By Philip Buisseret
Cypress Courier Freelancer Philip Buisseret recently sat down with Mayor Dwight Kilpatrick for a question and answer session, reflecting on past events since his narrow election win in October 2017 over incumbent Ernie Reimer, and discussing what he sees in the future for the Town of Redcliff.
Cypress Courier – Having served on town council for 28 years, was it a big transition to be sitting in the mayors chair?
Mayor Kilpatrick – Well no not really, I don’t believe it was a big transition. I knew the roles and responsibilities of being mayor. The biggest difference is that now you are chairing the meeting whereas before I was just sitting back. I find that I must be careful to hold back and not speak, it can be perceived that if I become too vocal, I am able to sway peoples vote by talking and giving too much of my own opinion. I also find a big difference in that I am now the voice of council, any questions or issues from the public come straight to me. People phone me thinking that I can change their world when in fact no I can’t, I only have one vote.
Cypress Courier – Looking back, were you surprised at the vocal backlash on the plan to implement curbside recycling?
Mayor Kilpatrick – Yes I was personally surprised. But the thing is people have a voice, I do still believe it would have been a good deal for Redcliff. Some of the council meetings had 50 people attending and a petition was signed. I don’t know what would have happened if there would have been people who were for the idea would have got organized, after council voted against curbside recycling, there were people that showed some dismay. On the other hand, we still have a garbage system that works, but it gets abused.
Cypress Courier – What were your feelings at the last meeting held at the Riverview Golf Club?
Mayor Kilpatrick – I believe I did express my opinions that night. I believe that the path that they had taken was not one of openness and honesty, there is nothing wrong with people becoming impassioned about saving the golf course. It’s just that they shouldn’t have blamed the whole situation on the town, that to me I didn’t think was right. We now have another group going forward and it looks more promising.
Cypress Courier – What do you see for the future of the golf course?
Mayor Kilpatrick – Myself and council agreed to sit down with the latest executive. We agreed that we would have our administration sit down with them and see what the best plan is going forward. All of Council wants to see a golf course in Redcliff, even those who voted against the (in-camera) motion. For the town to take over the course would cost the taxpayers money, so its best that it stays operating the way it is but it must be run more frugally and more sensitive to budget considerations. I can honestly say that during the past two years there was no way that they were looking at revenues when they were paying expenses. To run an annual deficit of $100,000 is not paying attention to your financials. I am not a golfer, but I understand that the course must be maintained to a certain standard, you don’t save money by neglecting say the fairways, that’s your product. I won’t say for sure 100 per cent that the golf course will open in the spring, we saw the backlash with curbside recycling, so you never know what may happen, it’s my hope that whatever happens going forward that council stick with the decision, we don’t want to tell these guys, “yes we will help” and then pull out. Things look more positive though.
Cypress Courier – Moving into 2019 what are some of your priorities as mayor?
Mayor Kilpatrick – Infrastructure especially sanitary inflow is still our biggest hurdle for 2019. We are picking away at it slowly and making progress, the problem is that when we have a huge rainfall event, the lift stations around town are not able to cope, it’s expensive but we are moving forwards, our engineering department has calculated the main sewer line to Medicine Hat is large enough to serve a community of our size but the infiltration of storm sewer water into the sanitary sewer during a rainfall event causes a bottleneck in the system. It is also an educational process, the new plumbing codes require that if you have a sump pump in your basement or install weeping tile, it must be connected to the storm sewer by running the water outside to drain away, and I am not sure that that is being enforced. At some point in time we will have to make the line to Medicine Hat larger but not at this time.
Cypress Courier – How do you see our relationship with Medicine Hat, when you were elected you stated that you wanted to build on our relationship with them?
Mayor Kilpatrick – The provincial government has mandated that we hold at least bi- monthly meetings with Cypress County and the City of Medicine Hat to address issues of mutual concern, the big things such as waste management and transportation. We still have more work to do on our relationship with them, meeting bi-monthly and our two councillors reporting back what happened is not enough, it helps that we know what they are doing which is good. The government has mandated that we at least must document where we can work together or when we do things alone, we must make sure this process is in place by April 2020.
Cypress Courier – How is the Eastside Development progressing?
Mayor Kilpatrick – We sold probably five lots in 2018 so the progress is slow and steady, we do not have much residential land for sale so we are looking at the next step whether we want to develop more lots on our own using the Land Development Reserve Fund available or maybe get a developer in here to buy some land and do it themselves but we have to have more land for sale, we don’t have a whole bunch of land for sale right now. Any land development process seems to take two or three years, so we want to start looking at the issue, however we don’t have unlimited funds.
Cypress Courier – When do you see the construction of a connecting road between the Eastside development and the old Highway #1?
Mayor Kilpatrick – Well I don’t personally see this happening in the near future unless something comes up that changes the priority of that road.
Cypress Courier – According to the 2016 census the median age of Redcliff is 37, with 66 per cent of our population in the 15-64 age group, indicating that we have a slightly younger demographic than Medicine Hat (median age 44) How does this guide your future planning for Redcliff?
Mayor Kilpatrick – Well we have younger families, but I think we have a good blend with age, yes Medicine Hat has always been a place to retire but they have the facilities for it too. There is a lack of living facilities in Redcliff and that is one of the challenges that need to be looked at here. I think Redcliff still have homes that are lower priced, so this is inviting to younger families trying to start out, I think we have always had a younger population here.
Cypress Courier – What do you see as the single most important event that will affect the lives of Redcliff citizens in 2019?
Mayor Kilpatrick – Well it won’t change the face of the earth but I think the Provincial and Federal elections in 2019 will have an affect. There has been discord with government and if the government changes it may improve. I also see a more stable workplace for Redcliff residents in the future, gas has gone, oil has gone, people have adjusted but we have to diversify, the major wind farm multi-million dollar projects recently announced will help in short term construction jobs and long term maintenance opportunities and the Aurora facility will also help. It is difficult for us as a town to attract businesses when Medicine Hat has the ability to negotiate power and gas rates. There has been a move lately for greenhouses in the Leamington, Ont. area for existing greenhouses to diversify into cannabis growing. In B.C., existing greenhouses have been bought out because they are already standing structures, it’s very interesting.