MELFORT — Candidates for Melfort council safely gathered together at the Kerry Vickar Centre to discuss the burning questions during the Melfort Trade Alliance’s all-candidates forum.
Candidates were given an allotted time to read prepared opening statements and then were asked questions that were sent in from residents of Melfort. Candidates were given the questions beforehand to research and prepare their answers.
The event was closed to the public but was available on a live feed via YouTube. To view the forum in its entirety, visit https://bit.ly/3mdIZRg.
Here are some highlights from the candidates:
Question 1: With the current COVID-19 situation, what are your plans for property taxes in our city? Other places are offering a two-year freeze on increases? Can we expect the same here?
Wade Rogers: “It's time for the council to start thinking a little bit differently. The reality is that people are going to be going through tough times in the next couple of years... It's time I think for the council to say we're going to spend within our means, we're going to find cuts where we can find them.”
Question 2: Our property taxes are already high compared to communities our size. What are your plans for increases in the near future?
Glenn George: “We've been working really hard to keep our tax increases down and we've come from being the second-highest taxed city in Saskatchewan to the seventh highest. So we're working on that every year. I think we will continue to work on that and I think we will continue to come down.”
Question 3: Considering there is such a large water loss problem in the city, wouldn't it be less expensive in the long run to get the infrastructure fixed and pay for it over time, instead of the current method of patching and small replay repairs? Is this what is contributing to our high water costs?
Rick Lang: “The approximate infrastructure deficit with respect to water lines, etc, is about $25 million dollars currently, and we don't even have access to $25 million. So that's really not an option. It also costs about $300,000 a year to do or about $300,000 to replace one city block, but water mines in its entirety.”
Question 4: What is your plan to help address the theft and vandalism problems that we’re experiencing in Melfort?
Tim Hoenmans: “If we need to sit down with the RCMP detachment [and] ask them to focus on prioritizing the enforcement of a curfew and or loitering bylaw, that may be a little tough love will get things back to good. COVID has made it difficult with public health restrictions to offer programming for our youth to keep busy. But that would be the ideal remedy.”
Question 5: What is your plan for the public library? It's a city-owned facility but doesn't seem to be included in any future planning discussions.
April Phillips: “We’re doing a study right now to see the life expectancy of [the library] building. We need to address it in this budget. We know that it's not going to happen overnight, whether it's a five-year plan or a 10-year plan. No matter what we have to start now.”
Question 6: How will you address the fact that senior management positions for the city do not require the candidates to live within Melfort?
Cam Lee: “It stands to reason the person or persons spend a lot of time and wage at local businesses. So even if they weren't paying property taxes necessarily in Melfort, they're still contributing to the city financially, as well with their hard work at city hall.”
Question 7: Are there many RMs that contribute to the operation of the airport? If so, how much do they contribute? If not, why? They all benefit from services such as spray planes and air ambulances.
Brian Enge: “I feel it would be fair to have some RMs’ input and possible funding as their residents have a need for it as well. Working together with our reeves and councillors would be a right way to start.”
Question 8: What are your plans for park maintenance and the development of future parks throughout our city?
Don J. Signori: “I'm proud of Melfort’s parks and I think the city's doing a fantastic job maintaining them...Other service clubs have done a fantastic job, Kinsmen are doing another one in Melfort Heights and I'm just really proud of what's going on.”
Question 9: With the new skate park open there's an increase in traffic or Crawford Avenue East, could you offer more safety options to that area?
Trent Mitchell: “We were providing written recommendations [through a traffic study] and we took those into account...I think there's always going to be safety concerns, and we appreciate the community bringing those forward to us so that we can address them and at least investigate them.”
Question 10: How do you plan to have city projects better planned and executed to save time and money? Main Street was closed for too long to be reasonable in 2019 and 2020.
Doug Terry: “We put indications in those tenders is what we're expecting. And we don't go out intentionally to disrupt residents. And usually, we try and have a plan in those tenders to minimize disruption. The situation that occurred this past year on Main Street was unfortunate but that particular contractor ran into some issues.”
Question 11: How do you plan to support local businesses with city required work and supplies? Are jobs offered for tender to all local businesses?
Tara Muntain: “It's important that we understand that it's not one person that is picking and choosing what things are happening. The city puts these tenders out, you need to apply for it, you need to make sure that you are putting the most competitive bid in to get that job.”
Question 12: What will you do to entice businesses to stay within our city or attract new business to come to Melfort?
Darryl Benson: “I think a study should be done on what businesses might be a good fit in Melfort. Something we don't have now. Then [we] try and entice the somebody, a group or whatever, to start the businesses that we don't have.”