Oliver Paipoonge weathers tough year

Oliver Paipoonge, Ont. — It was busy in 2022 for the Municipality of Oliver Paipoonge.

Besides being a municipal election year, the most populous community surrounding Thunder Bay saw a new pharmacy go up in Kakabeka Falls, the Murillo Fall Fair was back in person after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the bedroom community lobbied to have a proposed truck route not go over their land and a spring drought gave fits to farmers who had to plant their bounty later than usual.

Oliver Paipoonge Mayor Lucy Kloosterhuis said the municipality weathered the drought as the farmers eventually moved their product to market despite supply chain issues as well.

“The weather did change,” said Kloosterhuis, who has been part of the municipality’s political scene since 1991. “We did have a lot of snow in the spring and then we had drought.

“They did get their crops off. We’re all fighting with the supply chain. We’re hoping that it will improve as time goes forward for everyone, but it is a challenge.

“There have been some people that had thought that they would be further along with building their homes and are finding that they’re having to wait a little longer for the product. The residents and the council of the township are very optimistic (the supply chain issue will be resolved).”

Kloosterhuis is also proud that the municipality has seen the sporting scene revived for auto racing fans and junior hockey enthusiasts over the past couple of years.

“We’ve seen success — some people may not like that — at (Thunder City Speedway),” Kloosterhuis said. “The (Kam River Fighting Walleye of the Superior International Junior Hockey League) seem to be doing well just with people being there.”

The six-term mayor pointed to the steady growth in the community as numerous homes and businesses continue to pop up throughout the municipality.

“We’ve had a very good year,” Kloosterhuis said. “We’ve got more building permits and more value of construction than we’ve ever had.

“People are getting invested in their community. There’s lots of houses coming up. There’s businesses moving in.

“(Evergreen Pharmacy with a NorWest Community Health Centres satellite station) came to full opening this year in the fall. The credit union has moved in next door. I believe they’ll be opening officially very shortly. We’re hoping that in the future to see perhaps more expansion in that department. I don’t know if it will be that location or another location.

“Rural residents are so happy to have the opportunity to have a pharmacy close by and to have a nurse practitioner and/or nurse there. It’s the same everywhere, even in the City of Thunder Bay I’m sure. There just isn’t enough locations and if you can have something that’s close by where you don’t have to drive too far, especially for the seniors, they’re very excited about it. We have some seniors homes in the local area of (Kakabeka Falls), so they’re happy to not have to travel too far. I have heard absolutely nothing but good response and they would love to see it open seven days a week I’m sure.”

The future looks bright for the community of over 6,000 residents and Kloosterhuis would like to see council continue that trend.

“We’ve got a good council and we had a good council,” said Kloosterhuis, who beat out former councillors Rick Potter and Brandon Postuma for the mayor’s seat in the October municipal election.

“Moving forward, we’re working very hard on the budget for next year. It’s going to be a difficult budget just for the reason that prices for everything are going up just like in your home. Our hydro, our heat, utilities, the fuel for our vehicles, everything has gone up, which we don’t have much control over.

“You want the truck to go and plow the snow, we’re going to have to put the fuel in it. It is definitely a big challenge for 2023 when it comes to budget.”

John Nagy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal