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Village issues top concerns at Fruitvale forum

Village of Fruitvale: A summary of the all-candidates forum
The five candidates running to fill four council spots in Fruitvale faced questions from the audience in the fourth and final candidates forum before election day on Nov. 15. Questions raised ranged from environmental concerns to recreation to infrastructure and were posed to all candidates.

Fruitvale Memorial Hall echoed with questions about recreation, infrastructure and local business, posed to candidates vying for a seat around the councillor table.

In the final forum before election day, the Tuesday night event presented the Fruitvale candidates a chance to explain why they were the best option for the job of helping to run the village.

With no mayoral race it was just councillor candidates on the panel.

Forum moderator, Ron Clarke, gathered questions from the over 50 attendees, bunched similar questions together and gave each candidate an equal chance to answer.

First up, candidates were asked to voice their thoughts on recreation, the deal made with Trail and what they want to see in the future for Fruitvale.

Incumbent Bert Kniss claimed the answer to Fruitvale's recreation issue comes down to getting concrete numbers.

“The point that we keep coming back to is, what are the real numbers?” he said.

“Now information is available and I feel that a lot of the information that has been coming out to us has been very hard to believe. Our job as councillors is to be fiscally responsible. What are people being asked to pay for and what are we getting for that?”

Candidate Stephen Morissette had some concerns about the current reimbursement program and the impact it may have on families and residents with lower incomes.

“It is probably hardest on lower income people that can't afford to put out that extra money to go to the pool and then wait for reimbursement,” he said, adding that a new, but fair deal is needed to close the gap between money reimbursed and money spent by the council on recreation.

“To date, about $30,000 of reimbursements have gone out. The budget was $215,000 to pay Trail for the deal. We are a long ways from reaching that amount of money yet.”

Infrastructure was the next topic up for discussion, with Clarke asking candidates what their first priority would be when it came to fixing up Fruitvale.

Candidate Mark Schmutz says he wants to see some senior's housing in the area.

“A few years ago, we tried to get a low income senior's housing project and it hasn't happened, but I would like to see something like that start up again,” he said to the audience of voters.

James Ellison, councillor candidate, said he wanted to see roads at the top of the priority list.

“For me, I think we have to look at the pieces of infrastructure that we already have that are wearing out,” he said.

“There have been issues up on Davis Road, up where I live and it has just been an ongoing problem. We have to find the funding to fix that stuff down the road.”

How to help local businesses thrive was a concern raised by the audience, and the consensus on the panel was to leave them to do their work and provide support if they needed it.

“We have a good relationship with our local businesses,” said incumbent Tabitha Webber. “They are great about helping us out when we need things. We tried at one point to have a business association and it didn't really go over well. We have very good mom and pop organizations in our town and if they ask us for something, then we definitely try to do everything we can for them. We try and work with them and assist them in anything they may need.”

The environment, programming for youth/middle aged residents of Fruitvale, the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation and amalgamation with surrounding communities were the other issues and concerns brought up by audience members throughout the evening.

Hosted by the Trail and District Chamber of Commerce, the Fruitvale forum was the fourth, after Montrose, Trail and Warfield, and the last one before voters take to the polls.

Voting day for all municipalities holding elections is Nov. 15.