Town forum screenshot

Ponoka town council candidates face off in forum

Diverse topics discussed, from downtown revitalization to seniors, to library funding

The Ponoka and District Chamber of Commerce hosted an election forum for town council candidates via Zoom on Oct. 5.

The evening started off with a speech from new mayor Kevin Ferguson, who was elected by acclamation.

The moderator for the event was Jason Leslie.

Candidates introduced themselves in the order of: Debby Babych, Cal David, Ted Dillon, Jackie Radke Haines, Sandra Lyon, Clayton Nelson, Carla Prediger and Teri Underhill. The ninth candidate Austin Lutz was not in attendance.

Q: What do you see as the greatest value or service that the Ponoka Jubilee Library provides, and how would you balance library funding with other obligations?

“The library is constantly having really great programs for all ages. I think the library should be something the town puts as a priority,” said Babych.

“The town needs to play an active role in supporting the library and also funding it,” said David, adding the library is currently accessed by all ages.

“The connectivity that a library brings to your community is insurpassable,” said Underhill, who served on the library board for 1.5 years.

Underhill added the town currently pays for the library’s lease and other funding and that no one currently on council would argue that the library should continue to be supported.

Q: How will you balance between the community’s needs versus wants, such as a sports complex?

Dillon says the town needs to lobby the government for more funding for priority projects.

“The recreation centre really represents the quality of life we are trying to provide for our citizens,” said Prediger.

Underhill responded that council’s work on a 10-year asset management plan has already laid the groundwork for the priority of projects.

“I believe the council of the day has done the work to balance those costs,” she said.

David says council will have to listen to experts and committees to determine needs.

Nelson commented that over the last four years, council has gotten a pulse on infrastructure needs.

Q: What would you do to address vandalism?

“Vandalism right now is at a high in our downtown core,” said Lyon, adding she understands as a business owner that this is hard for businesses.

“I think we need to give the RCMP more resources,” she said.

“This is a bigger problem than just vandalism. It goes beyond Ponoka,” said Dillon, adding that courts aren’t holding criminals accountable.

As an example, Dillon mentioned the case of Chantelle Firingstoney, who was allegedly murdered by Ryan Applegarth, who was out on bail at the time after being charged with another murder previously.

“I wonder if we could give some thought to more cameras around,” said David, adding council could possible offer a rebate to help businesses cover the cost of installing security cameras.

‘The justice system is broken,” said Underhill, noting she is willing to advocate for 24-hour a day policing.

Q: Is rehabilitating older infrastructure a higher priority than new developments and homes?

Nelson says we want to revitalize the downtown because it is century-old infrastructure, but new development is equally important.

Underhill stated that current council has been looking into offering rebates for downtown businesses who are updating their buildings.

Q: Do you think the downtown tourism corridor is healthy and successful?

“I think it’s important that we continue with the work that was started,” said Babych.

“There’s always room for improvement.”

Q: What is your stance on supporting youth in the community?

“I think we need to do more for them to keep them entertained and out of trouble,” said Underhill, adding herself and councillor Nelson have been working on a pump track.

Q: What are the key factors you would consider when making decisions that affect the town’s future?

Prediger says listening to your counterparts and respect is utmost.

Underhill answers she bases decisions on what citizens say they are looking for.

Lyon says it’s important to know that if you don’t have the information the be confident to make a decision, that it’s alright to postpone a decision until you do have the information.

Q: What more could be done to support our seniors?

Prediger says that question raises the issue of how ‘senior’ should be defined and says that town should focus on all citizens rather than one age group.

“We need to take the time to engage with our seniors,” said Radke Haines.

Radke Haines stated, in response to comments that the town supports Rimoka, that Rimoka residents should be able to enjoy Christmas dinner with real plates and cutlery rather than plastic.

Q: What is your priority issue?

Prediger answered improved communication on what council is working on is vital.

Underhill says planning for and facilitating growth is the most important.

Nelson stated investing in infrastructure and waste water systems that are in eminent need of upgrading and nearing capacity is of utmost importance.

Election 2021Town of Ponoka