By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Four veteran councillors were still in the running 24 hours after nominations closed Monday. Candidates had until noon Tuesday to withdraw their nomination papers.
Returning to take another run at Morinville Town Council are councillors Gordon Boddez, Paul Krauskopf, Donna Phinney and Ben Van De Walle, four of council’s current six members. Councillor Joe Gosselin steps down from office at the end of this term and Councillor Joseph Trapani filed papers yesterday to challenge incumbent Mayor Lloyd Bertschi.
The consensus among those incumbents who were available to be interviewed is that there is still work to be done and a strong desire to do so.
Seeking his second term on council is local realtor Gordon Boddez who said he felt it really takes a full term to start to understand how council can work as well as the intricacies of the budget and the intricacies of the history of what has gone on during previous administrations.
“There’s a lot of carry over from the previous council,” Boddez said, noting that a number of significant projects often continue from one term to another. “There’s quite a bit of investigative work you have to do, and it takes time to learn these things.”
Boddez said he felt that the first two years out of a councillor’s first three-year term consist of a steep learning curve. “The third year, I really think you can start to contribute,” he said. “Really, by the time you get into the second term, is when I think you can start to make some more significant contributions because you have a good base to work from.”
The councillor said during his first term he pushed hard for the Morinville Community Cultural Centre. “That’s one of my things that I pushed from the very start,” he said. “It’s going to be a very significant contribution to Morinville. That doesn’t mean that all of council weren’t part of it. I really pushed initially for that.”
If successful in his bid, Boddez said there are a number of issues of importance to him that he is looking forward to addressing in the next term. High among those concerns is dealing with the situation at Cardiff Road and Highway 2.
“It’s an absolute safety hazard,” Boddez said, noting there was another accident at that location recently. “To me that’s really important for council to develop a strategy.”
Additionally, Boddez said he believes Morinville needs to develop better health services for its seniors. “We need a physiotherapist back in this town,” he said. “And we need more of the additional equipment for testing so that they don’t always have to go to St. Albert. Maybe we should be focusing on an MRI in the future.”
Four-term Councillor Paul Krauskopf, Morinville’s current Deputy Mayor, is hoping for a fifth term and said being born and raised in Morinville he has a vested interest in how things are done in Morinville and how it’s growing. Twelve years after he was first elected, Krauskopf said he feels he still has something to offer on council, not the least of which is his approach to council business.
“I go by consensus model,” he said, noting he feels he has a talent for convincing others to do the same. “If you go with consensus, things get done quicker.”
Looking ahead to the next term, Krauskopf said taxes are a concern.
“I pay taxes here in town like everybody else and I’m concerned about increased taxes,” he said. “I think taxes are probably always number one, and I think trying to keep our taxes comparable and affordable with the rest of the region. I think the other thing is trying to widen that gap between the commercial side tax and the residential side tax.”
Krauskopf said Morinville’s tax split is currently approximately 92 per cent residential and eight per cent commercial.
Aside from the importance of Morinville’s taxes, the veteran councillor said improving the town’s trail system is something he feels is important.
“I think that it’s time we got a plan together and finish and hook up our trails from the north part of town to the south, and from the east to the west,” he said, noting that residents enjoy being able to use the trails. “They’re all there, but they are not connected all properly yet.”
“I don’t think my job is done yet,” she said. “I’m still enjoying it. I still want a say in my community. I know I only have one vote, but I hope to sway the other councillors my way on certain items.”
The two-term councillor said she sees one of the major issues confronting Morinville’s next council is getting the tax split between commercial and residential upped from its current residential-heavy position.
“I think we’re at 93-7,” she said “That’s very unhealthy for any community. I think we have to put more effort into working with the Chamber [of Commerce], working with Sturgeon County to get some kind of plan together to attract new businesses in Morinville. It’s just not healthy for that tax split and keeping the taxes low.”
Phinney said she’s cognizant that many people would like to have a pool in Morinville, something she would eventually like to see herself. However, operationally, she doesn’t see it in the short term.
“It not that we haven’t put it in our long-term planning, but right now we just physically cannot afford to operate it,” she said. “Yeah, we can build it.”
Phinney said she believes that council does listen to the community with respect to their thoughts on amenities.
“We’ve been very open with the community, asking for their opinions and their ideas, and I think that we have to continue getting more members involved and [hold] more open meetings where they can come and give us their ideas. But some of them, they have to realize that we physically cannot financially do some of these things right now.”
The council hopeful said she believes the Morinville Community Cultural Centre is going to be a tremendous asset to Morinville and something she is proud council has made happen.
Phinney said she also wants to ensure that Morinville’s seniors are taken care of, particularly ensuring that the best in affordable housing is available to them. “That is my passion,” she said of her concerns about seniors’ issues.
Ben Van De Walle
Councillor Ben Van De Walle is seeking his second term on Morinville Town Council. Van De Walle, who sits on the Alberta Capital Region Waste Water Sewage Commission, Assessment Review Board, Sturgeon Regional Economic Development Committee, Subdivision and Development Appeal Board, and who also serves Morinville as the alternate representative on the Capital Region Board, did not return our requests for a phone interview.
Editor’s Note: Please see tomorrow’s edition for our article on the motivations and thoughts of the council race’s six newcomers.