On November 19, residents will have the chance to head to the polls and have their voices heard. To help voters get to know the candidates better, The Observer posed three questions to each candidate in the District of Kent and Harrison Hot Springs.
Their answers are being published in the following pages, and this newspaper encourages all residents to take part in the All Candidates Debates taking place over the next few weeks.
The first will be held in Harrison Hot Springs, on Tuesday, November 8 at the Memorial Hall from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The second will be in Agassiz, at the Ag Hall on Pioneer Avenue, on Thursday, November 10, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
A third will focus on the Fraser Valley Regional District candidates, and will be hosted by ACES on Monday, November 14 at Harrison Mills Community Hall at 7 p.m.
The candidates answers are listed in alphabetical order, as they will appear on ballots.Current Kent councillor John Van Laerhoven has already been named as mayor by acclamation, so was not included in this question and answer format. Harrison candidates Bob Perry and Niek de Brouwer, and Kent candidates Ken Schwaerzle and Darcy Striker did not respond to the Q&A by press time.
For more stories on the upcoming election, visit us online www.ahobserver.com and click on the “election” tab.
Question 1 For the District of Kent
1) What social needs do you feel are not being met locally that could be addressed by council and staff?
Bill Crouch Candidate for: District of Kent council
What social needs do you feel are not being met locally that could be addressed by council and staff?
More local activities for youth and older alike. A bowling alley, a pool room , an arcade, a cinema, would all be fine examples.There has to be more than the bar & grill. Chilliwack is a long way to travel for these recreations.
Lorne Fisher Candidate for: District of Kent council (Incumbent mayor)
What social needs do you feel are not being met locally that could be addressed by council and staff?
The municipality provides fundamental social needs such as water and sewer systems; good air quality by implementing burning and smoking ban bylaws, and is installing an air quality monitor on the Municipal Hall; helping to ensure a food supply for current and future generations by supporting the agriculture community and keeping our agriculture land in the ALR.
The municipality provides security and safety through the RCMP; having a full-time bylaw enforcement officer; implementing by-laws that mesh with RCMP law enforcement, and other bylaws that cover a wide range of safety and security issues; having two crosswalks across Highway 9; appointing a full-time Fire Chief; acquiring a new fire hall with adequate space for vehicles, equipment, volunteer training, and a local emergency coordinator; and providing a home for the provincial Agassiz-Harrison Search and Rescue organization.
The District provides health needs by working with the Ministry of Health to ensure health services are available locally. We have two doctors, a nurse practitioner, a medical lab, and provincial ambulance service; and the District also offers wellness programs such as heart health and arthritis education through the Leisure Centre. There are a number of massage and chiropractic therapists operating in Kent.
There is land available in the Municipality for business and industrial development in addition to the existing businesses offering employment opportunities. Council subsidizes public transportation which connects Agassiz with Harrison, Popkum, Rosedale, and Chilliwack.
The Municipality maintains numerous parks and playing fields, and operates the Kent Leisure Centre which offers many ongoing fitness programs, as well as other classes and activities for personal enrichment. The Agassiz Library also offers many programs.
Council encourages formation of citizens’ committees such as Communities in Bloom, Emergency Services, Healthy Communities, etc.; and is always open to considering additional requests as social needs change.
Duane Post Candidate for: District of Kent council
Being in a small community it is hard to meet all of the residents social needs, we should be working together more with Harrison to meet some of these needs. We are fortunate to have a lot of rural roads that make for great walking and cycling routes. I would like to see a safe bike lane along the highway to Harrison as it is currently not very safe. We are faced with an aging outdoor pool and I would like to see some improvements there, I would love to see an indoor facility but the dollars need to be there first.
Ken Schwaerzle, Candidate for Kent council (INC)
Having sat as your representative to the FVRD Environment Committee for four years, I have a strong understanding of air and water quality issues. Current dilemmas include the incinerator controversy between Metro Vancouver and the FVRD and the need for more monitors in the eastern Fraser Valley. A watchful eye MUST be kept on these issues.
I have lived in the community and watched its growth and plans for the last 38 years. I know our police force is stronger and more present than ever. And our fire department is something that we should be proud of. We have had some major fires, including losing our only hotel, part of an apartment building and one of our major dairy farms. Let’s be thankful for all our ” volunteers ” and staff!
BUT council and staff still need to address the promotion and protection of business and agriculture in the community. I believe we have a strong business “core” but we need to ensure it remains strong. And our agriculture sector needs the District to continue to support drainage, both in ditches and river gravel removal.
I feel we have the facilities for social and recreation acitvities (I.e. the Friendship House for seniors, the Fitness Center and numerous gyms for our youth, and an abundance of walking trails). But we must build on those. An indoor pool is needed, to achieve that we must pursue funds and grants. And Council needs to help with increasing coaching, staffing and programming for our youths.
Holger Schwichtenberg Candidate for: District of Kent council (Incumbent)
One of the main outstanding issues is an update of the Official Community Plan (OCP). The old plan is now 10 years old and there have been substantial changes in local, provincial and global conditions. In addition, OCP revisions are a way for residents to engage in planning for the future, and building a community suited to all ages and income brackets. One particular area of interest is making the community more conducive to walking, biking and other healthy means of transport. This is especially important among young people and the elderly, who often cannot drive.
A second issue is the Hammersley pump station, at the foot of Mount Woodside, which needs a serious upgrade in capacity to prevent flooding and other improvements to allow fish passage. This holds true for the district’s entire system of waterways, which must provide both good drainage and good habitat for fish and amphibians. The ultimate goal is to ensure good water flow, and that is what we are working toward.
Other items that need attention are the aging swimming pool, upgrading our infrastructure, and improving waste management (recycling and composting).
Question 2 for the District of Kent:
Large developments are taking place just down the road in Popkum, potentially drawing away from small Agassiz-based businesses. How can Kent foster a healthy economy while maintaining that “small town” appeal?
We should look at such developments as an opportunity to further advertise our Town Centre on bulletin boards and brochure locations. As much of these new developments are aimed at the Tourism Industry, we should make every effort to lure these travelers to pass through Agassiz and visit us, as they continue on to other tourist locations in our area.
I would also be making suggestions to ease up on regulations that hamper local business from various styles of signage, and making improvements to store frontage would get the notice of potential shoppers as they pass by.
It is often the individual designs that give a small town its appeal.
I see development in Popkum as an opportunity for businesses in Agassiz. They are already established and most have room to expand. Sewer and water services are available, as are fire and police protection, and medical and ambulance services. There is also land available for both commercial and heavy industrial development.
I am not that concerned about developments that occur in other communities. District of Kent businesses need to continue to put forward a good product. People living outside of Kent bring their vehicles here for maintenance, eat in our restaurants, visit many of the shops and use the services in Agassiz that are offered.
With the development in Popkum happening (whether it is possibly a Tim Horton’s), I feel it will only help our Agassiz based businesses. We have kept our tax base low (considering our increased policing costs).
We have a strong business core with Shoppers Drug Mart, Lordco Parts, Fields, Bartong Insurance, Agassiz Harrison Printers, Allenby’s Farm Store, restuarants, fast food outlets, a Medical Clinic, health needs and the list goes on and on. Plus we have Rimex, Britco Strusctures and Agassiz Ready Mix, a large, strong industrial part of our community. I feel that we have a strong based business core, but change is always evident.
Having been on the Taste of Agassiz committee for the five years of its existence, this is a promotion of agriculture. I also sat on the group that started the “Circle Farm Tour” and strongly support its venture. I feel our agriculture commodities are very strong. Let’s keep it that way!
The main thing that Kent council can do to foster a healthy economy is to keep tax rates competitive, relative to other communities. This has been a particular challenge in Kent because we jumped from paying 15 per cent of policing costs to 70 per cent, after the province opted to include the local prison population to the last census, bumping us over the 5,000 people threshold. On the flip side, the community must continue to live within its means and make provisions for future expenses.
The council can also continue to promote the Circle Farm Tour, the Agassiz Farmers Market, the Taste of Agassiz and other local initiatives. Keeping the community attractive, tidy and green also helps with these initiatives.
Finally, the objectives of council and the citizens of the community can be promoted by having the right support staff with an open-minded attitude at municipal hall.
Question 3 for the District of Kent
What do you hope to bring to council?
Being a relative newcomer to our community I think that with my fresh eyes, common sense, and good listening skills, I can identify the needs of other residents, clubs, groups, local business, and smaller local communities within the District, and bring them to the attention of council for further consideration.
Experience: six years experience as Mayor of Agassiz and as a Director of the Fraser Valley Regional District.
Continuity: There are several projects that I have been involved in that are ongoing and which I would like to see reach a satisfactory conclusion. They are, a cost-effective policing contract, consistent removal of gravel from the Fraser River and the continuation of the development of Pioneer East.
What I would bring to Council is a common sense, down to earth, approach. Accountability, finacial responsiblity, and good communication are also important. I see myself as approachable, willing to listen and work on behalf of you, the residents of Kent.
I hope to bring a lot of strong commitments, connections and partnerships to the council.
I believe we must provide, support and improve the business sector in Kent. I know that the signage issue is a discussion in our community. I feel, and so do some other council members, that the by-law needs to be revisited.
I have a degree in finance and I am a fifth generation dairy and poultry farmer in the Fraser Valley. I bring a strong commitment to agriculture in the District of Kent. My wife Debbie and I are also strong local business partners as we own a commercial building and venture in downtown Agassiz, you should understand my commitment to OUR downtown (business and residential) core. I bring a strong connection between the owners of Britco and our community gardens, a venture I very strongly support.
As a Director of your Fall Fair (the best Fair of its size, eight of the last 13 years) I would lke to thank the over 250 volunteers who help every year !
I hope that WE (council, staff, businesses and residents) can all work together. Get out and VOTE !
What I have brought to council in the past, and would continue to bring, is dedication, commitment and knowledge of the community, as well as diligent preparation, background work and a willingness to listen. I also have a good working relationship with municipal staff and other councilors.