BARRHEAD-Davis Sotnikow believes the County of Barrhead councillors have not always paid as much attention to his generation as they should have.
That is one of the reasons the 32-year-old decided to put his name forward for Divison 2 councillor.
Division 2 goes from Township Road 590, commonly referred to as the Correction Line and moves south and east following the Pembina River. Currently, the incumbent is deputy reeve Marvin Schatz who has also announced he is seeking re-election.
Sotinkow was born and raised in the County of Barrhead, grew up on a farm. He is married with four children and works as a cable repair technician for telecommunications.
He said, unfortunately, the number of cable thefts in the region has meant he has been quite busy.
"It's been pretty bad," he said.
Sotnikow said he thought about the possibility of running for council for some time, but it was in August when he finally decided to take the plunge.
"Growing up in the county, I have always wondered about the process. How and why council made the decisions they did," he said. "Now that I'm older, more mature, and started paying [property tax] to the county, I find myself questioning the 'who, what, why' of council decisions."
Through doing this, Sotinkow said he started to believe that some of the county's younger residents, who voice opinions or ideas, are not being heard by the council.
"Nothing seems to be carried out or acted on," he said. "I think I could be that voice in my division, for all residents, younger ones included so that our people [council] can make smarter, wiser decisions."
Sotnikow could not give a specific decision where it seemed that the present council did not take all the voices in the community into consideration.
"It seems like it is a bit of an old boys club," he said, adding he did not have a better term to describe it. "If they think it is a good idea, they all vote in favour of it. If they think it's a bad idea, then they vote against it. I don't see any debating going on about potential roads that need or don't need to be rebuilt."
Sotnikow said it does not always look like the council has spent ratepayers’ money wisely, pointing to the money spent on the county's Kiel Industrial Park as a potential example.
"I'm not sure the money that has been spent was the best use of taxpayers money," he said. "From the outside, looking at spending money to develop the property without guaranteed investors, it might not have been the wisest decision. As a county taxpayer, I haven't seen a lot of interest. I haven't heard about anyone wanting to build there or anyone wanting to move into there. It doesn't seem like a lot is being said about that."
The county bought the quarter section of land located at NE 27-59-3-W5, which is immediately south of the Northplex plant on Range Road 32, for $575,000 from the Kiel family in 2012 for the expressed purpose of creating an industrial park. The land is zoned direct control.
In late June 2018, Royal Canadian Cannabis (RCC) put a deposit down on a lot at the Kiel Industrial Park to build a medical marijuana growing and production facility. However, the sale of the property fell through in 2020.
Currently, as the county stated at the Sept. 7 council meeting, the municipality has a tentative offer for multiple lots, but the finalization of the sale is in large part dependant on upgrades to the Barrhead Regional Water Commission and the Town of Barrhead water and wastewater infrastructure.
As for what Sotnikow would like to focus on in his first term, he said that after asking a lot of questions and getting his bearings, he wants to look at the county's road infrastructure.
"I don't have any roads or road builds, specifically in mind," he said, adding he would like to take a second look at the county's road maintenance and capital plan. "The roads that need to be done, I will support them 100 per cent, but I am sure there are roads that don't need to be redone. From what I have seen, growing up in the county, it seems like a lot of councillors have gotten their roads rebuilt."
On the policing question and whether the province should go ahead with the plan they have heavily pushed and replace the RCMP with a provincial police force, Sotnikow did not want to weigh in on the debate.
However, he said the issue is not so much the police, but the justice system.
"We can throw as much money at policing, but what good is it when the criminals do get caught and go to court, the judicial system just lets them go or just gives them a slap on the wrist. The police are doing their jobs, but until they get support from the judicial system to punish these people changing who polices won’t make too much of a difference.”
For the record, the majority, if not all the overwhelming majority of rural municipalities, including the Barrhead municipalities, have gone on record that they wish to continue with the RCMP.
Sotnikow said he also understands municipalities are going to be challenged to continue to provide services due to decreases in federal and especially provincial grants.
"We are going to have to sharpen our pencils," he said. "Council needs to make smart decisions on how to spend the money we have and make county residents happy by addressing their needs and not spending [money] foolishly just because that is what we have done in the past."