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    Categories: By-Election

Candidates queried over new library branch, ice rink

Candidates answer questions at the St. Albert Chamber of Commerce forum.

Will the St. Albert council byelection candidates support a new library? How about an ice rink?

St. Albert interest groups decided to try and get the byelection candidates on record about the answers to those questions.

The St. Albert Public Library board and the St. Albert Minor Hockey Association board both surveyed those running in the race to fill the vacant city councillor seat.

Both groups have made their survey results public. The Arts and Heritage Foundation also did a survey but hadn’t told candidates their responses would be publicly released, said executive director Ann Ramsden.

The library board wanted to know about candidates’ support for a new community branch. All eight candidates responded to that survey and said yes, though their detailed answers varied from touting a “super library” to proposals to put a branch in the north or just reviewing the plans.

Library board chair Charmaine Brooks said the board conducted a similar survey during the general municipal election in 2013 that created a nice buzz and got voters talking.

“It was a nice follow up,” she said of the 2015 byelection edition. This time they asked for details on the candidates’ rationale.

“We found that in the responses there’s a lot of different approaches,” she said.

The library has been advocating for a new branch library instead of simply asking for a bigger building. Brooks said that’s because they want to keep the beloved St. Albert Place location.

“We love it just the way it is,” she said. But they want more space for the increased demands on their services – she said spaces in some programs, like their toddler-reading program, get filled “faster than Shania Twain tickets sell out.”

That means they go within minutes. Brooks said it’s hard to see the waiting lists grow.

A branch in the north part of St. Albert, which doesn’t have as easy access to St. Albert Place as other parts of the city, would be the library’s ideal solution.

St. Albert minor hockey wanted to know if candidates would make a solution to the ice shortage a priority – the organization spends more than half a million dollars each year on ice time outside of St. Albert. Not all of the candidates responded to this survey, but the ones who did – Dawne Fowler, Bob Russell, Mark Cassidy, Natalie Mikus, Tash Taylor, Edward Ramsden – were in favour of another sheet of ice.

Joe Becigneul, who is both secretary of the board and referee in chief for the St. Albert Minor Hockey Association, said they wanted to know where candidates stood as the organization faces continual pressures for the hundreds of hockey players who sign up.

Recently, St. Albert’s lost the chance to have a new seniors men’s team here because playoff ice time couldn’t be guaranteed.

Not all the candidates bothered to respond, he said, and some of the others are “already good politicians” based on their answers.

The responses ranged from the idea of putting another sheet of ice in at Servus Place to building in northern St. Albert. Some candidates pointed out there is a spot in the city’s long-term capital plan that calls for a new rink in just a few more years.

Becigneul said St. Albert isn’t the only community that has an ice shortage, but the city is known for its hockey programs and elite-level teams.

St. Albert Minor Hockey Association isn’t really looking for a new separate arena, he said. They’d be happy with adding more ice at Servus Place, a move he suggested could open the facility up to hosting national-level tournaments with four sheets of ice.

“You don’t have to build another Taj Mahal, we’re not looking for that,” he said.

Both the library and the hockey association have posted the candidates’ full responses on their websites.

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