Kory Glover
Villager Staff

RUSSELL TOWNSHIP – After being rated the top place to live behind Ottawa and third in the whole country, Russell has a lot to be proud of at the end of 2018.

“Moneysense had a set criteria including the cost of housing in the area. When you look at houses under $500,000, we’re actually ranked first in Canada,” said Russell Township Mayor Pierre Leroux. “We were also ranked ninth best place to raise children, which is great because people are really starting to notice the area. Moneysense looks at all sorts of different factors including crime rate, accessibility to healthcare, temperature and so much more.”

However, that’s not all Russell Township has to be proud of this year. This past January, residents saw the grand opening of the 59,400 ft. Sports Dome, which began construction back in May 2017.

“The Dome almost has a full-year under its belt and it’s been doing very well, bringing in some money,” said Leroux. “Most recreational programs, for example the arena, there’s a deficit at the end of the year. That’s why taxation pays for it. However, with the Dome, there are memberships and all the programming is actually generating more revenue.”

The official amount the Dome generated throughout 2018 will not be made available to the Villager until January or February, according to Leroux.

“Council gave the Sports Dome the go-ahead back in February of 2017,” he said. “The staff were able to get it all done within a year, so that was really impressive. The project cost $4.8-million, a good portion of that was development charges and then you had the Kin Club of Russell fundraising, raising almost $400,000. There’s a little bit left but that’ll probably be offset by loans or something. This has been a discussion since 2014 but once council made the decision, it was a quick process.”

Leroux also states that the overall response to the new Sports Dome has been overwhelmingly positive, with over 1,200 memberships and counting.

Another big development that occurred within the Russell Township involved the commercial park in Embrun. Servicing the area was completed last year but Leroux said that some of that land has been re-designated for commercial use.

“Servicing was completed last year but when we did the commercial park here, we serviced it and we oversized the services for the 40-acre parcel behind it. So just north of the bike trail here,” he said. “That’s all part of the official plan and we re-designated that as commercial land. So, we should be seeing some construction in 2019.”

Leroux continued, “We have done all the studies necessary to switch it over. In the plan from five years ago, it was designated as a special interest area and it makes sense to put the commercial there. They saw the potential for moving into that area.”

The Embrun Fire Department were able to acquire a platform/ladder fire truck, with a reach of 95 feet high this past January after the announcement was made last August.

“With the size of the buildings being built in the area, we’re talking about 250,000 sq/ft. buildings, you need that kind of vehicle for safety purposes,” said Leroux. “That was a nice project, with an anticipated cost of about $1.5-million. Our fire chiefs were able to find a used one down in the States and have it converted for Canadian winters and bring it back to perfect condition for half the cost. It was a nice savings for the township.”

Leroux said that there have been a number of new businesses established in the 417 Industrial Park with the TIF Group having a big expansion and Jack Larabie Distribution Inc. coming into the area for more construction and expansion.

“We’ve sold almost all of our land in the 417 Industrial Park,” he said. “Definitely really helping to build that commercial industrial tax space.”

Leroux continued, “We’ve actually re-designated another 60-acres of land in the park because we were running out, so we added another 60-acres. The same as I’ve been working on for the past four years. What I’ll probably be working on for the next four years as well is gathering provincial and federal grants to bring more services to that industrial park because once we bring services to the park and the commercial land on the other side, it’ll just work.”

While not able to give a lot of details, Leroux said that there are some project in the works for next year that involve more commercial development. Without giving too much away, he hints that residents’ stomaches will be very thankful.

“There’s nothing I can name specifically but I can say there is definitely some commercial development coming our way in the next year. There have been meetings between staff and different chains, so there’s definitely stuff coming,” he said. “We’re going to see new eating establishments and that’s about as much information as I can give at this time.”

Leroux ended with a special thanks to the Russell Township locals for putting their trust in him and the council for another four-year term.

“It feels terrific that the residents would put their trust in us once more, and we hope to continue serving the needs of everyone in the township throughout the year 2019,” he said.