Battle for Lacombe

Two Lacombe city councillors competing for mayor say they are ready to meet the challenges that come with Lacombe’s recent city status.

Two Lacombe city councillors competing for mayor say they are ready to meet the challenges that come with Lacombe’s recent city status.

Candidate Bill McQuesten, 59, said he’d focus on the city’s historic downtown and limit truck traffic.

“There’s just no way we should have truck traffic down there. It just can’t accommodate it. It’s silly. It’s vital we save our downtown core,” said McQuesten, 59, who has served two terms on town council and has one term in the past as mayor.

As a city, Lacombe now has control over the highways that run through the community and it can develop an alternate route for trucks, he said.

City land north of Hwy 12 and east of Hwy 2 is an area McQuesten said must be developed for commercial use so Lacombe can be more self-sustaining. It will take an investment, but the result will be a larger commercial tax base that will drop tax rates for residents.

“If we say we are really serious about economic development, that’s something we really have to look at.”

McQuesten, who is self-employed in human resources and business management, said the city must also recognize the needs of families with small children in new neighbourhoods who now wait years for the completion of local parks.

“We need to really understand and do serious long-term planning to give new people to the community the services that they deserve.”

He said need for more accommodations for students at Canadian University College, which has its biggest population ever at 490 students, could be addressed with a city transportation system so students don’t restrict themselves to the north end near the college.

Candidate Steve Christie, 44, who works at Sims and Associates Insurance Service, agreed that it may be time to look at a bus system and work with CUC.

“We are a city now so there is the question out there — what about public transportation? That’s something we may have to look at.

:With CUC, we have a lot of students in town who don’t have transportation,” said Christie, a two-term councillor.

Lacombe is no longer a stop for the Greyhound bus and although the service is driven by users, does the city have a role to play, he asked.

Lacombe Memorial Centre “changed the face of the community in a good way” and the city needs to build on that development momentum while maintaining a lean fiscal ship with low, consistent tax increases instead of jumping from zero to double digits, he said.

The facility is probably booked until the middle of 2011 and moving the library to the building almost tripled its use. The city must focus on economic growth and look to attract value-added businesses, shopping and accommodations, he said.

“We definitely need a hotel. With tournaments and functions in town, a lot of people have to stay in Red Deer and I’d love to keep people in Lacombe.”

But it’s important to maintain the city’s unique character, Christie said.

“I think we take on our own identity with our historic downtown. That’s just something we have to show the rest of Alberta.”

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com