Some of Vilna businesspeople and residents were not surprised to hear the results of a final inspection report on the state of the village, saying they had been complaining for some time about the way the village’s affairs were run.
“It’s something everyone in town should have an interest in,” said Vilna True Value Hardware owner Gisela Klauke of the report, which was ordered by Alberta Municipal Affairs. She says she, along with others, has been warning council again and again about the state of the village. Among other things, she noted the CAO lives and works in Smoky Lake and is in Vilna very rarely. “How can you run an office and supervise staff when you’re not there?”
Maintenance problems, such as a fire hydrant leaking since April and a water line that has remained broken since February of this year, remain ignored, she said.
“We would love to see the village stay a village,” she said, adding village services are nice to have. But Vilna’s taxes are high enough, with Klauke saying her taxes have risen by 136 per cent in the past three years, and an increase in taxes is out of the question. “We’re being taxed to death.” Something else has to change in order to ensure that the village can still offer services such as garbage pick-up, snow clearing and sidewalk maintenance, she said.
Village resident Loni Leslie attended an Aug. 23 meeting in which Municipal Affairs’ investigator Doug Irwin presented the final inspection report. She felt the inspector did a “thorough” job, and offered good recommendations.
“I’m very concerned actually, about our future,” she said of the village. But she notes, “We have an election coming up in October and I’m hopeful, optimistic actually, that we have a new council that will be willing to work hard.”
She herself is planning to run for council, having had experience in administration, and knows there’s hard work ahead for village council. “We all know what’s going to have to be done.”
If competent people step up to run the village and a competent CAO is found who is willing to do what it takes to turn the village around, Klauke says, “I think the village can continue.” But if this doesn’t happen, “I can see this village going to the county – or it’s going to die.”