Ask-a-Candidate: Morinville councillor candidates look ahead at the next four years

In the upcoming municipal election, there are seven candidates running for the six councillor positions available in Morinville. These candidates are hoping to serve residents for the next four years, a job that will take a lot of their time, that will require much effort, and one that will make them responsible for guiding and shaping the future and direction of the community.

The Morinville News asked each of the hopeful candidates what they believe will be the most significant area of focus for the Town’s next crop of municipal politicians during their term.

If you had to select one single issue as the major issue the Morinville’s Council will face within the next four years, what would that issue be? Why is this the major issue and what does the Town need to do about it?

Scott Richardson, first time candidate:

One of the major issues this Council will face is the decision to either obtain city status or continue on as a town; this decision will have to be made once Morinville hits the 10,000 population milestone. One of the pros that I see is having ‘city’ status would attract more business and make Morinville more attractive in the eyes of investors. Attracting more business to town is definitely something that needs to be done in order to lessen the burden of taxes on the residents of Morinville. The process of growing in new business will be a delicate task: we will have to work with our current local businesses who have serviced our community for years and attract new business to fill voids, all while fostering free enterprise.

On the other hand if Morinville was to change to ‘city’ status, the municipality would be responsibilities for Secondary Highway 642 (which runs down the main street in Morinville). This is a big fact to consider and the new council would have to ask some important questions about these responsibilities. What cost would Morinville incur from this transition? What grants or funding from the Province for the highway would cease, and how will this affect the budget? At the end of the day it’s a community decision, there will need to be some open dialog and community consultation.

Nicole Boutestein, incumbent:

I think fiscal responsibility and finding a balance that keeps Morinville an affordable place to live will be one of many issues we will be faced with; however, this particular issue should be a priority. With the development of the new recreation facility we will need to tighten our spending. Council, along with administration, needs to find ways to trim the budget without reducing service levels and to immediately start seeking corporate and municipal sponsorships, along with donations for the new recreation facility (as this will reduce the impact on our budget, now and in the future). This is an amazing addition to our community but the entire financial responsibility can not fall upon Morinville residents only.

Sarah Hall, first time candidate:

I am not an oracle, but my most educated guess is that issues arising from our growth and all the new amenity development going on will be on most citizens’ minds. The people of Morinville are financially, intellectually, and emotionally invested in the new rec center, it is a huge undertaking that has been long awaited. Citizens want to see that community investment built right, on time, and as close to their vision as possible. I think the same goes for our two new schools currently in production. Ease of access, residential impacts, road work, safety, budgets, taxes, business sustainability and diversification are just a few things that come to mind when thinking on changes and challenges that may arise. With new infrastructure always comes concerns and handling those issues through community collaboration, educated decisions, and efficient action should be top priority for our new Council.

Rebecca Balanko, first time candidate:

I really had to give this one some thought. I honestly kept coming back to the safety issue, personal safety. I am not sure we’ve had more crime in our community, but with social media access we’ve become more aware of what’s happening and when. I am well aware there is a long wait and shortage of available RCMP, but I feel we can support some changes. I believe an awareness campaign to report suspicious activities, doing so in a timely matter, will create a sense of power and relationship building. It will also support the need for more peace officers and RCMP. We minimize or feel it’s too minor to make a complaint, but we need to ensure our citizens feel safe in our community.

When we read exchanges on Facebook, people often state something happened for whatever reason, but they don’t move forward on a statement. We need to put emphasis on reporting and possibly alerting our neighbours.

When we consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, safety is paramount and without it, we fail to feel a sense of belonging and growing in our community. I know the COP (citizens on patrol) has struggled to attract members, but feel we have a responsibility to be part of this solution.

The other area is how we make concerns or complaints to the Town, in general. I recently looked into a great app the Town of Blackfalds developed to report issues in town. For example, if your trash is missed or you’ve seen damage to a park or a pothole that needs attention. It is a great way to have our town interact with Town staff and feel they’ve done their due diligence. The app is not for emergencies or bylaw issues, but it could streamline the navigation.

Lawrence Giffin, second time candidate:

I feel that the single greatest issue facing the Town Morinville in the next four years is increasing our tax base. We are building a new recreation centre, we need a new police station, and we need a new fire station (or expand the existing one). Additionally, the present plan for the new rec centre does not include a pool. All of this needs to be paid for largely through taxation. Without increasing our tax base, our property taxes will go up dramatically. Increasing the tax base is an issue that will not be easily solved. This is also complicated by our limited utilities and space. Therefore, we need to annex more land. This has to be done soon as it will affect our future planning.

Neil McDougall, first time candidate:

We are approaching 10,000 residents. The Town needs to acquire the majority wish of residents through means at its discretion, and apply the wishes of the mass majority.

Stephen Dafoe, incumbent:

Running a town is not easy, so it is difficult to isolate one single issue. But as you’ve asked for one single issue, I’d suggest it is hiring the right person to mentor under and replace Andy Isbister, the Town’s CAO.

Andy has been the right man for the job and Council has really moved forward on several items since he has been at the helm.

With his retirement this coming spring, it is crucial for the next Council to get the right person for the Administrative role, particularly given our continued growth and the need to manage it, a multi-million recreation facility on the build, and all of the other high-priority items before us as a community.

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