City strikes three new task forces to develop plans to focus on pressing needs and priorities

“We are getting into the latter stages of this (council) term and sometimes we can get really sidetracked, and I just like how you (the mayor) have brought a motion forward getting us focused on some concerns that we have in this city. So I just wanted to thank you.” – Councillor Robert Thompson


The City is moving to create new task forces to respond to identified priorities, with the aim of reporting back to general committee by the end of 2021.
The three committees, a Market Precinct Task Force, a Performing Arts Centre Task Force, and an Affordable Housing Task Force, will focus on:
• Revitalizing the west end of Downtown Barrie and creating more affordable housing, identified as urgent council priorities
• Filling the need for a large performing arts centre following the decision to close the Georgian Theatre and not to proceed with renovating the Fisher Auditorium
• Finding ways to help the city’s residents, business community, and cultural community recover from COVID-19
The motion was brought forward by Mayor Jeff Lehman, a move that drew praise for focusing council’s efforts on pressing needs.
“We are getting into the latter stages of this (council) term and sometimes we can get really sidetracked, and I just like how you (the mayor) have brought a motion forward getting us focused on some concerns that we have in this city. So I just wanted to thank you,” said Ward 5 councillor Robert Thomson.
The mayor is scheduled to hold a zoom press conference today (Tuesday afternoon) to talk about the initiative and answer questions.
Addressing these key issues can be part of a strong recovery for Barrie, says a staff report to committee; council had directed City staff to develop a funding strategy by April for strategic projects, as part of the 2021 business plan.
The Market Precinct Task Force will focus on developing a plan for investments in the economy and in public spaces in the west end of downtown; the Performing Arts Centre Task Force will develop a plan to construct a modern performing arts facility in the city core to replace Georgian Theatre and Fisher Auditorium; and the Affordable Housing Task Force will coordinate County, City, and charitable/not-for-profit housing projects and policies, to aggressively expand the supply of affordable housing, with particular emphasis on addressing the hardest to house.
Members of council, stakeholder organizations from the downtown, cultural, and housing communities as identified by the Chairs, and staff as identified by the CAO and/or the City’s executive management team will fill roles on the task forces.
The Market Precinct Task Force will be chaired by Deputy Mayor Barry Ward, the Performing Arts Centre Task Force by councillor Jim Harris, and the Affordable Housing Task Force by Mayor Jeff Lehman.
Updates from the forces will be required in June and in September. Each task force is to create an open public consultation portal (online and by phone) and provide for any additional specific public consultation opportunities as deemed appropriate.
Available federal and provincial funding programs in support of COVID recovery will also be researched.

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