Taxes and water raised at candidates forum
By: Tammy Rollie
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013 09:23 am
Water, taxes and roads were among the concerns raised by residents who met with candidates running for Black Diamond town council at a forum last week.
The seven candidates vying for six seats on council were approached by almost 20 residents at a round table-style public forum in Oilfields High School on Oct. 10.
Among the residents who attended was Myrna OBorneO’Borne? , who said she is concerned about increasing taxes and water costs.
“I thought we better come and ask questions about that,” OBorne said of herself and her husband. “If the cost of the water goes up and taxes go up too much we can’t stay in town.”
Despite her own financial struggles as a senior, OBorne said she’s aware councillors have struggles of their own.
“The Town struggles, too, for money,” she said. “They don’t want to raise the taxes. They are doing the best they can.”
OBorne said roads have also been a concern.
“I’ve always been upset about the roads because of the dust,” she said. “But I need to be realistic.”
When asked about the high taxes residents are paying, incumbent Michel Jackson, who served three terms on council, said the best solution is increasing the tax base by increasing tourism in the community. He said more people visiting the town will result in more businesses opening in the community, which takes pressure off the residential tax base and attracts new homeowners.
Jackson said efforts should be made to make it easier and faster for merchants to establish a business in town, rather than having to jump through so many hoops.
Incumbent Mike Ross also talked to a concerned resident about the condition of the streets in Black Diamond, some of which are not yet paved.
“We are trying to plan one street every year or two,” he said of paving and resurfacing. “It’s so expensive.”
Ross said the project also involves replacing old water and sewer pipes under the roads and installing new LED street lights.
When asked if residents will see an increase in their water bills, Ross said it’s inevitable.
“Sorry, things are going to go up,” he said. “We need money for cost recovery for infrastructure. It’s not going to be subsidized anymore.”
As for the possibility of Black Diamond amalgamating with Turner Valley, Ross said it almost a certainty as well.
“It’s going to happen at some point,” he said. “We have to start planning for it.”
Incumbent Judy Thomson, who served two terms on council, had a different view on amalgamation when talking with residents.
“The A word is out,” she said, referring to amalgamation.
Thomson said although she doesn’t see amalgamation happening, what will happen is more partnerships between Black Diamond and Turner Valley. Thomson said partnerships with other communities is beneficial for Black Diamond, giving the Quad Water Regional Project (QWRP) between Black Diamond, Turner Valley, the MD of Foothills and Longview as an example.
This came in particularly handy when Black Diamond lost its water treatment plant in the June flood and is relying on Turner Valley for its water.
“If we (built) our own plant they (the Province) weren’t even giving us a dollar,” she said. “That’s why we started the QWRP. They would have covered 78 per cent. Since the flood they are now covering 100 per cent.”
Incumbent Diane Osberg agreed partnerships between Black Diamond and other municipalities are valuable.
“We are on the edge of a lot of great things happening,” she said. “There are many examples of partnerships we’ve got already. We need to work on more partnerships with Turner Valley, the MD, Longview and Okotoks.”
Jim Deacon, who not only served on council, but was also mayor in the past, also spoke about the importance of partnerships.
“I’d like to see partnerships with High River and Okotoks,” he said. “We could pool to buy equipment.”
Another idea Deacon suggested was creating a think tank of residents who meet with council three or four times a year to discuss ideas for changes and improvements in the community.
“If we could tap into some of the people we have in town we could possibly hash out a few problems,” he said.
Deacon said there are also inconsistencies with the municipal development plan and land use bylaws that need to be worked on.
“The land use bylaw was created in 1992 a long time ago and everything was changed,” he said.
The polls will be open for residents to vote on Oct. 21 at C. Ian McLaren School from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.