One ward, several communities

Louis Power
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Variety of issues confront candidates in Ward 5

In size, age and infrastructure, Ward 5 is a unique part of St. John's. It has the most farmland, the fewest people and, according to four candidates vying to become the ward's councillor, the fewest sidewalks.

Now, with less than a week leading up to election day, four men - Perry Howlett, David Ryan, Steve Manuel and incumbent Wally Collins - are battling to become the one to face Ward 5's unique challenges head on.

In size, age and infrastructure, Ward 5 is a unique part of St. John's. It has the most farmland, the fewest people and, according to four candidates vying to become the ward's councillor, the fewest sidewalks.

Now, with less than a week leading up to election day, four men - Perry Howlett, David Ryan, Steve Manuel and incumbent Wally Collins - are battling to become the one to face Ward 5's unique challenges head on.

Wally Collins

Collins has spent four years working as the ward's councillor and prides himself on the work he's done. He said during his time on council, 36 roads have been paved, and there is currently $46-million worth of work underway in the area.

However, Collins said his reputation among constituents is not all perfect.

"The people in my ward say my attendance is not good, but out of 48 meetings out to city hall ... if I've missed two or three, that's all I've ever missed," he said.

Looking ahead to the next term, he said it's hard to pinpoint a priority because there are "a hundred issues in Ward 5" that need to be dealt with, from giving Kilbride a recreation centre, to dealing with the ultimate service area in Goulds, to coming up with a better paving plan.

"All the streets were paved at the one time, and now they're all conking out at the same time," he said, suggesting crews pave "at least two streets in each subdivision so they all won't collapse at one time."

Much of his attention is focused on the lack of sidewalks in the ward, especially around the schools.

During his four years with council, he said, Ward 5 has nearly doubled in size. He said he's got a pretty good grip on what the issues are and how much work goes into it, and he'd like another four years to be the one to represent the sizable ward.

"Whoever gets in, be prepared to be full-time. You got to follow up on things in Ward 5, because it's some busy," he said. "When you does something for the Goulds, that's no good for someone in Shea Heights. When you does something for Kilbride, that's no good for Southlands."

Perry Howlett

Howlett, who lives in Goulds, is adamant that the ward's first priority should be to get sidewalks paved for the safety of students.

"Not just around the schools. I'm talking about the 1.6 kilometres that a child has to walk and not get a bus," he said.

Along with safety, he said, there is a big need for more recreational facilities in the ward. He said the City of St. John's expects Ward 5 residents to make use of Mount Pearl's facilities instead.

"If that be the case, it should have been a part of Mount Pearl," he said.

The area is host to the development of several subdivisions, and Howlett said the city needs to concentrate first on getting the proper infrastructure in place before any expansion takes place.

But the city, he said, doesn't seem to be listening to Ward 5. He was a councillor at the time Goulds was amalgamated - or "annexed" as he calls it - and he said promises weren't kept.

"At the time, it was said that in 10 years, we would have all services that the city had, and we have not got all the services that the city has," he said. "They're talking about snowclearing sidewalks in the city, but we haven't even got a sidewalk in many areas."

He said a sense of identity has been lost for many in Ward 5 since the communities amalgamated with St. John's, and the city needs to recognize the ward's needs.

"I always look at it as you've got five fingers - well, four fingers and a thumb - but they're all together to make your hand. So the city should be doing it the same way, as we are in this together," he said.

Steve Manuel

The feeling that Ward 5 isn't treated as an equal part of the city resonates with Manuel, too.

"The further you get out, many people don't feel like they're part of St. John's," he said. "If they're going to be part of the city, they've got to be treated as part of the city."

He said the geography and the amount of separate communities in the constituency creates challenges unique to the ward.

"Geographically, it's bigger than probably all the other four wards put together," he said.

Manuel said he didn't have a Number 1 priority, but infrastructure is an issue throughout all areas of the ward. He said roads need to be paved and sidewalks need to be put in place, particularly in Kilbride. He said residents are also crying out for more stop signs and more RNC presence to reduce the amount of speeding happening on the ward's roads.

A lack of recreational services was high on his list, too. He said the ward needs community centres, a stadium and a swimming pool.

After having knocked on more than 6,000 doors, he said, he has been made aware of the concerns many residents have about the increase in property taxes.

"I'm in agreement with reducing the mill rate. I just don't think reducing the mill rate's going to solve the problem," he said. "We're going to have to come up with some solution that's going to have a bigger impact on what's coming out of the pockets of the people."

Manuel said if elected, he would like to start a committee with members from each of the ward's communities so each area's concerns would be heard.

David Ryan

Candidate Ryan said the Number 1 issue for Ward 5 is a lack of equal treatment by the city.

He said he is very concerned about the lack of sidewalks in Ward 5. Last year, he was the head of a committee that asked council to do something about it.

"They told me it could be another eight to 10 years before they put sidewalks in front of these three schools, and these are the only three schools in the city that haven't got sidewalks for 1.6 kilometres," he said. "I want sidewalks put in front of the schools not tomorrow, but yesterday."

He said the shoulders of the road, where they exist, are "tremendously ridiculous" in size. When snow is cleared, school kids have to walk on the roads. He is outraged the city might wait eight years or more to pay for sidewalks.

"What price do we put on an innocent child?" he said.

The safety of all residents - not only students - is a big issue for Ryan. He is a courtesy driver for a rental company, and drives around all parts of St. John's on a regular basis.

"I see so many safety issues it blows my mind," he said.

He said he'd like to sit on a safety committee. Above all, he promises to be heard by the rest of council if elected.

"I believe in my convictions, in what I'm doing, and when I get in there, I'm not going to be quiet," he said. "I'm going to be speaking up, and I tell you - the squeaky wheel does get the grease, and I am going to be very, very squeaky."

lpower@thetelegram.com

Geographic location: St. John's, Goulds, Mount Pearl Shea Heights Southlands

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