Morinvillians have their say on budget

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The Arena / Recreational Facility envelope was overflowing with budget bucks Wednesday night. Morinville residents had the opportunity to insert their play money into envelopes representing the various operational and capital projects on offer in this year’s proposed budget. – Calli Stromner Photo

by Calli Stromner

Morinville – Two nights of public consultation resulted in a clear message that Morinville wants the Ray McDonald Sports Arena issue to be resolved…and quickly. A total of about 60 Morinville residents came out to two 2014 Budget Open Houses Feb 18 and 19. Town staff and Council members were on hand for both evenings to answer questions about the budget process and provided information on several programs and services run by the town.

But it was the replacement of the Ray McDonald Sports Arena and the potential for a new recreation complex that took centre stage on both evenings, dominating the open mic and receiving the majority of the “budget bucks” from residents. Upon arrival at the cultural centre, residents were supplied with a set number of “budget bucks”, or fake currency which was meant to be placed in envelopes bearing the names of proposed projects, depending on the person’s preference.

“There’s been a lot of concern about the arena. A lot of the news that people in Morinville have about the arena has come from the St. Albert Gazette and the Morinville News. But we haven’t heard a lot directly from the Council,” said Morinville resident and business owner John Vreugdenhil on Tuesday night. “Nobody knows where it’s going to be yet; whether or not it’s going to include a recreation facility; what the total amount is going to be and how much our taxes are going to go up or not; whether or not the one we have right now is going to last until then. One of the biggest concerns is that a lot of people are unhappy with how the town renovations went.”

Mayor Lisa Holmes confirmed that Council is in the middle of the planning process for a replacement arena and that there is no plan to continue to fund repairs to the current Ray McDonald facility. She did take issues with the circulating rumours and posters suggesting the arena is unsafe, has been condemned and that the Town doesn’t have a replacement plan for the facility.

“There are a lot of rumours going around Morinville right now about the arena being condemned. We have a set timeline. We are excited to replace the arena and it is a priority for us,” said Holmes, adding that the fear mongering and rumours have caused great distress among the younger hockey players, parents and coaches who depend use the arena. “When they hear ‘No More Hockey in Morinville, they get upset…they cry…they don’t understand what the grown-ups are talking about.”

Other topics that came up during the two nights of public consultation included increased commercial and industrial assessment; the status of the Cardiff Corner intersection; and enforcement of the Town’s various bylaws.

Morinville residents have a couple more opportunities to provide input to the 2014 budget process. A Public Forum has been scheduled during the next Council meeting on Feb. 25 and written feedback can be sent to budget2014@morinville.ca.

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