County of St. Paul reeve candidates share plans, goals
Tuesday, Oct 01, 2013 11:45 am
The position of County of St. Paul Reeve is looking to be a contested one as three candidates have thrown their names into the running, each with their own priorities and directions in which they want to take the county.
Incumbent Steve Upham has decided to seek election for a second term, in the interests of keeping his position, he says, “The position (of reeve) is a big commitment, and I've enjoyed the work and challenges over last three years.”
Upham believes the two most important challenges that face the county are completing all necessary road projects, and continuing to secure funding for the Water for Life project.
“Over the last few years, we’ve had issues with the weather and retaining workers, because of competition with the oil patch,” says Upham. “We have projects going on that I want to see completed.”
Upham explains that there are ongoing discussions with the provincial government on the funding for Water for Life.
“The government has recently reduced funding for the programs in the last budget, and deferred it two to three years down the road. There’s no money beyond the original commitment, and if the programs go over budget there may not be funding for that. I plan to continue to pursue funding committed by the government for water projects. I think doing so is very important.”
Upham says activity in the oil sector and its continual growth and increasing requirements for workers have proven challenging to the county and its need for personnel to do work.
When asked what he thought of reorganizing or restructuring municipalities, Upham says that such a course of action “has possibilities, but it wouldn’t be good for two independent communities at this point.”
He adds, “Lac La Biche was almost a test-case, when it occurred there. And it definitely had its growing pains in that case. It had some trouble along the line developing, after amalgamation.”
Of his campaign, Upham says, “I’ve been campaigning for a couple of days, and things look pretty good. I’m looking forward to meeting voters, and finding out their opinions and viewpoints.”
Former PC MLA for the region and reeve for the County of St. Paul from October of 1995 to October of 1998, Ray Danyluk believes that what the County of St. Paul needs is “a strong advocate to the provincial government.”
Danyluk considers the under-review legislation affecting revenues to municipalities to be important, and wants to make sure the County of St. Paul continues to get the funding it requires.
“Revenue streams for rural municipalities are vulnerable and need to be protected,” he says.
Another issue with the county Danyluk feels needs attention is the increasing amount of debt.
“Certainly some benefits have been appreciated by projects undertaken, but the debt needs addressing.” Danyluk adds, “The county needs to look at ways to maximize grant funding in order to minimize increases in taxes.”
When asked why he is running for reeve Danyluk says, “Advancing rural communities has been something I have worked hard for in many areas. I have leadership experience and established relationships that can move our county forward. I have great pride in this community and believe I have the skills desired in a reeve.”
A topic being discussed in many rural municipalities lately is regionalization. Danyluk believes that restructuring or reorganizing of municipalities, in some cases, can be a useful and productive move. An example he uses of such an approach being useful is in terms of services.
“Cooperation and shared services in some departments makes sense,” he says. “The regional fire chief is a good example. It avoids the duplication of services, and equipment is beneficial to the community.”
Danyluk adds, “Exploration in sharing services and specialized equipment is not a bad idea. The door should always be open to examining ways to improve efficiency and minimize expenses.”
Ben Dyck is the third candidate up for position of reeve. He believes the biggest issues facing the County of St. Paul are its debt and the conditions of its roads.
“There’s no good road maintenance going on out here,” says Dyck, adding, “We’re not doing good basic road maintenance. They need to get more gravel out there, and spend more time on the roads. It's really obvious on the far north end of county, with very little gravelling, and not enough snow removal.”
Dyck explains that although the County of Two Hills has a smaller budget than St. Paul, it has “graders on the road every week, all the time. The roads don't get pounded out there as much, and hold up way better.”
Dyck would also like to see pressure put on the province for improvements to Hwy 881.
“I don’t understand why the 881 and is given such little attention. We have major traffic on the 881, with narrow shoulders, and they don’t do anything about it – it’s like they don’t understand what people are using to drive.”
Dyck has a shop on Hwy 881 South, “and there’s a major amount of traffic on the highway every day. You’ve got traffic similar to primary highways on it. It’s something you need to look at. The world changed from 20 years ago and loads got bigger.”
Dyck also wants to see the return of the roadside grant paid to landowners for cleaning up along the road, where it goes through their property, guaranteeing landowners a certain amount of money per half-mile cleaned up.
One of Dyck’s main objectives is, “to get counties back to basics. The county was established to set up road networks out in the county and we've gotten sidetracked into a lot of stuff.”
Dyck says he aspires to be a “real down-to-earth no-bull kind of guy . . . I have a lot of respect for someone who tells me straight how things are, whether I like it or not.”
On the subject of regionalization, Dyck says, “I would like to see how it worked before I draw an opinion. Off the cuff, to me, it would seem like the town would end up sucking up some of the county’s resources. I haven’t heard much complaining in Lac La Biche, and am curious to see how it would work.”