Just when it seemed like there was a light at the end of the West Nipissing budget tunnel, the proverbial tunnel just extended a couple of miles.
While West Nipissing has yet to see any confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, the budget has lost its immediacy to shifting priorities. It has yet to affect the financial side, meetings and debates on the issue have been, understandably, shifted to the back burner.
“I’m going, to be honest, the budget wasn’t my main priority,” Mayor Joanne Savage explained. “It was in my thoughts, but it wasn’t in the responsibilities and the duties that are required regarding the coronavirus. That has been keeping everyone busy to implement the measures required and making sure we are ready for any emergency in West Nipissing.”
Originally the levy increase stood at 11.6 per cent. In the month and a half worth of meetings since council was able to cut that number down to 6.2 per cent.
“Our priorities have shifted, for the right reasons,” she said. “We should be concerned; we should be alarmed and we need to take this very seriously if we want to keep our area low-risk.”
In the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit, there have been no confirmed positive cases of COVID-19. However, just west of West Nipissing, Sudbury has three confirmed cases of the virus. Savage is hopeful that remains the case.
“Hopefully that will remain, but we don’t know,” she said. “A lot of people are alarmed with the volume of travellers that will be returned home, beginning with snowbirds. The estimated is between 200-and 300,000 people that will be returning to Ontario from travelling abroad.”
“Anything is being done to try and mitigate the spread whatsoever,” Savage added.