Morinville – A love of community and a love of the job she’s held for the past three years are prompting Councillor Nicole Boutestein to seek a second term on Morinville Town Council. She says she does not consider herself a politician and has no intention of ever becoming one. Rather, the life-long resident of Morinville sees herself as someone elected by voters to do a job. She is hoping those voters will elect her to that job once again this fall.
“It is a job. It’s a full-time job,” Boutestein said, adding she puts in about 40 hours each week. “It is a job I have to say I really love. I get up in the morning and I’m happy to go to work.”
The councillor said she spends a lot of time reading the entire Council package so as to be able to ask the right questions for residents. “I have an opinion on everything,” she said. “Living here for so many years and knowing so many people, I am able to help them with their opinion through my voice [on Council].
Work done and more work to do
Reading agendas and sitting in Council Chambers is not the only part of the job she enjoys. Boutestein has served on the Highway 642 Functional Planning Study Committee and the Morinville Public Library Board this term. She has found both to be rewarding experiences.
“It’s a great economic driver for the Town,” Boutestein said of the recently passed Highway 642 plan, which eliminates a 10-metre setback off the highway for commercial buildings, allowing development closer to the sidewalk. “It’s going to open things up in our downtown core. Also the Area Structure Plan is very important. It’s going to bring Morinville into the future where we need to be. It’s not going to happen over night but the outlook for Main Street is going to attract new businesses for local shopping and tourism. That’s going to be huge for us.”
Boutestein said the passing of the 642 plan has already resulted in Flynn Bros. moving ahead with a 13,000 square foot commercial development on the corner of 100 Avenue and 101 Street (opposite Noah’s Ark Pets and Supplies). “It’s a definite result [of the plan],” she said. “I think it was waiting. They were waiting in the weeds for us to finally get something passed by Alberta Transportation. Now that that has gone through I think it will be good.”
The councillor believes the additional development and infill downtown will shift the community’s tax base from the roughly 93 per cent residential / 7 per cent commercial split that existed when she was elected in 2010. “It will bring huge business to the town, more employment for residents and more places to shop,” she said. “It creates diversity, which is what we need. If there is more diversity down Main Street, it’s going to bring more people here.”
Boutestein said she believes the community is on the edge of further growth, and that the next four years are crucial to that direction. “It’s not growing necessarily to be a city,” she said. “It’s growing to be the community that we can be. We’ve got some economic drivers in place and we have more coming. I want to be part of that. The next four years are going to be crucial with more residents and businesses coming.”
Recreation a part of growth
Although continued growth will increase the community’s tax base, she is aware the demand for infrastructure and services will go along with it. “Adding new houses means adding more services,” she said. “You bring in a tax base of another $30,000 but you have to provide $20,000 worth of services. So you really are ahead $10,000.”
Managing those tax dollars is something Boutestein feels requires community input. “It’s a Council of seven people but … we need that input,” she said. “I’d like to see the Town divided into four separate quadrants and every month or two months we hold na open house for that quadrant.”
She feels a system that seeks the input of different sections of town may do better and provide more focused input than the current system that draws the same handful of regulars. She would like to see the open houses held on neutral turf rather than in Council Chambers so residents feel more at ease in expressing their views. The feedback from the regular meetings would show Council if they are on the right path and help them correct their path if they are not.
Boutestein said a recreation facility is an item on both Council’s and the public’s mind, but the size and scope of a facility is yet to be determined. “We desperately need something,” she said. “Whether a pool is a part of that I cannot say. I think cooperating regionally is the way to go for anything that we do right now.”
Although supportive of the community’s recreation needs and aware the Town is in need of a new arena due to the age and condition of the Ray McDonald Sports Centre, Boutestein said she’d also like to see the Morinville Community Cultural Centre paid off. “I have a house and I want to pay for my house before I go buy that Mercedes,” she said. “I want to make sure we are on track and not too far ahead of ourselves because then we are going to be in trouble in 10 years, and I don’t feel that’s anybody’s responsibility in 10 years to take on. We need to be responsible for what we’re doing now.”
Skills on the table
In addition to making sure her Council voting record was based on educated and sound decision making, she is pleased to have been able to advocate for proper dug outs at the Skyline Ball Diamonds and for more amenities at the Morinville Fish and Game Association pond trail, two areas of town she believes are heavily used by residents and visitors to the community.
“It’s beautiful,” she said of the pond and trails. “People walk there every day. When you hear people that are leaving town with their family to go have a wiener roast in St. Albert and we have this beautiful Fish and Game pond in our own backyard and we don’t use it,” she said, adding she struggled to get additional picnic tables and barbeque stoves installed. “It didn’t cost that much. It was just a matter of timing. It took me three years to get that through.”
Beyond her tenacity to lobby for the things she believes the community needs, Boutestein feels her honesty and willingness to learn and take on challenges are strong assets at the Council table, as is her willingness to listen to residents. “I am here all the time. I live in Morinville. I work in Morinville. I play in Morinville,” she said. “This is my community. I’m here for the people. It’s unfortunate that … my worst trait is that I sit in the weeds. I’m there. I do the best I can and give 110 per cent all the time. I’m always prepared but I’m not always showcasing.”
It is a behind-the-scenes position the councillor said she is comfortable with because she has never felt the need to be front and centre at the events she attends. “When the Festival Society puts something on, I didn’t do the work,” she said. “I don’t need to be up there front and centre. Those people who did the work need to take the gratitude for it. I’m thankful for the volunteer in our community.”