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Exploring options to make downtown Barrie safer and welcoming

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With a new Business Improvement Association (BIA) board, a new mayor and a new city councillor in Ward 2, many people in Barrie feel now is the time to make changes to the downtown to make it safer and more attractive to visitors.

"You have to have a vibrant downtown. It's the heartbeat of the city," says Steve Ricalis, BIA board member and business owner.

Like many people, Ricalis would like to see a more significant police presence on a more regular basis.

"I think a presence would be great, you know, just boots on the ground walking around shaking hands, kissing babies, and just being involved in the community. Not that they aren't, I would just like to see more," Ricalis said.

Heather Kennedy, the new chair of the BIA, said they have already begun new discussions with Barrie police to see what they can do to help.

"We're looking at all options. At this point, we're looking at lighting the downtown core, making it a brighter, lighter spot, so people feel more safe. We aren't blind to the fact that we are facing some issues, but we know also that it is a safe place to be," she said.

Kennedy feels part of the issue downtown is what she calls a growing gap in services to deal with homelessness and addiction.

City Councillor Craig Nixon represents the downtown.

"The downtown of any city is a reflection of the entire city, and it's critical that it be shown in the best possible light and that people come here come downtown and support it," he noted.

Those on the board with the BIA said they are looking at everything from community programs to what other similar-sized communities are doing to improve their downtown.

The BIA and police are expected to continue discussions in hopes of making the area safe and desirable.

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