MD of Bonnyville residents will have the opportunity for some face to face time with their local councillors as the MD council kicks off a series of town hall meetings throughout the MD over the next couple of months.
Reeve Ed Rondeau said the council tries to hold town hall meetings in each of the wards twice during the council's term. It gives councillors an opportunity to interact with the ratepayers in a less formal setting of the local community hall as opposed to the MD council chambers.
“We give them a brief overview of what the MD has accomplished and is trying to accomplish, but it's mostly to get input back from the ratepayers,” Rondeau said. “Sometimes they have issues and they don't bother talking about it. This gives them the opportunity to bring those issues forward.”
Roads and infrastructure, waste management and recycling, public safety operational changes, pest control, weed control program and regional partnerships are among the topics council will address at the town hall meetings. However, more often than not, Rondeau expects much of the discussion will focus on roads.
With 2,600 km of roads in the MD and “5,200 km of ditches” as the reeve likes to point out, roads are a priority for the MD and many of its ratepayers.
“That's the nature of our business. Roads or the lack there of,” Rondeau said of what ratepayers often bring up.
This winter has been a hectic one for the MD road crew, he said. The MD has 15 graders and nine ploughs on the job and the crew barely finishes before it has to start over again.
“People expect a better service than they used to. If you wanted to live in the country you had to have a truck or a 4x4, that's the way it was.Now people drive out there in Honda civics and they're four inches off the pavement and they expect to be able to drive those cars in the MD as well.”
Rondeau said he looks forward to the town hall meetings and hearing what's on ratepayers' minds.
“Sometimes you get more done after the meeting, when you're just standing around coffeeing than you do in the meeting itself. You get the opportunity to talk to these folks one on one and that's where a lot of the stuff comes out. I hope that future councils do it, too. It's a way to not only interact with the people but to connect with them.”
With 2013 being a municipal election year, Rondeau said voters in the MD can expect to see his name on the ballot this fall.
“I pretty much made my decision that I am. We could say I am,” he responded when asked directly if he would seek re-election. He is currently serving his second term in the reeve's chair.
This fall's election will see candidates vying for a four-year term as opposed to the current three-year term. Rondeau supports the move to the four-year term of office for municipal politicians in Alberta but admits, during this transition year, some are likely weighing their decision for another four-year commitment on top of what they've already served, before tossing their hats in the ring.
All the town hall meeting run 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The schedule is:
February 12 - Cherry Grove Community Hall
February 19 - Willow Prairie Hall
March 7 - Shaw House, Vezeau Beach Bonnyville
March 11 - Riverhurst Community Hall
March 14 - Fort Kent Seniors Hall
March 26 - Alexander Hall
March 28 - Glendon Senior's Drop-In Centre