Election 2014: Few questions for candidates at Greenwood forum

McArthur Centre in Greenwood was filled with residents wanting to get a look at the candidates in this month's civic election.

Jerry Gagnon asked council for assurances that the water needs of Greenwood and Anaconda residents come before those of a bottling plant

The Greenwood all candidates meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 29 attracted 110 people but only six residents stood to direct questions to the five council candidates and three mayoralty candidates.

During her opening statement, Councillor Darla Ashton pledged to work for safety of citizens and visitors in pursuing marked crosswalks in the downtown corridor and rebuilding a community gathering place in Lions Park.

First-time candidate Christopher Yates kept his opening statement brief, simply introducing himself and saying he is looking forward to meeting the voters both at the meeting and over the next weeks of the campaign.

Incumbent mayor Nipper Kettle took credit for locating doctors who will continue to serve the public at the Greenwood clinic.

Barry Noll praised community pride and teamwork.

First-time candidate for mayor Ed Smith pledged to work under a banner: “Business with leadership– working for a better community; with decisions based on facts, but without “lone rangers.”

Nola Tutti, running in her first campaign for a seat on council, reviewed her list of qualifications and said she’d put her name forward to force a debate and election, explaining that, had she not run, council would have been acclaimed.

When the floor was opened to the public, Jerry Gagnon asked for assurance from council that should a water bottling plant be opened in the city that residents of Greenwood and Anaconda would have their needs met first.

Kettle responded that the aquifer, “which is about 60 or 80 feet under the city has seven trillion cubic litres refillable— so I don’t think we are going to run out of water. We have plenty of water. Whatever we do it will be Greenwood first for water.”

When questioned about the tax rates levied to Greenwood property owners only Ashton argued for cuts – citing labour costs as one area that should be looked at.

Others candidates said that the taxes provide for services and that, with no industrial base to help share the burden, there is little opportunity to cut taxes.

Yates said he would like to see a water bottling plant opened to help bring in revenue.

Lang said that only once in her years on council did they opt for a zero per cent increase in taxes, and they had to follow up the next year with an eight-per-cent increase to catch up.

Resident Byron Goch asked present council if the proposed bottling plant would create opportunities and employment for the residents. Kettle answered, “We are in negotiations with a company to invest in a water bottling plant for the city of Greenwood that will provide jobs –  much needed money for the Greenwood economy that we could fix our roads and do things with.”

The question of how to increase the role of tourism in the local economy was raised by Fred Marshall and directed to Noll. Noll suggested infrastructure for hiking, biking and ATVs. “It is something we can work on to help drive our community and make it a destination location,” Noll said.

When resident Ron Sather asked why the city doesn’t have a public campground Ashton rose to say she had drawn up a rough plan when she was first elected. “Grant opportunities don’t come along a lot. But if anything comes along that I could sink my teeth into that is something I would love to see.”

A written question asked how to improve communication between council and residents. Currently the city publishes a quarterly newsletter in the paper and hosts a website, though the meeting was told that training for office staff to keep the website updated is needed. Smith pledged to consult with citizens during the campaign to find out how they would like to communicate with city hall.

Tutti offered that people could attend council meetings and the city might host more town hall meetings. Yates suggested that a list of those wishing to be kept informed by telephone could be divided among council and copies of minutes and newsletter should be available at City Hall.

Goch asked, given that municipalities are not allowed to go into deficit where the city plans to find the estimated $10,000 that the legal account is now over budget.

Lang said it would come from something that is of lower priority. Ashton said, “There is definitely some room for efficiencies here. I would be a little concerned with our labour expenses. I know our labour is about 50 per cent of our entire budget.”

Resident Edward Robinson asked for an accounting of the costs for the 2012 Greenwood Gold bottled water project that was done after the city won first place in the Berkeley Springs water tasting competition. No one on current council was able to provide the numbers.

Kettle said it had been a council decision to try and entice a company and build something in Greenwood. He said the city spent between $22,000 and $25,000. “We did the community very proud.”

Robinson replied that he too was proud of the water – but, “I just want an accounting.”

“I am sure if we went through the records we would find an accounting,” said Noll. He said the city has changed to a new accounting system that should be able to provide the figures needed.

Resident Lynn Thomas rose to make sure the candidates were aware that the community would like the sewer treatment plant repaired. Kettle replied, “I am committed to getting a grant that will replace the current system and two lift stations. Our infrastructure is 60 years old or more.”

Closing statements were followed by a mingling of voters and candidates. Voting takes place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at City Hall on Nov. 15.