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Westlock County division reduction may be on the October ballot

Advance voting details to be settled soon
WES county spring 2020
Westlock Country may ask voters this fall if council should be reduced from seven to five members.

WESTLOCK — Westlock County election ballots could include a question regarding the number of divisions residents think are appropriate for the municipality. 

During the May 18 governance and priorities meeting, Coun. Isaac Skuban and deputy reeve Brian Coleman said the October election would be the best time to gauge public opinion on whether or not council should be reduced from seven to five members. 

The question has come up over the course of last year, and councillors were generally supportive of the reduction, but administration said they were too late and couldn’t make the change prior to this election. 

“I think the number of divisions is a very important one to put on there,” Coleman said. 

“It sort of seemed like most people supported reducing down to five divisions, but then when you talk to them about the amount of committee meetings and the amount of commitments, many of them change their minds. I think that’s a very, very important question if we’re even going to consider changing the number of divisions, I think that’s the No. 1 question that should be on the ballot.” 

Meanwhile, Coun. Dennis Primeau wants to get public input on budgetary priorities and suggested a survey be sent out with the tax notices. 

CAO Kay Spiess said priority-based budgeting means extensive opportunity for public consultation of different kinds, and council will have a clear financial picture by June to present to residents. 

Returning officer and county executive assistant Diane Johnston will be bringing more information this week about deadlines for ordering ballots and council is expected to make a decision soon regarding the council reduction question. 

Johnston will also be suggesting advance polling dates and locations. Admin is recommending only one location for all divisions this year in order to reduce expenses, although COVID-19 might present some problems. 

“If COVID is still a thing by October, the election is going to cost a lot more money because we’re going to have a lot more workers, more places. You can only have so many (people) in at a time, and disinfecting in between each voter. It's something we’re still kind of toying with. Maybe we need more than one date,” Johnston said.

Andreea Resmerita,

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