Most chairs were filled yesterday evening at the Vineyard Church in Burns Lake as members of the community came out to participate in the village’s first Open Town Hall Meeting concerning last year’s spending and the upcoming 2013 capital budget.
The evening began with village councillors and Mayor Luke Strimbold presenting on behalf of five village departments: Corporate Services, Public Works, the Fire Department, Development Service and Recreation. Department managers were on hand for the evening to assist with explaining the details of last year’s budget and 2013 budget requests.
The second half of the evening had participants sitting down with mayor councillors in small ‘roundtable’ discussion groups to focus on specific questions. Village council was looking for input in shaping three areas with regard to the 2013 budget. The three questions put to the public were, ‘What do you think are the Village of Burns Lake’s core services?’, ‘What do you think the village’s top three priorities should be?’ and ‘Is the village headed in the right direction for 2013?’
The round table discussions became a free form back and forth between councillors, mayor and citizens. Regardless of the direction that councillors had in mind when they sat down with round table participants, the participants were free to follow whatever most concerned them regarding the 2013 budget.
Some common themes emerged. Business leaders were concerned with the impact that the downtown revitalization project would have on storefront parking and access to their shops, and some expressed concern that the revitalization was proceeding without adequate consultation with downtown business owners.
Echoing councillor Susan Schienbein’s concerns about the ‘infrastructure deficit’ that the Village of Burns Lake is facing, many area residents identified sewers, streets and water works as being high priorities for the village to focus on. Road work to eighth avenue was identified as a priority, especially in light of the construction of a new hospital in 2013.
This public meeting with village council and residents was the first of its kind in Burns Lake. Going into the event, Mayor Luke Strimbold was looking for tax payer’s priorities, but with in the context of the need for a balanced budget.
“We want people to understand that we have to create a balanced budget, which will result in decisions that reflect on needs versus wants,” said Strimbold in an email weeks prior to the forum. “We hope that there is a willingness to become engaged in the process.”
Strimbold was happy with the turn out and resident participation.
“I’m pleased with the turnout,” said Strimbold. “We will continue to provide follow-up information to the community to show that we use the information collected.”