By Rob Vogt, Local Press Writer
More than 300 people gathered at the Claresholm Community Centre last week to hear what nine of the 10 candidates for town council and three candidates for mayor had to say.
The forum, held Oct. 4, started with opening statements then proceeded to a question and answer session.
The nine candidates for council that attended were Kieth Carlson; Jamie Cutler; Donna Courage; Shelley Ford; Alexander Meic; Gaven Moore; Brad Schlossberger; Lise Schulze; and Craig Zimmer.
The candidates for mayor are Betty Fieguth; Doug MacPherson; and Mike McAlonan.
The first question was to incumbent councillors who were asked why are they not already trying to attract business as they have promised to do?
Cutler said a lot of ground work had to be done, including the formation of an Economic Development Committee (EDC), who has done “amazing” work.
“Now is the time you will see it come to fruition,” he said.
“I’d like to apologize,” said Fieguth, noting it took time to start but work has been going the past 18 months.
There is a marketing plan and a website people want to come to.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” she said.
McAlonan agreed the town was slow getting started but has picked up.
“I would really like to see that momentum continue,” he said.
“There’s stuff happening,” he said, pointing to the marketing plan.
“Don’t think we haven’t done anything.”
The next question was where do they see Claresholm in four years?
Schlossberger said he asked a friend what a realistic goal would be for development. His friend replied one new industrial building every year. Schlossberger said he could not remember the last one built.
That has to change.
Courage said there has to be a plan with measurable goals and consequences. In addition to the EDC, a business team has to go out and market Claresholm.
“Come to our town and build,” she said.
Meic said the town has a lot going for it, including 90,000 vehicles driving through it every week.
MacPherson said the town has to partner with the owners of annexed land to the east and get lots on the market by spring. At the same, get some residential lots ready.
He also suggested potential tax incentives, because he said developers will come if taxes are lower. Incentives could also be offered downtown for owners to improve their buildings.
The next questions was how will candidates remove barriers to development.
Fieguth said bylaws have to be changed to remove road blocks for business and residential development.
There are people with expertise out there. They need to be found, engaged and asked to volunteer to help.
MacPherson said if you have a business you present the land, they present the plan. The same holds true for development.
What is needed is expertise to walk people through the process.
McAlonan said he spoke to administration and they went all the way back to 2009.
“There were no businesses that were refused,” he said.
Moreover, the land-use bylaw was updated the last two years, and business regulations were updated.
“We’re not standing in the way,” he said.
Candidates were then asked if they were committed to getting the crystal meth out of Claresholm?
Courage said this has to be addressed at the source. There are no activities or stuff for kids to do, she said, suggesting the town needs a cultural centre.
Meic said they need to identify why there is a drug problem. When dealers and meth cooks are caught, they need to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Cutler said every year at the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association convention, council meets with the RCMP, and drug control is one of the topics.
He noted Claresholm is the only town that is fully staffed.