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Powell and Morrill face off in mayoral race

The local economy and the environment are just two of the hot-button issues faced by Colleen Powell and her rival Roger Morrill in the mayoral race that could see Athabascans choosing a new leader next month.

The local economy and the environment are just two of the hot-button issues faced by Colleen Powell and her rival Roger Morrill in the mayoral race that could see Athabascans choosing a new leader next month.

With incumbent mayor Powell campaigning on the achievements of keeping Athabasca thriving through the recession and touting new environmental measures to cut down on water waste, her opponent and longtime dentist Roger Morrill is offering voters better business opportunity and fiscal conservatism.

"We have not been standing on our laurels and I think people are proud of the town, and I want them to continue being proud of Athabasca, " said Powell.

The current mayor pointed to her record over the past three years of attracting several major businesses to the town, including Canadian Tire, The Brick and the Days Inn hotel that created jobs and revenue even after the global financial crisis of 2008.

While Morrill is also enthusiastic about attracting new business, he wants to make sure they are relevant to the needs of local residents, saying that an electrical wholesale outlet would be a good start.

"I do know that we need to research what 's needed for our community, " he said.

Morrill also wants a more fiscally conservative approach to keep taxes down, with all council spending carefully considered.

"I am very, very sensitive to the steady increase in taxes, and we have to do the best to hold the line, " he said.

Morrill 's two biggest spending concerns were paid retreats by the council to places like St. Albert or Jasper, which he branded a total waste of taxpayers ' money when such events could be held here in Athabasca or not at all.

While he voiced support for upwards of 20 low-income rental units being built in Cornwall, Morrill believed that the town-funded duplex was another waste of money.

"I do not believe the town should be involved in developing an architecturally designed entry-level duplex, " said Morrill.

Meanwhile, Powell offered her own cost-cutting measures that focus on saving both money and the environment.

"We do have a low-flow fixture program, " she said.

Municipal toilets were fitted with the water-conserving devices, as were new housing units, while one kilowatt of electricity was supplied by a solar panel above the town.

To save energy costs further and reduce pollution, Powell envisions greater housing density in town with new subdivisions built in existing units.

"If you 're downtown, a smaller house makes sense, " said Powell.

Under Powell 's watch, Athabasca 's recycling system is one of rural Alberta 's best, with 80 per cent of residents taking part.

Nonetheless, high price tags are a concern to Powell as well as Morrill, as items like solar panels are expensive, but with fossil fuel prices rising, they are a better option than a few years ago.

With regards to the Riverfront Centennial project, both Powell and Morrill say they are committed to seeing it through to the end.

"The people in town have told us we want this park. We don 't want a dustbowl down there, " said Powell.

Morrill agreed, albeit with the caveat that the project – which he said cost $850,000 – had to go through a proper tendering process. The council has agreed, saying that tenders will be submitted in January.

"My understanding is that we 've made a commitment to do that, " said Morrill.

Oddly – given the controversy it 's aroused with some Athabascans – Chad 's Smoke Shop was not a hot topic for either candidate.

"I would like to find ways to regulate this industry, " said Powell, who understood that the shop had a permit to operate and was not doing anything illegal.

Morrill said only that it was an administrative issue and the Smoke Shop must abide by all town and provincial laws when running its business.





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