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New Stephenville council holds first meeting

From left: Mayor Tom Rose, Councillors Tristan Hulan, Lenny Tiller, Myra White, Tracy Boland, Deputy Mayor Susan Fowlow and Laura Aylward met for the first time as representatives of Stephenville’s new Town Council on October 7, 2021. – © Jaymie L. White / Wreckhouse Press Inc.

By JAYMIE L. WHITE

STEPHENVILLE – The most recent Stephenville town council meeting took place on Thursday evening, Oct. 7. This marked the first meeting of the newly elected town council.

Meetings, which usually take place during the afternoons, will take place in the evenings moving forward to accommodate members of the council who work just outside of Stephenville, and to make them more accessible to the general public.

Matters discussed included traffic in the area of the new playground to be located at Blanche Brook Park, the financial report for year end, town growth with the Dymond Group announcement, and Mayor Tom Rose gave each member of the new council a chance to say a few words.

Playground at Blanche Brook Park

Councilor Myra White raised the question of whether there was a feasibility report done regarding the traffic located in the immediate vicinity, which could be a danger when the new playground is built.

Mayor Rose said that a study hasn’t been done yet, but he can see the importance of getting one completed.

“We do know it is a highly trafficked area because of the traffic around McDonald’s and it’s a bypass for people to not have to go through the lights,” said Rose. “It’s maybe something that we can look at because obviously the park is going to cause more traffic.”

Rose also mentioned that it was something that was brought up in council chambers in the past.

“Management in our previous council, we discussed the possibility of additional parking spaces,” said Rose. “There’s a piece of green belt that we’ve considered turning into a parking lot that would create a safer street because there would be less vehicles parked on the street. Maybe this is something we can discuss during the next planning meeting.”

Town finances

Mayor Rose mentioned that the financial report recently arrived from the auditors, and it stated that Stephenville carried a healthy surplus in 2020.

“We have a surplus of close to $900,000,” stated the mayor.

Rose said there are a couple of key factors that contributed to this surplus. One factor includes approximately $350,000 given through federal transfer funds to offset costs in running the municipality, when the costs for Stephenville were less than what was provided, coupled with the increase of business and commercial accounts, and the inability to take on many projects due to restrictions put in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are in really good shape. We only carry $800,000 in debt, so realistically our surplus could completely wipe out our debt if we wanted to be debt free,” said Rose. “But you always manage your debt, and this council will decide as we roll out the budget in 2022 what your priorities will be.”

Councillors comments

Susan Fowlow, who will continue to serve in the role of Deputy Mayor as decided by council, is hoping to see more availability of resources for people suffering from addictions.

“I think looking at how we can create opportunities for people with addictions to get some help would be something I would be really interested in,” said Fowlow.

Laura Aylward, who is currently entering her 29th year on town council, has healthcare issues at the top of her priority list.

“We need to see improvements to the structures that we have in place here at Western Health,” said Aylward. “And also put on the push for the Long-Term Care Center.”

Myra White agrees that healthcare should be at the top of the list for the council to focus their efforts on.

“Our hospital should be the top thing we have on our agenda, because without our healthcare we will be in rough shape, especially with our town growth,” said White.

Tracy Boland wants to focus her efforts on small business in the community.

“I need to educate myself on what’s here so I can go to people and tell them you don’t need to go outside of town; it’s actually here,” said Boland.

Lenny Tiller cares most about senior rights and accessibility in the region.

“To watch your grandparents get older and get sick and not have the proper support in place, to have a father in a wheelchair since I’ve been three,” said Tiller. “That’s the things I care most about.”

Tristan Hulan believes, in order for the community to thrive, council needs to provide services to the younger demographic.

“If we don’t attain that, then our goals of growing our infrastructure, getting more services, bringing industry to town, simply won’t be attainable,” said Hulan.

Dymond Group and town future

Mayor Rose said the town is in a ‘transitional point’ in its history and has gotten ‘good indicators’ after speaking with the Dymond Group about its plans for the airport.

“Stephenville is going to be put on the map. They truly believe that Stephenville has what it takes to be an innovation and aerospace hub in North America,” said Rose. “It’s really going to be transformational for our town, and with that is going to be a lot of planning and a lot of demands on management and council. I think it’s going to be the busiest council ever because of what’s happening in Stephenville.”

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