During the election campaign in Stephenville a lot was learned about the financial state the town is in.
Before and even after it, in conceding his defeat, former mayor Tom O’Brien pointed to the fact the town would be retiring two long-term loans in the next 18 months and that the new council will have more than $4 million in available funds to work with during the next four years, giving it more spending flexibility than any council in recent years.
He called it an exciting time for Stephenville with four or five substantial business opportunities to create employment in the town and said he would bring the new mayor and councillors up to speed on those files.
Now Mark Felix, one of the new members of council, has been appointed as chair of the town’s finance committee and seems to be jumping right into the job.
He stated at last Thursday’s regular general meeting of council that he will be working with staff and other members of council to gather ideas for the budget for 2018.
Felix said he will also be holding budget consultations to hear public suggestions on how the town’s money should be spent.
Such consultation has been a practice of the provincial government for many years but has certainly not been something that has been broached in municipal government in this neck of the woods.
It will be interesting to see how many people attend public consultations at this level and what type of ideas they will bring forward.
With Coun. Mike Tobin recognizing the efforts of former mayor Tom O’Brien at the council meeting, regarding how well the town has done during the past three terms and how it is in good shape now, it’s likely the top suggestion will be a reduction in taxes as the former mayor promised he would do had he got in.
A lot of upgrades have already been carried out to the town’s infrastructures, such as the Regional Aquatic Centre, Stephenville Dome, Bay St. George YMCA and recreational fields, as well as supporting Harmon Seaside Links and working on green spaces in the town.
These things have to be kept up on an ongoing basis, as do the streets within the municipality. Those are other issues that people will likely talk about in public consultations.
But there may be more thoughts that will come forward and hearing from the public is a good idea as long as there is a genuine interest in implementing suggestions that make good sense. Listen to the people and they will set the right path.