by Lucie Roy
Legal – An All Candidates Forum was held at the Legal School Oct. 8 with candidates Tina Hills, Kurtis Hauptman, Pat Hills, Curtis Epp and incumbents Carol Tremblay and Ken Baril. Incumbent Trina Jones was unable to attend.
The Forum gave residents an opportunity to hear the candidates speak on various issues and answer questions. More than 40 people attended to hear the candidates position on taxes, Legal amalgamation with Sturgeon County, housing starts in the last few years, marketing Legal, a doctor in town and marketing and development for attracting commercial and residential to the area.
A tax comparison between Cardiff, Legal, Morinville and St Albert was presented and candidates were told taxes in Cardiff are presently more than 25 per cent less than in Legal and would they consider having Legal amalgamate with Sturgeon County if it meant reducing their property taxes by 25 to 30 per cent.
Five candidates were opposed to the idea on the grounds of losing Legal’s identity, the services in Legal are fantastic, Legal has recycling and Cardiff has no schools, no flower pots, park benches, and none of the amenities Legal has, and the taxes are on par with Morinville and less than Cardiff and St. Albert. Cardiff has higher utility costs, half paved roads, fewer streetlights and within 72 hours wait to have snow removed. All five felt Legal and Cardiff was not a fair comparison; a better comparison would be Bon Accord or Gibbons, different towns different monies. They also felt Legal currently has a voice as municipality and can go for funding to the province and any resident can call the town if they need assistance. Curtis Epp questioned what the benefits and opportunities would be and to look at it and see if Sturgeon would help build roads, sidewalks and it they would do it better. Epp said want it or not he needed facts and proof.
The second question was related to housing starts in Legal and how they would provide strategies for change. Incumbent Tremblay revealed 2009 had five homes built, 2010 has six, 2011 six, and 2012 had seven with only one to date for 2013. Tremblay said growth and community were important to her. Hauptman shared the same sentiment and mentioned young families want something affordable and contractors need to provide services the Town is not providing.
Tina Hills said it has been a fair build in the last few years and houses are not on the market long and with the upgrader she sees more houses being built. All candidates were pleased with the growth; they want a slow healthy growth, they can buy houses that are available. Hauptman said with Costco closer to the area they will need more residential and it is nothing to be afraid of. Pat Hills said growth of any kind is good and the Town could see growth blossom if
Legal is marketed properly.
The third question was if there was a need to market Legal, and how would they proceed to market the community to distinguish and differentiate it from neighboring communities. Hauptman said he had “been doing research on the matter and can call contacts at NAIT and there is no reason not to look at it, like Olds has done. It costs money but students at NAIT with student placement it is free, they can do the marketing plan and there are easy economical ways to do it without breaking the bank. Tina Hills said she was on the fence and they need to market to people in the community because some residents are not aware what the Town has to offer and need to support what they have there.
Baril said Legal residents can be their own advocates in the community and that they need to be proud and vocal of the community by being part of it and getting out to key events in Morinville, Gibbons and the Pinkest Little Town
in the West event, Small Town Saturday night. “Let people know we are here,” he said. Pat Hills said “we are are 20 minutes from Redwater and they built two hotels and they are filled. Lobby to get roads there on the way to Fort Mac and market Legal as a safe community and get more growth, more tax base, more
money.” Tremblay said comments made echoed her own and she supports local, and to find ways to bring people back to Legal, attend trade shows in Fort
Mac and market what they harness it. Tremblay said the Concerto Network offers a corridor and this would increase tourism. The Concerto promotes a province-wide bilingual municipalities network.
Question four asked the candidates if having a doctor in Legal for two to three days a week was a dead issue. All six candidates were on the same page in that this was not a dead issue and they are in agreement to further this cause.
Questions from the audience included commercial development and how the candidates would see it happen and the common theme was they did not have enough information to make a comment. The Crossroad located in Sturgeon County going into the Town of Legal and their need for more water and not enough done to encourage industry was discussed.
The high taxes in town were discussed and what can be done to lower taxes. Hauptman said he did not have the books to see where the money is going but would have to see where before they start reducing taxes, Epp said he did not know if Legal was in the red or in the black and how to lower them. Tina Hills said they were high but not out there. Baril mentioned it was hard to pull back once they have gone ahead because the budget has certain spending, but going forward they can try to reduce spending. Tremblay mentioned what amenities are they willing to lose to cut costs. She mentioned that Legal would be debt free in 2013, and for debt in 2012 Sturgeon County is $15 million , Morinville $5.5 million, Bon Accord $1.2 million and Gibbons $4.1 million.
The population growth in Legal was mentioned as 1,095 in 1996, up to 1,225 by 2011.Tax comparisons included a house in Cardiff with a tax assessment value at $319,000 with a 2013 tax amount at $1,933, same dwelling classification of 1J at Legal valued at $182,000 with a tax of $1,824, a 1A dwelling in Morinville valued at $293000 with tax at $2,728 and a 1D dwelling in St. Albert valued at $289000 with a tax amount of $3,008.