Couns. Andrew Hallikas and Ken Perry joined the ranks of incumbent candidates seeking re-election in this fall’s municipal election after both filed their nomination papers Friday.
Coun. Andrew Hallikas said it was a fairly easy decision to seek a second term.
“When I first got on council, it took a while to get up to speed,” he noted. “If you haven’t done it before, it’s amazing the amount of work and reading and background.
“Once, after about a year-and-a-half, I felt fairly comfortable, I really liked working with this past council,” he added.
“I think it’s been a really good council.”
Coun. Hallikas felt the current council got a lot done in the past four years, landing government funding for important projects, running the town smoothly, and looking after the best interests of the town, although, he admitted, “you’re not ever going to please everybody.”
Looking ahead, Coun. Hallikas said the next term of council will be a tough one because government funding seems to be drying up, but the town still has to maintain its infrastructure, namely the aging sewer and water pipes.
At the same time, however, he felt council should try to take the town forward and improve what it has, including revitalizing the downtown core and doing something with the old Rainy Lake Hotel.
Coun. Hallikas also wants to see something about the demand for assisted living spaces here, recruit more doctors and retain the ones we have, and see the proposed trail system developed—all while remaining wary of the future of the local pulp and paper mill.
“In general, we have a great town here, we have a great location, and we need more to promote it,” he stressed.
“We have to be seen as a destination and not just a border crossing.
“We’ve got it all—fishing, scenery, camping, canoeing, dining, shopping, it’s all here,” Coun. Hallikas noted.
He also feels “there’s a lot of potential” in partnerships between the town and local First Nations on economic development ventures.
“Some of those things are in the works, and it would be nice to have some continuity,” Coun. Hallikas added.
For his part, Coun. Perry said the decision whether to run again took some deliberation, but in the end he wants to help steer the course of the town for the next four years.
“In the last four or five months, things have been up and down as far as I am concerned,” he admitted Friday.
“One day I was ready to run, the next day I wasn’t, and there were a few other things bothering me personally, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to run or not.
“But I think there’s lots that has to be done with the town yet,” Coun. Perry stressed. “We’ve got some important issues coming up in the next term, and I really would like to be a part of it.
“I think some input has to made for both sides of the issues, and I usually view the sides of the issues that other people don’t,” he added.
“Let’s say I research the side of the issues that other people don’t.”
With the town’s “soft services” in good shape, Coun. Perry said there must be a greater emphasis on fixing infrastructure like sewer and water and roads.
“Sewer and water is in a bad state of affairs,” he warned. “Some of the pipes are 100 years old or older, and it’s time to replace them.
“That means ripping up roads and we all know what that’s all about.”
Another issue on the horizon for the new council will be water meters, with Coun. Perry saying he is not in support of them.
“It’s a waste of money,” he argued. “It’s going to be costly right off the bat because [residents] are going to be buying a water meter and then paying a contractor to install a water meter. You can’t do it yourself.
“There’s the first two costs.
“The thing that bothers me about water meters is there is going to be a minimum charge [for water] just like there is now. It’s going to be a minimum charge for everybody, and if you go over, it’s going to cost you more,” he explained.
“But in the meantime, if you conserve water, the minimum charge isn’t going to help you any. You’re going to pay,” added Coun. Perry, noting there’s maybe “a handful of people” who will pay less for water than they do now.
“Two-person families, three-person families, and then families of four, five, or six people are going to pay through the nose,” he charged.
“Commercial and institutional is going to go crazy because a litre of water is going to be worth a litre of water, no matter who buys it.”
Another issue with meters is they only have a 10 year-warranty, and if something goes wrong with them after that time, property owners will have to buy another one.
“The installation would be minimal the second time around because all of the piping work would be done, but to keep buying meters, I don’t know where the savings is?” he remarked.
Coun. Perry said he wanted the issue of water meters put onto the ballot as a plebiscite or referendum question for the Oct. 25 election, but was one week too late to do so.
“It’s a very important issue, and it’s going to affect everybody and it’s going to hurt a lot of people,” he warned.
The town would have no choice but to bring in water meters if the province makes them mandatory, but Coun. Perry said that at least in that case, the province “can kick in some money for people that can’t afford to put a meter in.”
Couns. Rick Wiedenhoeft and John Albanese filed their nomination papers last week, as did Mayor Roy Avis. Coun. Sharon Tibbs threw her hat in the ring back in March.
Also Friday, Anne-Marie Fitzgerald filed her nomination to run again for one of two Fort Frances trustee seats on the Northwest Catholic District School Board.
Dan Belluz and Dave Kircher already have submitted their papers to run for the two Fort Frances trustee seats up for grabs on the Rainy River District School Board.