Resident seeking answers from candidates

Letter to the editor

Dear Editor:

I am so glad that I have signed up to receive the news from your on-line paper. It is an excellent and accurate source of news, so thank you.

I have read the article about the Mayor and his opponent and I was wondering who would arrange or who could I contact to see if there was going to be a public debate where the Morinville residents could listen to both people and ask questions about issues that they want raised?

My main questions and interest would be:

  • What are we doing to get more businesses in town that would promote local shopping? I understand that the Town is looking into the creation and recruitment of an Economic Development Officer, I wonder if this is the “fix” required. Are we looking at the taxes being charged to small struggling businesses and what options if any are there for small struggling businesses who cannot fight against some “old” time owners of the prime downtown property who may not be requesting “reasonable” leases?
  • The money raised from the Photo Radar – I understand it could be over a $1 million and was wondering if any of that was going back into the town towards the interests of the residents (e.g. lower taxes, lower water & sewer costs, etc.)
  • I question why we need so many “Peace Officers” as Lloyd [Bertschi] has mentioned we have also increased our RCMP staff and I believe that they do a wonderful job.

    Unfortunately, many people do not view the Peace Officers as a viable option and do not believe that there is value added other than additional costs of paying the peace officers.

  • As there will be more and more seniors over the next few years, what are the plans for building senior only residents (e.g. small bungalows)? Interestingly, I just read in the Free Press, that there is land being re-zoned near the Morinville Estates Manufactures Mobile Community (mobile home part) for single detached residential homes for affordable housing for “medium and low-income” people. I understand from the article that the town has already received the funding from Alberta Government, Housing and Urban Affairs. How much did we receive and will it totally cover the cost of building and installing the water & sewer infrastructure?

I would like to challenge all readers to either write a letter to the editor or phone the Town of Morinville offices and request a Public Debate between all the candidates.

Thank you,

Linda Lyons

Editor’s note:

Thank you for the kind words about As we have the ability to accept comments to articles, perhaps some of the candidates would care to address your questions here.

Having said that, it is my intention to have host an all candidates meeting in conjunction with other local groups and or volunteers prior to the election so as to continue our goal of providing residents with the information they need to select the right people to represent them.

It is my hope to have something in place by next week with an announcement to follow.

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  1. Hi Linda A great series of questions that I will try to give at least the Readers Digest version of the answers here. All the questions you have are around issues the Town is currently working on and I am pleased to provide you with what the Town is currently doing on these fronts. Great to see Stephen, among others, will be co-ordinating a candidates forum.

    1) Economic Development Now that we have the Town on a real solid foundation there is no doubt our most pressing issue is that of economic diversification. By any measure right now we are a very sustainable community but I certainly know that over the long term having a 90 – 10 residential non-residential tax split spells danger in the long term. We first need to develop a long range strategy complete with an implementation plan. Never a short term fix in the economic world. Monies are allocated in the 2010 budget to hire a person to start the research to develop a strategy.

    2)Photo radar money. I do not have the exact figures on hand but you are close with the gross revenue number for “automated enforcement”. Of all photo radar revenue, the Province takes a share. Approximately 15%. The remaining dollars are split between the contractor and the Town. I believe 60/40 with us receiving the 60%. For year just ended that generated revenue to the Town of approximately $450,000. The council voted unaminously to allocate a percentage of that revenue to public safety initiatives. i.e. bicycle training, as requested by the RCMP. I believe they initially asked for 1% but we doubled their ask to 2%. All remaining dollars have been and will be put into a reserve to pay for the cultural centre capital cost. First, by using the reserve monies to reduce the amount we need to borrow. Secondly, in the following years to assist with the repayment of the debenture. Ergo, we are able to build this new facility without the need to further increase property taxes.

    3)Peace Officers We may need to agree to disagree on this one. Our former structure of By-law enforcement was largely reactive to complaints, concerns etc. By far and away the most complaints I received either on the street on by way of calls to my home was on by-law enforcement. Not because of the by-laws but because we did not enforce them. What is the point of having laws if we are not prepared to enforce them? So we changed the structure to Peace Officers and hired two instead of one by-law officer. Now, I’m getting complaints of an entirely different variety but this is the change phase and some adjustment is required by all. For example, I hope you have noticed the un-sightly properties around Town are significantly reduced. Same with old autos on the streets that never moved to name just a few areas the Peace Officers have been working on. For me, it is an issue of public safety and community pride. As a bonus, this department is now structured to be revenue neutral. We will see when the new format has been in place for a year if that is the case.

    4) Affordable Housing We are actively working in this area as well. We have received some monies from the Provincial government for affordable housing but not near enough to build a facility of any consequence. We are in the process of re-zoning some Town owned land to accomodate an approximately 44 unit “market affordable” apartment style building. This type of facility will help seniors but also the “working poor” to have a place of their own. We also anticipate having a couple of the apartments for the homeless. Yes we do have some homeless folks in Town. We are partnering with a firm to do the project and have applied for significant funding from the Province that I believe will cover approxmately 60% of the capital cost. The rest of the required funds wold be obtained by way of mortgage and the rents would pay that cost so there will be no dollars from the property tax required to have this facility in Town. Of course, if we are unable to secure the Provincial funding then the project will not go ahead.

    And that is the readers digest version. Thanks again for some great questions. I look forward to seeing you at the candidates forum.

    Lloyd Bertschi

  2. Thanks Linda for your great comments and concerns, if I may I will try to address your questions.

    I agree with your comments, that at this time we don’t need an Economic Development Officer, however; we surely do need a Morinville Economic and Tourism Committee. This committee in my opinion should be made up of Morinville Residents and Morinville Business members with only one Mayor or Councillor on it, the Town should make this a standing committee. What I believe we should be doing:

    First and most importantly the Town should be telling the world that Morinville is Open for Business.

    Then the Town and the Committee should be working together with the Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce on how to improve the lively hood of the present business we have in town.

    If I am elected as Mayor I will continue my fight to raise the taxes to a higher level for all the empty lots in Morinville – Build or Sell to someone who will build. An empty lot does no justice to a community.

    As for the lease rate – I can only advise the empty business locations manager of what my father told me years ago – “It is better to get a little rent then no rent at all”.

    Your question on Photo Radar: As we speak the money that is raised from Photo Radar is going toward the payment of the new Morinville Community Cultural Centre. These funds will assist in keeping the taxes on a level field. As you might be aware that the funds collected from Photo Radar within the first and second year are every high, because the resident are getting use to the photo radar and are obeying the speed limits making Morinville a safer place. However; you might have heard that the Morinville Photo Radar is better known as the Tourism Tax, as less Morinville residents are getting caught but more visitors are. I also would like to see after the building is paid off, that the revenue be place in lowering the cost of service or providing more services to our community.

    Peace Officer vs. RCMP: Both have an important role to play in a community. RCMP have lots on their plate; they don’t have time to take care of complaint such of Barking Dogs and Nauseous weeds such to name a couple; that’s why we have Peace Officers (formerly called Bylaw Enforcement Officers). The Provincial government decided that there will be now be Peace Officer (giving them a little more power). In Morinville we have two now, we went from a time that we only had one and the complaints to the Town was “where is the Bylaw Enforcement Officer”, that is one of the reasons why we have 2 now. Remember one Peace Officer cannot control a community our size by themselves, we need patrol in the day and evening and that includes weekends. If we did not have Peace Officers in Morinville the residents would be allowed to do whatever they wanted because there won’t be enough policing being done. In my opinion both the Morinville RCMP Detachment and our Morinville Peace Officers are doing a great job both on policing and educating the public on their right and wrong doings.

    The Town is in the works (applying for a grant) to build affordable housing. There are already some funds that the Town has received from the Province for this project however; not even close to what we need. At this time we are working with a contractor to make this happen. Plus I am looking at ways we can get funding from the Province and elsewhere to build homes for our homeless in Morinville, you don’t see them as they are living with family and friends.
    The total cost of the development of the project will be borne by the developer. However; what I really would like to see is a Long Term Care Facility built in Morinville. There is a lack of location to place Long Term Care Patients and even Senior Housing within Morinville and even the Edmonton area.

    As you are aware Linda I am running for Mayor. My platform is about creating a vibrant and dynamic town, where the priorities of the citizens of Morinville come First and not those of politicians.

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