County of Stettler residents have forced a public vote on whether to borrow millions for a new shop.
It is the second time in the last three months council has faced a petition from residents opposed to borrowing plans for the shop and demanding it go to a plebiscite.
The plan to replace an existing 50-year-old shop has been opposed by some community members who have criticized the project as too expensive in difficult economic times.
A petition was circulated — which was deemed valid — opposing a plan to borrow just over $7 million for the project. Under the Municipal Government Act, council had the option of dropping the borrowing bylaw or take the issue to a plebiscite.
Council opted to withdraw the bylaw and reduce the amount of borrowing for the project to $5.2 million, but proceed with construction.
That plan is now on hold after another petition was received last month opposing the new borrowing proposal.
This time, council decided on Wednesday to put the issue to rest by taking it to a ratepayer vote, which is set for June 27 with an advance poll on June 23.
A pair of public information sessions will be held ahead of the vote on June 21 and June 22 at the existing shop on the west side of the Town of Stettler.
Local businessman Brad Mappin, who has been a key organizer of the petitions, said council will now have to listen to its ratepayers.
“I’m happy about it. It’s about time they asked the public what they thought because the councillors are not listening to what the voters want. So it’s time to put it to a vote,” said Mappin.
After the last effort to force a public vote failed, Mappin said those unhappy with council’s spending plans had no intention of giving up.
“(Council is) not representing the people. That’s why we decided to carry on and try it again.”
Mappin has no doubt voters will reject the new shop. It was not difficult collecting the 758 names he submitted, he said. A sufficient petition required 510 and the county determined 527 names met requirements.
He believes it is too expensive a project, especially during the current economic times.
When it’s time to build a shop, council should ensure the money has been put aside previously, he said.
A third petition was also submitted that was calling for a halt to any move forward on building a new shop until the next municipal election in 2017. It was rejected by county chief administrative officer Tim Fox because the question put to those signing it was vague, open to interpretation and was not in a form that could be turned into a bylaw for a vote.