Public transit, development, amalgamation discussed during mayoral debate
© Monique Chiasson - Truro Daily News
Truro mayoral candidates Keltie Jones and Bill Mills engaged in a debate held at the Nova Scotia Community College on Tuesday night. Both candidates shared their thoughts on a variety of issues in preparation of the municipal election, which begins this week.
TRURO - Newcomer Keltie Jones took incumbent Bill Mills to task over council's handling of the expansion of Truro Tennis Club on Tuesday.
Jones questioned the process in which approval was granted for additional courts in Victoria Park during a mayoral debate at the Nova Scotia Community College last night.
"Neighbours felt like they learned (about the project) for the first time and information changed," Jones said, to which Mills countered: "It went to parks, recreation and culture, which passed it. This is a very small part of the green space (in the park) and it's not used to its full potential and there's still lots of room left."
Tennis club expansion was just one of many topics discussed during the hour-long debate, which could be described as a cordial event.
The online-based debate was hosted by the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce and candidates answered more than 20 questions that were prepared by community members and business representatives.
Minutes before the debate began, Mills and Jones were jovial, enjoying some laughs together. As soon as the event began, the two became serious, voicing their opinions on various issues, most of which they disagreed on.
Another topic was the need for public transit in Truro. Mills said it could cost $5 million to set up, plus annual operating costs.
"Right now I'm not in favour of it because we just don't have the population base," he said.
"I do believe it's needed," said Jones, adding "there's lots of creative ways to pay for it" such as grants and partnerships.
Encouraging development in the town also created division in the candidates.
"We need to pay attention to infrastructure to make the community attractive," said Jones, adding her frustration over some projects anticipated by the town that never came to fruition such as a condo on the former Truro Junior High School property and a mini-mall on Wade Road.
Mills insisted local development will come by expanding the business park, keeping the tax rate on par to the provincial rate, adding solar panels near the civic centre and becoming a ‘green' town.
The future of the current hospital site that will soon be vacant was another issue discussed. Mills said it would cost about $1 million to demolish it.
"That's $1 million I'm not prepared to spend in demolition ... people are looking into" options for the building, he said.
Jones said it's beneficial to assess the condition of the building and involve the community in the decision-making process for its potential use.
One of the topics the candidates agreed on was that amalgamation isn't the best option for the town.
"There are too many differences in urban and rural (communities)," said Jones. "Forced amalgamation has caused too many problems ... people feel they are not represented."
"On paper it looks like a good idea," said Mills, but he cautioned cost-sharing projects such as road repair and maintenance "would go up exponentially."
There were about 150 people watching the online debate. It will be offered again through the chamber of commerce's website. For more details on how to watch the broadcast, log onto www.trurochamber.com
There is also a video clip on the Truro Daily News. Log onto www.trurodaily.com to watch a portion of the debate.