Mayor Bonnett looks to turn Ponoka around to growth

A review of 2013 is relatively tough for Ponoka’s newest mayor.

Mayor Rick Bonnett

Mayor Rick Bonnett

A review of 2013 is relatively tough for Ponoka’s newest mayor.

After just two months in the captain’s chair, Mayor Rick Bonnett took a look at what he and the new council have accomplished in such a short time. One thing is for certain despite such a short stint in mayor’s chair, said Bonnet: each councillor brings vigour and excitement to the table.

“That’s one of the things I like about the council, they’re all gung-ho,” he said.

Although councillors do not always agree on decisions, Bonnett feels they all have a goal to share their knowledge and see Ponoka grow. “We have a huge job ahead of us in one year to basically turn the ship.”

The new council has been left to deal with an aging infrastructure, with the need of a new civic centre, library, North Bridge and a strong desire from residents for a multiplex. Town staff are facing challenges as well.

“We are in some turmoil with morale…I’m not going to sugar-coat it,” said Bonnett.

Despite these issues, council wants to challenge the status quo and create a healthy work environment for employees and follow through with election promises. Improving on recreation will take some time, however, and how that is done is also up for debate.

“The mitigating factor is we all are thinking in the same direction of growth. It’s going to have to come through some recreation and some business attraction and it means doing some things differently than we have in the past,” explained Bonnett.

Councillors are persistent enough to follow-up administration with questions and Bonnett encourages them to voice their concerns. He values their input and suggests continued communication will help ensure residents know what is being planned.

The biggest challenge this council has faced so far is dealing with snow removal. Two weeks after being elected, central Alberta encountered heavy snowfall, which has been almost continuous in recent weeks, said Bonnett. He credits town staff for doing their best to work through this challenge while working on maintaining service levels.

Another challenge for the new council is developing a recreational multiplex. Bonnett does not feel town council, Ponoka County council and a few residents should be the only groups working on it. Bonnett suggests the only way to get this plan to work is to have strong community buy-in.

“It’s got to be the whole community that jumps up and says, ‘We believe in that direction and let’s go,’” he said.

Bonnett wants people to have more say in town planning. He suggests giving town and county residents a chance to provide feedback on the town’s budget in late spring or early summer. This is an ideal time to give administration a chance to consider recommendations.

Ponoka’s median age is 41 but there is also a strong number of seniors; 19 per cent of the population are 65 years and older. Bonnett feels everyone should have a voice in the future of community.