The Municipality of East Ferris recently released its new community safety and well-being plan. It focuses on identifying and addressing root causes of social issues, enhancing protective measures within the community, and reducing crime.
“We took a broad approach” to the study, said East Ferris mayor Pauline Rochefort, which began with establishing a sub-committee of the police services board, and reaching out to all services involved with "health safety and well-being” operating within the region.
The reports and “secondary data” provided by these agencies, coupled with the sub-committee’s work, “created a profile of the municipality” Rochefort explained.
Using this profile as a guide, an advisory committee was formed, which put together a community survey.
“We had a good response, with lots of comments,” Rochefort said, and this feedback formed the final document, designed to identify community priorities and “set objectives and strategies on how to get there.”
Of the surveys, Rochefort was pleased that 84 per cent of residents rated themselves as happy within the community. “This is great,” she said, “but this also means that there are 16 per cent who aren’t.”
“And our role here is to focus on that 16 per cent because this survey is to make sure that nobody falls through the cracks and that we try to improve.”
The plan runs until 2024 and contains specific objectives to implement these improvements.
One goal is to reduce the number of OPP calls relating to property crimes. Currently, there are around 10 calls per year, and the municipality aims to have this fall to two by the end of 2022.
By 2023, the township also wants to see an additional six affordable housing units constructed.
Health care is a pillar of the new plan, and by 2023 the municipality wants to increase the percentage of families who have access to a family physician from the current 88 percent to 90 percent.
By June of 2023, East Ferris also plans to place in the top 10 in the provincial ParticipACTION Community Better Challenge, fitting with their goal of improving health and general well-being within the municipality.
Within that same timeframe, the township aims to improve the municipal website to make it easier to navigate and access social services available to residents.
The purpose of the plan is to identify potential issues “and doing something about them before there is a problem,” Mayor Rochefort said.
Essentially, the main objectives are to increase coordination and collaboration between various services, improve access to these services, and work toward “greater alignment of key health, safety, and well-being issues.”
Moreover, they aim to reduce the demand for emergency and crises service by “addressing the underlying causes of social issues.”
Primarily a rural, residential municipality with services centred in Corbeil and Astorville, East Ferris has grown 1.5 per cent over the 2006-2016 census periods.
Expected to grow at .66 per cent annually for the next decade, the municipality will most likely reach 5,250 by 2025.
However, no matter how large the population becomes, Mayor Rochefort wants to emphasize how important residents are to this type of study.
“It’s really important that these initiatives be really grassroots, they really need to be,” she said.
“You really have to be at a community level,” to create an accurate picture of the municipality’s needs, Rochefort emphasized.
“It’s about neighbours watching out for neighbours.”
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.