budget to be spent on things. Although the majority of the funds go to paying salaries rather than on the acquisition of assets, there is still lots we can do to make our little city a little more welcoming to new comers and to its current residence alike.
For example, we have a retirement community, largely based around Spence Avenue and Cartier Boulevard. There are brand new, over-sized side walks that could be used by the elderly to spend away their leisure time getting fresh air, socializing and taking in the sights and sounds. There are few people on these sidewalks. It is surprising that there isn’t a single bench for them to rest on should they feel the need to sit down. There isn’t a single garbage can, either, which leads to a high volume of litter. Fixing this simple oversight — the lack of benches — would make a world of difference to the people that need them the most.
There are no signs coming into Hawkesbury, on any extremity of the town that “truly” welcomes visitors and invites them to any one location for more information. This leaves  to travel through town without stopping. Hawkesbury is the “pass-through” for many people that might otherwise stop. Little pleasantries such as welcome signs with points of interest done in a “small-town” manner could seriously improve the foot traffic and potential interest of new home buyers or other types of investment.
The city should work more with local organizations to maximize the marketing of local events, clubs and grass roots affairs rather than leave them out of their websites, publications and Facebook postings. A little cooperation, communication shows to people the larger network of “things to do and see” available to citizens and none citizens alike.
Clarity and professionalism translates into trust and respect. The city would do well to ensure that each publication, done in both French and in English, is free of errors and written to a higher standard than they are currently. When people, from outside of our town, look to our online presence they will find, to a greater degree, substandard content delivered on platforms that are managed by people who do not possess, or appear not to possess, a skill set that would create professional and comprehensive content that most small city government websites in Canada possess. It just takes people who care and who can do it.
We pay our hard-earned tax dollars to the city. We should expect an overall improvement in quality of life. However, as a recent report has indicated, Hawkesbury has maintained its abysmally low ranking as the worst place to live in Ontario. That is not very welcoming to investors of any type. We should stop saying that anyone who raises issue with this reality as “complainer”, is always seeing the glass as half-empty. Why can’t the people who raise their hands, point out problems and offer solutions be seen as an assets? They care and have great ideas. After all, we only hire consultants to tell us what we are doing wrong and then pay them more money to fix the issues. We have the solution right here, without it costing any more money. The solution is simple, listen to the ones who see the problems and solutions. The city should at the very least, offer a town hall meeting, open to everyone, to come in an air their grievances. The city should have an open ear and an open mind, should it want to become a city that people want to live in.

Hawkesbury has so many wonderful “hidden gems”. We have a top-notch cultural center on the Chenail Island The Chenail Cultural Center, one of Ontario’s best school’s, Le Sommet, some amazing store fronts like Jacob’s Treasures (an amazing store that has some of the most interesting art for sale from local artists), a weekly car show highlighting some of the coolest cars supported by local mechanics, body workers and general car enthusiasts, The Optimist Club which supports low-income families, focusing on personal growth and health of the children. The club also supports schools through donations and charity events, The Bike Fest brought in by Goulet Motosport which brings in bike enthusiasts from all over, etc. There are many great businesses, non-profits and individuals that care, commit and effect change.

There are many reasons for people to come, shop and stay here. I hope the next administration has a more open-door policy when it comes to finding ways in which to incorporate low-cost improvements from the very people who live here. In the meantime, it would be helpful to the population if the current administration digs deep and solves the problems created under their watch so that the next administration doesn’t have to start off faced with them. Re-think Hawkesbury? Let’s dig ourselves out and fix the problems that are simple enough to fix.

 

Stephen Sockett