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Senior-gym and history, topics at Fruitvale forum

Two candidates are running for Mayor of Fruitvale alongside eight councillor hopefuls
Advance voting opens next Wednesday (Oct. 10) from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. in the Fruitvale municipal office. Sheri Regnier photo

A good showing turned up to listen to Fruitvale’s two mayoral candidates and eight councillor hopefuls speak and answer questions at the Friday night forum.

Running for the top seat are current Mayor Patricia Cecchini and sitting councillor Steve Morissette. Incumbent councillors James Ellison, Bert Kniss and Tabatha Webber are running against newcomers Lila Cresswell, Carrie Farnum, Vickie Fitzpatrick, Lindsay Kenny, and Bill Wenman.

After each gave a two-minute introduction into their campaign messages, it was off to the races with pre-submitted questions, which were followed by queries from the floor of 100-or-so guests.

While the opening comments were rather revealing of individual platforms, such as the purchase and remediation of the former Beaver Valley Middle School, the inquiries were quite generic.

Moderator Jan Morton kept responses flowing and directed the questions to all candidates, not one in particular, beginning with a question on “how will you embrace technology?”

Some admitted they needed help while others are obviously tech-savvy, so it was the next question regarding the seniors-only gym that drew more insight.

“It is currently just open to seniors in Fruitvale, but there are more than senior taxpayers in the village, and everyone needs a healthy lifestyle,” Morton began. “Can this space, sometime in the near future, be open to all of our community? And if there are issues with this, can we designate certain times for different age groups that can use it?”

All but one agreed the gym should be more inclusive. However, the majority also pointed out that before anything could happen, the seniors would have to be involved in the discussion and the equipment would first have to be assessed.

“This same question came to council just recently,” replied mayoral candidate Steve Morissette. “I believe that what we have to do, is to have that kind of decision-making with, at least, the seniors themselves that are using the gym,” he said. “They have to be part of this conversation, it’s not something that council, by itself, should be making a decision about.”

Patricia Cecchini, Fruitvale’s current mayor who is seeking re-election, had the sole opposing view.

“This is something that is near and dear to my heart,” she said. “And I’ll be the one that disagrees with the count here … I’ve been involved in the creating of this gym from the very beginning … from the grant we were able to get the equipment that we did, and on top of that, I was the one that solicited funds for everything else,” Cecchini said, mentioning the mirrors, TV and other miscellaneous. “The equipment will definitely not hold up, it was not meant for that. I will stand on that, I’ve seen the gym change many senior’s lives.”

After that came a concern about preserving the village’s history . The question came up in light of Brazil’s national museum going up in flames on Sept. 2, and because of a local occurrence whereby an historic Fruitvale building, the old Waneta customs house, was recently bulldozed.

“This has been a discussion we’ve had over the years, about having some sort of museum,” Cecchini replied. ” But it’s just not been feasible for Fruitvale to do that … In terms of the Waneta house, we looked at many different ways … to see if we could move it and it just was not a possibility or feasible for us to do it so unfortunately it had to come down. We had no place to put it and it was too expensive for us to move.”

All incumbents echoed Cecchini’s reply, and said preserving the house was not financially do-able.

Mayoral candidate Steve Morissette said while there’s no home for the village’s historical artifacts at the moment, “it’s something we have to deal with but it’s one of those things on a list of priorities (that) will hopefully come to a conclusion.”

As far as the Waneta house, Morissette said he was sad to see it go.

“Bert (Coun. Bert Kniss) and I worked on that quite a bit and I was really sad to see the building crushed,” he continued. “It had an intriguing story, but the bottom line was the timeline. We could get money from Columbia Basin Trust and BC Heritage but the owner wanted it gone.” Morissette said.

“He wanted to build, and we didn’t have the time to put together grants and get it moved. So sadly, it was crushed.”

Advance voting will run in the Fruitvale municipal office on Oct. 10 and Oct. 17 from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. General voting day is on Saturday Oct. 20 from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. in the Fruitvale Memorial Hall.

Sheri Regnier

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