The Town of Bonnyville held their annual Open House on Tuesday evening, and we’re pleased with the unexpectedly high number of attendees they hosted. Traditionally, the Open Houses have been poorly attended, with three or four member of the community in the room. This year, however, there were approximately 30 people filling the small chambers, corner to corner, with six Councillor, Mayor Gene Sobolewski and the Town’s Senior Administration also in attendance. Council remarked 2015 was the highest attendance in ten years. Mayor of Bonnyville Gene Sobolewski says the meeting was a huge success, full of idea sharing and community feedback.
The Open House was awesome! We had people here, we had input, we had dialogue, we had misconceptions that were corrected. There was a lot of positive comments, and a lot of how we move forward ideas – Gene Sobolewski Mayor of Bonnyville
Some of the hot items of conversation for the evening were sidewalks, construction of the new Town Hall, walking trail, bylaw officers, and the hottest topic of all, the swimming pool. Although, it wasn’t planned, there were so many people in attendance eager to discuss the pool, Mayor and Council decided to hold an impromptu pool discussion following the Open House. *Note: LCN had previously reported the pool meeting would be held at a later date. Mayor Sobolewski assures LCN that this meeting was not schedule and was due to demand. There will be a more formal meeting regarding the swimming pool at a later date. For more on this check out Bonnyville Holds Impromptu Swimming Pool Discussion.
The sidewalks, or lack thereof, in certain parts of town were a concern for one resident who pointed out 42 street, 47 avenue, and 45 avenue as trouble spot. These locations the resident noted were highly used by school children walking to and from school. The locations of missing sidewalks line up with apartment buildings; which are home to many children and people who either by choice or demand walk to and from work.
Red Indicates where there are no sidewalks
Council noted and agreed this was a problem; solving it may need some discussion. The current town bylaw regarding adding new sidewalks is that the residents on the street without the sidewalk would share the cost of the build over a 25 year period; added to their annual property taxes. The problem, in this case, is the route is highly used by children walking to school; thus it would be more than just the local residents who would use the sidewalks.
Mayor and Council have agreed to discuss the matter further to find a solution that would be amicable to all, however it may not be in 2016. The 2016 Budget does not indicate any new sidewalk builds. There has been discussion of adding a meridian at 39 street and 45th avenue where there is an extended crosswalk due to a cul-de-sac, that is a highly popular route for kids on their way to HE Bourgoin and Dr. Brosseau Middle Schools.
There was discussion of the new Town Hall, which comes with an $8.6 million dollar price tag. The questions arose as to whether or not the Town needed the new building, whether there was an empty building that could accommodate the Town’s needs, and whether the Town could cut costs on the build in any way.
The Town noted that they did indeed need the building for a few reasons; 1. the current building has water issues in the basement and needs to constant humidifiers running to ensure important documents, and the walls are not ruined from the moisture and mold does not grow. 2. the staff are outgrowing the current building 3. the building was built prior to new technology and is not equipped for electronics, WiFi, etc. 4. there are issues with the roof and there has been mold detected in the past, which was spot repaired.
There are a few empty buildings that may accommodate the Town’s size requirements, however these buildings are located in the industrial area of town, or Railway (54th) Avenue. The Town noted their desire to keep the community vibrate and the downtown core alive. They would like the building to accessible for all member of the community, in the other areas people would have to drive and some members do not have cars or are senior citizens and downtown is simply the best location.
The Town noted that during a recession is the perfect time to build, costs are lower because there are more contractors, etc. available. The price tag of $8.6 million was given to the Town prior to the dip in the economy. The Town believes the actual cost will come in lower.
One resident in attendance was concerned over the Jesse Lake Walking Trail. He was referring to the Town’s portion of the trail, the north side. There is concern over holes in the trail and in the winter/spring snow will melt, then freeze overnight and snow again. This causes the trail to become extremely slippery. Councillor Jim Cherverie noted that he walks the trail everyday and has experienced the same issues.
The Town agreed to look into the issue more and see what can be done. With a limited overlay budget in the 2016 Budget the Town said they would do what they can but could not guarantee that every hole on the trail would be fixed; but noted that every year there are some fund allocated to maintenance on the trial.
Questions arose as to whether the Town’s bylaw officer was proactive or complaint based in his ticketing. The resident noted that he would have to call or come to the Town office to complain before action was taken on many incidences; particularly snow removal on sidewalks.
The Town explained the bylaw officer is mainly complaint based, due to the fact that there is one officer for the entire town. Mayor Sobolewski assured the room that the Town is pleased with bylaw officer’s performance and knows first-hand that the officer is efficient, and attends to complaints in a timely fashion.
The Mayor noted that the Town, 10+ years ago, had previously had bylaw officers that would patrol the streets looking for infractions; however upon review and after much concern from the community on the “police-state” natural of patrolling, the Town chose to change the operation of the bylaw officer. Reduce it to one position to save costs and run a more complaint-based operation. With that being said, noted the Mayor, if the bylaw officer comes across infractions he will write tickets without complaints.
Due to the number of people wanting to discuss the swimming pool, the Town decided to hold an impromptu meeting following the Open House. See Bonnyville Holds Impromptu Pool Discussion.
Mayor Sobolewski express his joy for the feedback given at the event, “all sorts of input that we’ve been trying to solicit for the last ten years that I’ve been Council.” The Mayor noted that the lack of sidewalk concern was one issue he hadn’t been aware of previous to the Open House and was grateful that it was brought to his attention.
The public is welcome to attend any and all Council Meetings, which are held at Town Hall, the first and third Tuesday of the month at 7:00 pm. If you wish to address Council with a specific concern or request, contact the Town Office and they will help get you on the Agenda as a Delegation.
If people want to attend, I would have no problem holding more Open Houses, because this kind of dialogue is always a positive. Regardless, of if it’s a complaint of kudos, it’s always important that we get this kind of information – Gene Sobolewski Mayor of Bonnyville