New town hall, fire station and garage mark new Rigaud mayor’s first year in office


JAMES ARMSTRONG

Rigaud Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. (center) seen here with Yvan Lecompte (left) President of the Club d’Âge d’Or and Yves Pelletier (right) thanked them for their volunteer eff orts in organizing Rigaud’s first Salon des Aînes.

Hans Gruenwald Jr. was elected mayor of the Municipality of Rigaud November 3, 2013 and one year later, a major infrastructure project to build a new town hall, a fire station and a municipal garage, has received the approval of the Rigaud’s citizens and the provincial government. During an interview in early December 2014, the mayor commented on the legal process involved in the required changes to lots of land in the center of town.

“We have to make one large lot out of several smaller lots for the new town hall,” he said, adding, “It’s a very complicated process.” A special public consultation concerning the issue is scheduled for January 7, 2015. “We went through a very important learning curve on how things are done,” said Gruenwald Jr. referring to himself and the new members of the town council.

“To me, the biggest challenge is to bring the council closer to the citizens,” he added. “The true result of the Charbonneau Commission is the loss of citizen confidence in municipal politicians,” he pointed out, noting that a very small number of municipalities have a problem. “Everything seems to take so long when we do something,” said the mayor, “and that’s an irritant for many citizens. However, in Rigaud, we seem to be moving at the speed of light.”

Gruenwald Jr. was referring to the province’s immediate approval on the loan by-law for the infrastructure project. As to the reason why the province moved so quickly, the mayor suspects there are fewer projects on the provincial table due to recent cuts in transfer payments to municipalities and the increase in the download of responsibilities. He takes a positive stance on the situation.

“This could work out well for Rigaud,” he said, explaining that fewer municipal construction projects in the near future could reduce costs. “People bidding on our contracts will be sharpening their pencils,” he added. Gruenwald Jr. is taking a very ‘no nonsense’ approach to managing projects. “If something doesn’t make sense then we are not going to do it,” he said, giving as an example, the recent cancellation of the Écocentre project.

Although that project comes under the purview of the Municipalité Régionale de Comté de VaudreuilSoulanges (MRC V-S), the long-term maintenance costs would have fallen on the shoulders of the municipality. The revised plan is to include a satellite Écocentre in the new municipal garage construction program. “We went from a $3.1 million project down to a $750,000 project. We have adjusted, and we will have expansion capabilities without destroying half of the building,” he said.

He pointed out Rigaud is planning for upcoming development by calculating future needs with a factor of 1.5 times the needs of the current populations in all projects. The importance of communication plays a big role in the new mayor’s life. “I spend time with the Club d’Age d’Or,” said Gruenwald Jr. of the local senior population. The municipality supported the first Salon des Aînes organized by Yves Pelletier and Yvan Lecompte.

The once-monthly ‘Coffee with the Mayor’ on a Saturday morning has proven to be successful in both languages with the most recent English session attracting about 20 participants. Long-range vision and planning also plays a role in Gruenwald Jr.’s first year in offi ce. He sees the municipality as the next area for development in the MRC V-S after Vaudreuil-Dorion. In terms of supporting new business, there are changes happening in the town. “The CLD will be operating under a new name under the MRC,” he said.

“The CLD is an important component in nurturing new businesses,” he added, though recognizing this can create a handicap for an already existing enterprise on the opposite side of the street. His solution is to create a new industrial commission for Rigaud. “We are requesting candidates for our own industrial commission composed of several citizens and town councilors with a part-time commissioner,” he said.

The commissioner’s mission will be to identify what already exists in the town’s industrial parks and then determine complementary industries and business that can be invited to the town. Currently, Rigaud has three industrial sectors, Parc Industrial Doctor Oscar Gendron, Parc Industrial Séguin, and Parc Industrial de la Coopérative. “I have plenty of people inquiring about coming to Rigaud,” said the mayor.

“They are attracted by the price of the land, the quality of life in Rigaud and the services we have to offer,” he said. “We have the mountain, the ski hill and one of the biggest municipal parks in the area.” In terms of vision, Gruenwald Jr. points to the mayor of Varennes, Martin Damphousse as an example of how a municipality can develop.

The town of Varennes purchased a parcel of land from Hydro-Québec and later sold half of it for a considerable profit. “Th ey (Varennes) don’t need to apply for loans to build what they need,” said Gruenwald Jr. He said Rigaud is capable of doing the same thing.

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