Sonny Damato, a five-year Harrison resident, has announced his intention to run for mayor of Harrison Hot Springs. Sonny Damato/Facebook

HARRISON ELECTION

Harrison mayor hopeful wants to preserve ‘small town feel’

Sonny Damato makes 24 promises to voters including audit of past administration

At least one Harrison resident has publicly announced his intention to run in the upcoming municipal election.

But the mayor-hopeful said that he has no intention to become a politician; he wants to be a “Village representative.”

Sonny Damato is a 62-year-old retired construction project consultant and grandfather of three who has lived in Harrison since 2013.

Damato was born in Malta, and lived on the small Mediterranean island until he was 26. But he worried that it was too small a place to spend his life, and didn’t provide enough opportunity for his family. So he, his wife Doris and their infant daughter moved to Ontario.

Some years after his second daughter had grown up, Damato and his wife made the move to another tiny, beautiful place – Harrison Hot Springs.

With his miniature pinscher, Caesar, following him outside, Damato gestures to his yard, his garden and the mountains expanding across the horizon.

“I love this place,” he says. “The calmness…the idea that you go for a walk and people say hi and wave at you and you can stop and have a conversation.”

It’s the “little village” concept that Damato remembers from Malta.

“Unfortunately, since I’ve been [in Harrison,] a lot of things are happening that I don’t like,” he said.

That’s why one of Damato’s most impassioned campaign promises is the implementation of a controversial concept where developers make a direct financial contribution to the community – like paying for a new playground or building upgrade – in order to build within Village limits.

He feels strongly that this is the way to ensure Village projects are funded and completed.

“There’s too much construction going on. When I’m mayor and somebody wants to do a project in my Village, that’s a privilege,” he said.

“If they are coming in and disrupting [the Village] to make money for themselves, they better have something to give to the community.”

It should be noted that the Village of Harrison already has development cost charges bylaws in place that have incoming developers contribute additional funds for future sewage, water, drainage and highway infrastructure costs over and above charges for on-site upgrades.

In addition, developers often make “community amenity contributions” – voluntary contributions negotiated between developers and the municipality and placed in a reserve fund to pay for community projects.

Damato also provides a pamphlet with a list of 24 objectives that include “abolishing useless titles in council,” re-butting “stupid bylaws” written to suppress individual residents and building an off-leash dog park.

Other promises include removing the pay-parking system, bringing in more police officers, improving curbside collection, and investigating the Village’s current water management program because, in his words, “water should never become a commodity.”

Damato’s pamphlet also states that he will order an audit of the books and transactions done during the current administration and bring to “justice those who were involved in wrongdoings to the detriment of the Village of Harrison.” He does not clarify what these wrongdoings might be.

Another area of passion for Damato is the natural hot springs, which he says should be improved, made public, and be free for Harrison residents.

“This is who we are here – we are Harrison Hot Springs,” he said.

“The residents don’t have hot springs. It’s part of what we should be enjoying here, and we’re not.”

This might be a difficult, if not impossible, promise for Damato to fulfil; the Village of Harrison doesn’t have jurisdiction over the hot springs – they’re under an ownership lease to the Harrison Hot Springs Resort.

Municipal elections across B.C. are slated for Oct. 20. And even with only months to go, no one else has publicly stepped forward to announce their candidacy for council or mayor in Kent or Harrison.

Individuals are not confirmed candidates until the end of the election nomination period Sept. 14, after they have submitted all the required information in the nomination package and have been declared a candidate by the local chief election officer.

Election-related dates in 2018:

– Municipal election period: Jan. 1 to Sept. 21

– Nomination period: Sept. 4 to Sept. 14

– Campaign period: Sept. 22 to Oct. 20

– General Voting Day: Saturday, Oct. 20

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