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Penhold election forum a low-key affair

PENHOLD — For a community that has just undergone a municipal inspection that produced more than 60 recommendations and boasts a mayoral race that includes a controversial councillor who was barred from all council committees, the election forum here was a low-key affair.

In fact, there was nary a mention of the inspection, which was ordered by the province following a successful petition from a local resident, at the forum for mayoral and council candidates that drew about 150 people to the Penhold Memorial Hall on Thursday evening.

The review prompted directives in August from Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths that council review its roles to ensure they are not acting on matters that should be left up to administration and that monthly progress reports be sent to the minister.

A rare hint of the previous municipal troubles was a written question from the crowd to Chad Hoffman, who was the councillor barred from committees, and was singled out for criticism in the inspection for his fractious relationship with the rest of council. He was asked what his plan was for working effectively with town administration.

“I think it’s just a matter of mutual respect,” said Hoffman, who said both council and administration should have no problem managing if they each do their jobs well.

In his opening comments, Hoffman said the community’s fast growth has created “growing pains” and he wants to see more town hall meetings to hear from residents.

He envisions council becoming a “problem-solving machine” to overcome obstacles and a community where volunteerism is actively supported and efforts made to improve the commercial base.

Heather Klein, a councillor looking to make the jump to the mayor’s seat, said the town must focus on ensuring it meets the needs of families by providing parks, recreation, schools, services and jobs.

Council’s message must be consistent and positive and she supported taking a “the-customer-is-always-right attitude” to its dealings with the public. She also said the message must be promoted that Penhold is open for business.

Klein also wants to see more done to establish a Penhold brand. “We need to market this community.”

Incumbent Mayor Dennis Cooper pointed to some of the community’s recent successes, including improved mail, cellphone and 911 service, and the incoming high school, grocery store and pharmacy among other commercial projects.

Another positive has been strong residential growth that has seen many young families settle in town. Cooper said the town must invest in those families by enhancing the town’s services and ensuring the community lives within its means and keeps a lid on tax increases.

In responding to written questions from the audience, Cooper promised to tackle persistent flooding problems in the community and review the operational costs of the Penhold Multiplex.

Many of the council candidates also saw the community as being at a turning point and many pledged to improve the recreational and community opportunities. There was also widespread agreement that the town’s industrial and commercial base needed to be expanded.

Council candidates include: George Grant, Roger Hovland, Julia King, Cory Kingsfield, Sharolyn Sanchez, Phil Sandstra, Ross Simituk, Kathy Sitter, Gary Yargeau, Michael Yargeau and Mike Walsh. King was ill and did not attend, but her opening statement was read by Coun. Danielle Klooster, who is not running for re-election.



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