Prior to the June 10 by-election to replace the late Town of Creston Coun. Joe Snopek, I Love Creston asked the five candidates four questions. Their answers follow:
1. Why will you be an effective councillor?
Adam Casemore: I believe I will be effective in the council position because I have a lot to offer the people of this community. Time and dedication first and foremost; being self-employed gives me the flexibility to put in as much time and effort needed to get positive results, and be able to listen, understand and be a voice for what the people of Creston desire. On that note, I understand business, budget and economics. I am enthusiastic, energetic and have an open mind. I’m approachable and love to engage in conversation with people of all ages. I love Creston and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to continue the positive success and growth of our community.
Bill Hutchinson: My 26 years of experience as chief administrative officer for the Town of Creston offer me what I think has to be unsurpassed knowledge of the issues that concern the town.
Signe Miller: For the past several months, I attended town council meetings to get background information on the workings of council. I have worked with many boards, and am a good team player. I have shown that I have good, practical ideas to bring needed developments to my community. I have worked for, and with, government agencies over the years, and I understand the workings of bureaucracy. I was part of the development of the new Official Community Plan, and I want to see it implemented.
Hugh Taylor: I have over 40 years of experience in supporting governing bodies from various jurisdictions in operational and administrative capacities. This included governments of N.W.T., Yukon and First Nations in Yukon and B.C. As a departmental director, part of my role was to read and summarize technical reports from consultants and prepare briefing notes for councils and present at community consultation sessions. As a director of lands and resources and municipal advisor, I participated in formulating official community plans. As a verifier for First Nation land codes, I oversee the process of First Nations taking on responsibility for managing their reserve lands. In 1991, I took the conflict management program at the Justice Institute of BC. As an electoral officer for First Nations, I learned the principles of the electoral process and the need for confidentiality in that process.
Scott Veitch: A good councillor must represent, must legislate and must provide oversight. You are there to represent the citizens’ interests to town hall and not the other way around.
I was a recent town councillor and understand the varied processes and diverse needs of the role. As the former president of the British Columbia Real Estate Association (now almost 30,000 members) and past chair of the Real Estate Errors and Omissions Insurance Corporation ($50,000,000 claims fund), I know how to listen, to govern, to set policy and to get things done effectively and efficiently.
I am committed to improving our quality of life by supporting growth that encourages economic vitality, provides housing opportunities, respects the environment and builds communities with good schools and safe neighbourhoods.
With only a short period left in the remaining town council term (about 16 months) I have the ability to fast-track into the position, make a difference, and complement the town council team. It’s about the doing and getting it done.
2. What are the biggest challenges facing the town?
Adam Casemore: I don’t believe that there are a lot of big challenges. Obviously funding plays a big part in the community and there is only so much allocated for certain projects, groups and organizations. Every community or municipality has its trials and tribulations. Taxes are always a big concern to a lot of people, and upgrading infrastructure plays a major role in that. Community awareness is another challenge; for example, Rotary helped to build an excellent washroom facility at Centennial Park and it took a select few to give it the wrong kind of recognition it deserved and didn’t think of the repercussions it caused for the users of that park.
Bill Hutchinson: Some of the primary challenges facing the town today are growth and taxes.
Signe Miller: Creston’s tax base is mostly residential, meaning the burden of increases in expenditures must be carried mainly by homeowners. However, our tax rate is only slightly higher than the provincial average for towns this size, which is due to creative financial planning.
The recent increase in population to over 5,000 has meant that policing costs have risen substantially, affecting tax rates. Our fire hall is inadequate in size and presents an unsafe work environment, meaning that a referendum must be held to ask for taxpayer support to borrow money to build a new one.
Hugh Taylor: Maintaining viability of small businesses. Creating more jobs to decrease migration or commuting to distant areas to work.
Scott Veitch: Maintaining excellent levels of services and asset management for the Town of Creston within a financially constrained environment are always challenges of major importance. Taxes are paramount on everyone’s mind. But again, so is our quality of life. How does the council provide people what they deserve (want and need) and maintain prudent and fiscal responsibility? It’s a tough equation.
3. What are some notable initiatives of the current council, and how will you make them successful?
Adam Casemore: I like the team that is in place. There have been some very positive things they have done for Creston and the Creston Valley in the past term they have served. They are all there to ensure progression and positive changes that will help keep Creston moving towards a brighter and better future. I would like to be part of that team and I would make them successful by bringing different ideas or perspectives to the table, involve and incorporate some of the young population, and make sure everyone in Creston has a fair representation. Most importantly, work together as a team. I’m very much so a team player — I’ve played hockey my whole life and have a Canadian national junior hockey championship under my belt to prove it.
Bill Hutchinson: As to notable initiatives, choosing the right property and construction of a new fire hall, its cost and resulting tax burden to the taxpayers is probably paramount.
Signe Miller: Getting control of a few blocks of our main street has been a longtime problem — big trucks bringing dust, noise and accident danger to the core of our community. Councillors have been successful in getting a commitment from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for the upcoming redirection of trucks down to Cook Street, which will allow for more greening and improved safety. I will support this.
The new Official Community Plan is a document that was developed from extensive consultation with the community, and with the advice of a volunteer group that I was a member of, for the past year. I’ll see it work.
Hugh Taylor: Physician recruitment: Keep in touch with the physicians that come to Creston and conduct exit interviews with those that leave to ensure I understand what attracts them and what makes them leave.
Community recreation complex park: Ensure that it is completed and explore ways of linking it with green areas.
Youth engagement strategy: Maintain communication with youth to ensure what is being done is beneficial and supported by youth.
Strategic community energy and emissions planning: Ensure that this is an ongoing exercise to stay current with new ideas and technology.
Water conservation: Increase monitoring of water use and explore incentives to use less water.
Scott Veitch: The recent Official Community Plan is one of the more notable initiatives of council. It is Creston’s road map for the future — it’s about public collaboration, consultation and co-operation in setting out our policy and forward directions. Without this plan, our visions are only dreams. We need to get the green light to make it a go. It’s a good thing for Creston and I will work with the team to make it happen. Creston has spoken. It’s not about a learning experience — it’s time to show the results.
4. What changes would make Creston a better place to live?
Adam Casemore: There are no big changes in my eyes that would make Creston a better place to live. There is always room for improvements that would enhance living in Creston and I want nothing more than to play a part in contributing to those. Creston is a beautiful place and has so much to offer, from the picturesque views and scenery, to the delicious fruit, vegetables and meat it produces, and best of all the people who make this a desirable community and not just a town.
Bill Hutchinson: For years, Creston was held up as an example at the Union of BC Municipalities for its stewardship of the taxpayers’ dollars while still focusing on the maintenance of the town’s infrastructure (i.e. streets, parks, sewage treatment plant), all while endeavouring to keep taxes affordable. As Creston is historically a haven for retirees, as councillor, I would be committed to using my experience to making it an affordable place to live in.
Hugh Taylor: Create longer, pet-friendly, level walking trails with benches and interpretive signage, preferably in forest areas, such as utilizing the highway bypass right of way. Make the downtown core more pedestrian friendly, possibly by making Canyon Street a one-way street and Cook Street one-way the other way as far as 7-Eleven.
Signe Miller: More green spaces downtown. Senior-friendly walkways, benches and good lighting. Less truck traffic on Canyon Street. Mixed-sized and -priced housing for all abilities. Employment opportunities.
Scott Veitch: Economic development would lessen taxes and provide us with more resources for not only daily operations but to help fund Creston to be a more connected and enjoyable community. Continued public engagement and proactive involvement will also strengthen our town. We need the capable sewers and we need the safe walkways. It’s a fine balance.