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Tomorrow’s top problem? Money, say council candidates

Morinville council candidates look 10 years out

Morinville’s town councillors may serve for four years, but their decisions leave marks on their community for decades to come. And with long-range challenges such as climate change and municipal sustainability on the table, whomever wins a seat on council this fall will face some puzzling problems.

The Gazette asked Morinville’s 11 council candidates via email what is the most important long-term issue facing the town, and what they would do if elected to address it.

White, Vollick, St. Denis

Virtually all of them, including Ray White, said that issue is financial sustainability.

“I would like to see the new council get spending under control so we can hold the line on tax increases,” said White, adding that doing so without service cuts would be difficult, but not impossible.

White also seeks to draw and retain more businesses to create jobs and grow the town’s commercial tax base.

Erin Vollick said the town needs to support, attract, and incentivize businesses to come, stay, and grow in Morinville if it is to see future success. This could mean lowering the cost of home-based business licences or having companies adopt green spaces in exchange for advertising space.

Maurice St. Denis said Morinville has to position itself as a viable destination for small- and medium-sized businesses through tax incentives and programs that promot the retention and expansion of its current companies, especially those along 100th Street and 100th Avenue He would create a municipal dashboard so investors could see various social and economic indicators at a glance, and cultivate entrepreneurship to encourage residents to go into business in town.

Richardson, Gatza, Dafoe

Scott Richardson said his post-pandemic focus would not be much different from what it was in the last four years.

“Morinville has a huge deficit and we need to fix that,” he said, which means less spending and more organizational efficiencies, regional collaboration, and sustainable growth.

Richardson said the town would have to adapt to new ways of doing business now that more people have taken to shopping and working from home. He also hopes to maximize use of the Morinville Leisure Centre and Community Cultural Centre to reduce tax burdens those facilities have placed on residents.

Wayne Gatza said the town’s top issue is a mix of finances, transparency, and accountability.

“We need to set a clear focus and vision on what the needs and wants of the community are with input from our residents,” he said, and become more frugal with tax dollars.

Stephen Dafoe said getting the town’s financial house in order is the most critical long-term issue facing Morinville for the next two terms.

“Operational deficits cannot continue year over year, funded by ever-increasing taxes, higher fees, and then balanced off with surpluses from the utility reserves,” he said.

Dafoe said Morinville should do a service-level review and seek regional co-operation to reduce costs.

Boutestein, Balanko, Anheliger

Nicole Boutestein’s focus is also on finances. She said council has to work with its neighbours and lobby the province for additional funding to ensure the town stays safe and healthy.

“I cannot stress enough that we need a clear and concise priority-based budgeting process that focuses on needs versus wants and where we can be more efficient,” she said.

Rebecca Balanko said the town’s post-pandemic focus is financial, and that the town needs to tighten expenses, scrutinize new position, and look at budget patterns.

“Our debt was high before the pandemic and the lost revenue [caused by it] has hurt our bottom line,” she said.

Jenn Anheliger said ensuring Morinville is a prosperous town where families and businesses can thrive is the town’s top priority. She said she would do this by diversifying revenue streams, pursuing savings through regional collaboration, and standardizing the town’s approach to community engagement.

“With a passion for community and an articulate town-building approach, we can empower community and advance growth together,” Anheliger said.

Otway, Hall: odd ones out

Alan Otway is the sole candidate not to name the economy as the town’s top long-term issue. Instead, he named four issues.

“Water capacity, quality, and access is critical to the future of residents of Morinville,” he said, noting the town’s water shortages last summer, and that he would prioritize water access, if elected.

Otway said the town should also review its building-code standards to ensure its gas and power lines are future-ready, and upgrade its roads to prevent floods and give fire trucks enough room to turn around. He also said he would “shamelessly steal” ideas from top-performing communities to improve the town’s tax balance.

Sarah Hall did not submit a reply by deadline.

Morinville residents will hear more from the candidates at an all-candidates debate held Oct. 12 after this story is published. Check for a summary of the event.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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