A public budget meeting at Rimbey Community Centre April 3 had little to do with numbers and more to do with grievances, insinuations and accusations.
Once again the politically-charged issue of the potential sale of the town office to the library board and the possible move to the provincial building was brought to the forefront.
Dave Karroll led the charge, accusing council of not seeking public input about the move, having up to $140,000 in hidden costs, spending $83,000 on sidewalks and then paying annual rent of $36,000.
“There are cheaper options out there,” the former councillor said, noting the Ingles building on Main Street should be considered as well as the Co-op mall, community centre and youth centre.
He also slammed council for declaring a petition regarding the sale of the town offices invalid, noting that the question was clear to those who signed it.
“A community needs a good library, not a social enterprise. If people want to get free services, let them go somewhere else.” His suggestion that an independent review of the library be completed was not favored by at least one person in the audience.
“Are you paying for an independent review?” asked Rev. Al Lewis. “I don’t want my tax dollars to go to it.”
Parent Natalie Evans spoke in favor of the programs offered by the library.
“What is wrong with having free programs at the library? Some parents do depend on them. We want what’s best for our children.”
The children are not the reason the library needs to be expanded, said librarian Jean Keetch. “Don’t pit the children against the adults. It’s not fair.”
Rueben Giebelhaus said he would help with carpentry work if council decided to expand the town offices.
“It won’t cost you five cents,” he said. “If you move to the Provincial Building don’t tell me taxes are not going to go up.”
The meeting took a new turn when former mayor Dale Barr took the mike to question council’s decision to budget $50,000 for a possible economic development study.
Barr, now the manager of the Central Alberta Economic Partnership, (CAEP) said spending $50,000 on a study to bring businesses to town was an unnecessary expenditure.
The question and answer period between Barr and Ibbotson eventually became a verbal ping-pong match as the former and present mayors defended positions about tax incentives, a proposed ethanol plant that was in negotiations with council to locate the town in 2001.
Rev. Lewis suggested the present and former council and mayors needed to work together. “Park your egos.”
Pros and cons regarding walking trails and recreation services were discussed.
“The trails are used constantly and are in need of upkeep. You would be surprised how many people use the trails to get to the Parent Link Centre,” said one young lady from the audience.
However, opposing views were expressed.
“I’m skeptical of the number of people who do use the trails. Perhaps a trail-cam should be used to see how many people are actually out there,” a resident said.
The town is spending too much money on adult recreation, said resident Tom Maddox, adding he believes one tax dollar in five goes toward recreation.
“Where I come from they pay for recreation themselves. You’ve got to have some idea between needs and wants.”
But Rev. Lewis argued money spent on recreation facilities such as the aquatic centre was a good thing.
“As a parent I’m really happy about the pool. And my 10-year-old son is as well.”
Maddox was also concerned water and sewer rates continue to rise.
Coun. Paul Payson said the town has an aging infrastructure and utility costs are coming closer to the actual cost born by the town for water and sewer.
Concern about the big trucks driving through town was also expressed.
“The town needs to get off their haunches and lobby Edmonton to get a ring road,” a resident suggested.
Working together and focusing on the positive needs to be encouraged, said Coun. Gayle Rondeel.
“I feel that if as much effort was put into supporting and discussing issues as there was in destroying everything this community would truly be a wonderful place to live,” she said.
Mayor Sheldon Ibbotson said the economic picture looks bright for Rimbey.
“Our economy is quite strong. I believe we are sitting on the cusp of a great economic surge.”