Roads and accountability are top of mind for residents at last night's Sturgeon County (October 10) debate.
Candidates pounced on every opportunity to try to prove their facts were indeed true as the audience cheered and jeered.
The first major reaction came when incumbent councillor Karen Shaw quoted Marty Derouin from the debate in Gibbons, who said a simple answer to the gravel road problem in the county would be to pave them all like Strathcona County. Shaw shot back, saying Sturgeon has well over 1,000 kilometres of gravel roads to pave that would cost over $1-billion. She also stated that Strathcona County was considering changing their paved rural roads back to gravel due to maintenance costs. Mayor Tom Flynn stated the county is continually working on improving roads that, in some cases, were built over 70-years-ago with techniques that can't take today's traffic loads.
The county's growth was thrust into the spotlight.
"It's a real balancing act between being a good neighbour to a very big neighbour, but also protecting our agricultural land," said mayoral candidate Alanna Hnatiw. "[It's] also finding those pockets of land that aren't suitable for agriculture where we can build communities and industrial parks."
"In the past, we've had some developments that got approved without enough regulation and security with it and the residents have had to pay for a lot of the things that got by," explained incumbent mayoral candidate, Tom Flynn. "People accuse us of not being permissive of development, we want to be permissive of development but it has to be the right kind that supports the county and grows us well."
Leading up to the debate, some candidates and residents have reported select signs have been vandalized or stolen, a criminal offense, with some candidates even placing signs on private land without consulting the landowner.
The Sturgeon United Residents for Effective and Accountable Leadership (SUREAL) was also topic of conversation.
"It's unfortunate about how that whole situation has been handled," responded Hnatiw. "It's a citizens group made up of concerned citizens and I'm not sure why this particular council has taken such issue with it."
"The stuff that's going on in Sturgeon County is very much like American politics, I know that many people are involved in that group," said Flynn. "Some are doing it for the right reasons, some are in behind it stirring the pot."
The forum left residents with lots to think about and a big decision to make on either Election Day on October 16 or during the advance poll on Saturday, October 14.