Recreation, amalgamation and infrastructure issues were hot topics at Tuesday night’s Montrose Candidates Forum.
Over 50 people gathered at Montrose Community Hall to quiz mayoral and councillor candidates on those topics, and more, ahead of voting day next month.
Attendees were asked to write down their questions for the candidates before the forum, and moderator Ron Clarke consolidated similar questions, leaving nine queries to be posed to the panel.
Mayoral candidates Joe Danchuk and Griff Welsh addressed the audience and Royce Schmidt, Rory Steep, Brittanie Irwin, Mark Reid, Lynda Bouthillier, Mary Gay and Cindy Cook, candidates for the four councillor seats, shared their thoughts and ideas, hoping to sway a couple of voters their way.
Candidates were each given equal time to answer every question.
One of the questions that garnered the most audience reaction was regarding a recreation deal with the City of Trail.
All candidates agreed that a deal between Montrose and Trail needs to be reached, but mayor and councillor candidates want it to be fair for everyone involved.
Danchuk, incumbent Montrose mayor, believes the recreation issue will soon be a thing of the past.
“I think, after this election, the recreation problem will go away by the new year,” he said, adding that the Beaver Valley Recreation Committee is constantly working towards a new deal for the area.
Mayoral candidate, Welsh, says reaching a deal regarding recreation and use of facilities is all about numbers.
“Tell us what (Trail) is spending (on recreation),” he said. “My solution is accountability. We have asked and asked and asked until we are worn out. Hopefully the new council in Trail will change their ways.
“We asked Trail recreation for how many people were using the leisure centre and we were told we couldn’t get those numbers.”
Councillor candidate, Reid, has experienced the issue first hand while playing hockey and having to pay $220 for a sports pass to use the Cominco Arena.
“I just find it weird how Trail can come up to Fruitvale and they are not paying for the use of our rink as well,” he said.
Other candidates agreed with him, and even went a bit further. Steep says that all sides need to come together to create a fair deal. Irwin it seems to her there is a hidden agenda on Trail’s part when it comes to a recreation deal. Schmidt says that a deal will only work if Trail council stops having in camera session regarding the issue, and invites community discussion. Gay wants to look to community opinions when discussing recreation.
Next up, all candidates were asked their opinion on regional governance, and the discussion inevitably turned to potential amalgamation.
The panel was overwhelmingly against the idea of amalgamation and regional governance, mentioning that it would be easy for Montrose to get swept under the rug when bigger centres could be thrown into the mix.
Danchuk says in cases of amalgamation, taxes will only go up, without necessarily receiving more.
“We did an amalgamation study with Fruitvale, Area A and ourselves and what happened was, when you take everybody in, you have to take on roads and different things like that,” he said. “Right away, taxes are going to go up. We are a long way from regional government.”
Welsh says, that while he is against regional government, it is not the same at the Regional District of the Kootenay Boundary.
“My personal position is against regional government,” he said “I am not against a regional district, but for example, to have Trail amalgamate with us (wouldn’t be in our best interest).”
Infrastructure upgrades are something that the current council and mayor have been working on for a couple of years now, and was a common vein through candidates’ opening statements. Danchuk, Gay and Bouthillier brought up the issue and seemed to agree that infrastructure, water and sewer was a hot button issue in the coming years, but is addressed in the current five-year sustainability plan put together by the current council.
What to do with the old Montrose school building, although currently privately owned, was on the audiences’ minds on Tuesday night. The overall consensus was that if the village obtained the building, candidates would want to see a senior’s residence in its place. Currently, the village doesn’t have the option to buy the property, and it remains undeveloped.
Cook took a realistic view of the situation, mentioning that developing the school wasn’t an option right now, but there was other land in Montrose already zoned for multi-family dwellings.
“If you know any developers looking for that, or if you are looking, let us know,” she said.
Advanced polls for local elections are open on Nov. 5 and 12 with election day on Nov. 15.