Election 2014: Economics, business top issues at forum

Four seats at the Midway council table are up for grabs in the Nov. 15 election - with seat candidates vying for the four-year term.

Chamber Executive Director James Wilson looks on as Michael Strukoff moderates the Midway Council all candidates forum.

The all candidates meeting for the four seats at the Village of Midway council table was a fairly low-key affair with about 25 citizens turning out.

When asked what topped their wish list, economic development and finding ways to draw businesses, tourists and new residents to the community trumped all other issues for all of the candidates.

Incumbent Marguerite Rotvold said she would like to see the village acquire the land that is for sale on the west side of the arena.

Local business owner Reed Hedlund asked incumbent councillor Gary Schierbeck how he would go about economic development. Hedlund asked, “What do you envision seeing for development? What is that vision?”

Schierbeck mentioned two priorities: “Convincing people that they want to move here and we have to get land. We are still trying to get the airport out of the ALR.

“It would be great if we could get a major business coming in that would employ several people. But along with that, housing is going to be a problem. If we can convince people to move into the old log yard, the village has land to rent. Talk to others every chance we get.”

Incumbent councillor Richard Dunsdon stressed the importance of social infrastructure. “It is not some airy-fairy thing,” he said, pointing out the dentist, the drug store and the many other amenities attract people into the community.

Former councillor Martin Fromme said he would like to see an aggressive marketing campaign to promote the village. “Every piece of land available should be on our website and we should make a plan for unused ALR land.”

Resident Rebecca Relkov suggested that more rental housing is needed to keep young families from moving to Greenwood and Grand Forks.

Candidate Earl Lehmann said when he moved to the village there were few houses for sale. “Today there are 26 homes for sale. A decrease in population because it is too expensive. We have to open up and allow people to come in here. Show them what we have—that takes a while.”

Fromme said council should look at allowing basement suites as a form of low rental housing and plan housing into development of the airport property.

Doug McMynn said the failure to put a larger kitchen in the arena during the upgrade was an opportunity lost; that it would be an asset that would draw groups like the Good Sams and bluegrass to the village.

He asked, “Are you prepared to look at getting a kitchen at the arena as soon as possible?”

Rotvold said she had supported the idea but it didn’t fit the budget. “On the advice of the administrator we didn’t put it in. Maybe we should have pushed the issue and covered the extra cost of putting the kitchen in.” She said that Riverfront Park expansion would be a higher priority for her though.

Schierbeck also said he’d argued for the kitchen in the area of the old dressing rooms. “Hopefully soon,” he said.

McMynn then asked if the candidates would be willing to take another look at development of a racetrack as a form of economic development and tourism.

Incumbent Darrin Metcalf said he would consider it. “It does bring in money— brings people. It is tourism. Anything that brings people in is huge.” Schierbeck agreed, saying he “would love to see a racetrack in Midway.”

Rotvold said she would consider it, “if we could find adequate and appropriate land that we can locate it on. I would prefer to see it on rural properties outside the village across the river, not at the end of the airport.”

Lehmann spoke against putting a racetrack in the village saying the noise would bounce. “It would be overwhelming. Outside of town, yes—in town, no.”

Fromme said that it is worth looking at, but that if it turns out that noise is a problem then there would need to be a Plan B.

Jolly McMynn urged council to start really promoting these things. “Council as a whole has to start thinking of festivals and things like that,” she said.

Candidates for Area E Rural Director were originally scheduled to debate on the same evening, but other forums have been booked: Monday, Nov. 3 at the Rock Creek fairgrounds at 7 p.m. and Thursday, Nov. 6 in the Beaverdell Community Hall at 6:30 p.m.

Vicki Gee was the only Area E candidate who attended the Midway meeting and she was given a few moments to address the crowd. “Issues don’t stop at municipal boundaries,” Gee said.

She quoted the recently released Vital Signs report as saying the poverty rate in West Boundary is virtually double the national average.