Oceans initiatives, marketing applauded, but council challenged on service spending
After 28 years and seven terms on the Holyrood town council, Harry Hamlyn decided not to run for council this year, leaving the position open.
There are seven people vying for council this time around and all but three are incumbents.
Another three people are in the running for mayor.
“We cover a big area — 125 square miles. And the future challenges we’re going to have is keeping the taxes at a reasonable rate and getting more business tax,” Hamlyn said, when asked for his analysis on where the town stands, after more than a quarter-century under his watch.
“I don’t think we’re going to need a whole lot of new infrastructure. The town is serviced now pretty well, right from one end to the other,” he said.
“And the new subdivisions that are being built, well, they put their own system in. They have to put them in.”
He said upkeep and upgrades are where the real pinch will come in terms of key infrastructure. He made note of projects like a $3-million treatment facility towards Salmonier Line, built because of problems discovered with the magnesium levels in the water.
“(And) if you remember correctly, a year ago in May we had a severe water leak and we couldn’t find it. Anyway, we did find it, but there’s a lot of them around, too,” he said, referencing the bane of just about every town’s existence — aging infrastructure.
Holyrood is growing and the town council has sought to draw even more newcomers to the area in recent years, taking on rebranding the town, construction of a new town hall and the marketing of the town as an ocean science and technology centre, in partnership with Memorial University’s Marine Institute.
Under the Oceans Holyrood Initiative, a business park concept has been suggested and the Marine Institute is looking to expand its base in Holyrood harbour.
In addition, the town has published a Strategic Plan for 2011-15, with a town plan with Municipal Affairs.
“And we have a lot of exciting and very big projects ongoing, that’s been ongoing now for the last several months and we will — the residents will — hear lots on that in the months to come,” said Mayor Gary Goobie, who is seeking re-election.
“We’re very close to putting the final touches on some of it, but within the coming months, we’ll be in a position to lay it all out to the community and I think, what people will see, they’re going to be very excited about.”
And yet Goobie’s “we,” referring to the town council and staff, may not include him come election day, as he is being challenged by two other candidates for mayor.
One of the challengers is Marie Hunt, a
40-year resident who worked as a schoolteacher for 20 of those years and operated The Tea Garden Restaurant in the town for a decade. Hunt said she appreciates the council’s efforts on planning and branding in recent years, but believes more tangible projects need to start being completed.
“For our tax dollar I would like to see practical things being done,” she said.
Speaking with The Telegram and asked for an example, Hunt said the town needs sidewalks, or simply more space along the sides of the roads for people to walk.
“If we can’t put sidewalks, we can put in paved shoulders,” she said.
She called for more recreation areas and a re-evaluation of current emergency services.
Curtis Buckle, meanwhile, is a former councillor and was the town’s mayor from 2005-09.
Buckle left council after moving out of town with his wife and young family, but has since decided to return to build a home.
Like Hunt, he said fire services, the availability of sidewalks and recreation areas are the top items on his mind.
However, his suggestions went beyond Hunt’s — calling for the town to look at a skateboard park and designated area for motorized bikes, along with playgrounds and fields, when discussing recreation.
“There’s different age levels that (have) different needs,” he said.
He was one of the youngest municipal government members in Newfoundland and Labrador when elected in 2005. Asked about the town’s work in his absence, he said he likes the branding and Oceans initiatives.
“All that stuff is good for Holyrood, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “But we can’t forget about the core services and the people of Holyrood.”