An email was sent to all Ward Two candidates asking 4 questions regarding the downtown. Here are their replies in the order that they were received at our office:
Do you think our Downtown is healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change that?
Dana Dirks: I think we can do better for our downtown, I think with proper security and homelessness plan and shelter in place we would improve the image of the downtown core. Putting up fences, cutting trees and removing benches isn’t exactly appealing to the general public and it certainly doesn’t help fix the core issue at hand. A proper shelter and actual plan in place would be of great assistance to the appeal of the downtown core in general.
Better parking access is required and for my vision, especially in the summer months, I would see us extending the outdoor atmosphere, create more street fairs, food trucks, restaurants, shops, farmers, crafts people selling their wares on the streets, create a walking atmosphere on Central Ave. and an overall engaging and welcoming atmosphere for the residents of Prince Albert and visitors to our downtown core and riverbank area.
Kim Conarroe: I feel that there are long term businesses that are doing very well in the downtown corridor. Businesses that have been strongly rooted in the downtown area for decades. However, in saying that our downtown area is not perceived as a desirable place to be due to safety concerns. We need to do a couple of chest compressions and breathe new life into our downtown area, while maintaining the rich history of Central Avenue.
With the University of Saskatchewan opening up on Central Avenue, we need to attract businesses that are relevant to the students as well as families and the Senior Citizens in the area.
I was pleased to hear that the homeless shelter is moving to the exhibition grandstand. That is a good start but more needs to be done. We need to have the supports for the homeless moved closer to the shelter as well.
I will never pretend to know all the answers, what I promise is that will work the citizens to find resolutions to their issues. I will not criticize what has been done in the past, we simply need to do better.
I would also like to look at the phasing out of parking meters in the downtown area, as I feel that parking meters are an antiquated system that raises barriers to downtown businesses.
Terra Lennox-Zepp: Downtown Prince Albert faces real and perceived safety challenges. We as a City need to invest funds into improving the Downtown. I hear from many people including business owners and citizens who describe our Downtown as needing improvement in terms of health, and ability to achieve success.
There are many wonderful and unique businesses located in our Downtown, and people who want to appreciate the uniqueness of our Downtown, however we as a City need to improve the Downtown core.
Devin Gorder: As communities grow outwards (e.g., Cornerstone) their downtown business sectors go through a stagnant period. I believe we are beyond that; however, we most certainly have a lot of work to do before our downtown is what community members believe it should be. In the past decade, we have experienced incremental growth and resurgence. I’m ready to work with residents, business owners and community organizations to enhance that growth.
If you received a $1 million grant to use in the downtown any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?
Dana Dirks: I would implement a marketing blitz with a rental subsidy program designed to attract and retain new businesses into the downtown core long term.
Kim Conarroe: My million dollar grant would be used to make the downtown corridor a destination!
First, I would run a community based contest/survey, looking for a city animal (other cities have pigs, moose, geese, etc…), maybe Prince Albert could have a wolf or buffalo. Then I would have various local artists design/decorate a statue of the animal and display them permanently on corners, along the river bank, and in front of city hall.
Second, I would also like to make parking spaces available for pop-up businesses that do not compete with brick and mortar businesses in the downtown area.
Third, I would also organize free entertainment for the seniors that live in the area. A place that they can gather safely.
Fourth, I would also love to see a playground on the River bank or in front of City Hall.
When I was a kid, growing up I thought that Central Avenue was the place to be, the heart of our City. I want Central Avenue to be the place to be, a destination, the heart of our City.
Terra Lennox-Zepp: I made a motion at Council that was passed, to hire a consulting firm to develop a design and an implementation plan for completely revamping and renovating our downtown Central Avenue area. The City received the completed Central Avenue Development Streetscape Master Plan on how to make these improvements.
City Administration advises that the underground sewer and water require replacement. They advise us that these renovations can be less costly if done in a proactive way, instead of after a pipe bursts and is in need of emergency work, which can be more costly. The roadways have not been substantially repaved in 20 years. The sidewalk stones are 35 years old and crumbling. This is the time to improve our downtown and make it a more inviting place to be. The Streetscape Plan includes replacing all sidewalk and roadways for the entire downtown portion of Central Avenue. You can take a look at the photos in the Streetscape Master Plan to get a sense of just how much better our Downtown could look. Many studies show that when people take pride in a location, the crime rate drops, because more people are attending there, and participating in pro-social activities like shopping, socializing, etc.
The Streetscape Master Plan suggests that implementation should happen in several phases. This can help us to be fiscally responsible, and do the work over time.
I have been advocating for the City to budget for this work to commence. So far we have not yet placed this project into our yearly budgets to get done. I am hopeful that City Council will pursue this project in an upcoming budget. It would mean real improvements for the downtown.
Devin Gorder: I would consult with downtown residents and business owners to inquire their interests and perspectives. Some areas I feel are worth exploring include incentives to attract repeat consumers to our downtown businesses and development/implementation of a campaign that promotes our downtown as a destination for both our own residents but those from other communities. I would love to see the downtown regain the atmosphere that it had years ago.
Describe your business background and/or experience, and how you feel this perspective will help you in your role as a Councillor/Mayor.
Dana Dirks: I have been managing businesses for over 25 years, some of the highlights of that would be the fact I have worked with unions and non-union environments, with as many as 220 employees under management at any one time. I have implemented COR procedures from scratch in a challenging environment. I have negotiated multi-million dollar contracts and prepared multi-million dollar budgets. I think all of this when put together creates the ability to work well with others while sitting at the council chambers with the other councilors and mayor. This has taught me to bring a common sense approach with professionalism and conservative cash management with compassion for people.
Kim Conarroe: I am not a business person. I am an educator and long term resident of Prince Albert. I want our City to be safe and to prosperous for everyone. Working in the education field I know how to work with others to build partnerships and get things done.
I would work with the business community and listen to their concerns and ideas and try to move them forward by building meaningful partnerships.
Terra Lennox-Zepp: I have been a lawyer for the past twelve years, with eleven of those years working in an office located in Prince Albert’s Downtown. This amount of time spent shopping, eating and socializing in our Downtown has led me to a real passion about the benefits that our Downtown has to offer. For example, I have been volunteering with the PA Historical Society in leading a Downtown Walking Food and History Tour for the past three years. This Tour has enabled me to get to know our Downtown restaurant proprietors in a more in depth way, learning about their background stories and why they have chosen the Downtown. The Tour draws people to come and experience the unique foods and historical architecture that only the PA Downtown can offer. The PA Downtown is one of the most historically significant locations in Western Canada.
Devin Gorder: For the past 15 years I have owned and operated Performance Chiropractic and Wellness. Despite limitations set on advertising in my profession, I have managed to engage a strong patient-base, while also working in collaboration with other healthcare providers in the community. Outside of my clinic, I also co-developed and launched a nationally-marketed wildlife sports publication that has readership, advertising, and subscriptions though out North America. I feel these opportunities have given me the ability of starting with nothing, and building up to something successful and lasting. In a community facing a rebirth of its downtown, growing crime problems, and new economic opportunities, I feel I can play a part in supporting growth for our Ward and City.
What do you most appreciate about the Prince Albert community?
Dana Dirks: I love the compassion and friendliness of the community of Prince Albert, we always find a way to help each other out when it matters most. My family received such a beautiful outpouring of compassion and kindness when our son was terminally ill, we could have never won that battle without that compassion from friends family and strangers alike. Now that all is well in my family life it is my turn to give back to the community I love and call home, Prince Albert!!
Kim Conarroe: What I most appreciate about Prince Albert, is that is not like Saskatoon or Moose Jaw. We are unique. You can walk from one end to the other easily. Odds are you know of most people through a friend, or family or work.
Prince Albert has a lot of potential, with a lot of residents who care about what happens to our City.
Terra Lennox-Zepp: There is so much to appreciate about Prince Albert. During my last 4 years as Councillor for Ward 2, I have been appreciative of the people of this City. Many of our citizens are well informed on City issues, and have a common sense approach to the topics that we at City Council are asked to decide upon. I am always encouraged by how many people want to contact me as Councillor, and want to work on making positive changes in our community.
Devin Gorder: I most appreciate the strong roots that generations of families have either maintained here, or have decided to plant here. Prince Albert has a steady base of residents. That is important and valuable for sustaining growth and longevity.
Thank you for learning more about the Ward 2 candidates. Please make the time to go and vote. Advanced polls are now open - all voting information can be found here: https://www.citypa.ca/en/city-hall/pavotes.aspx
Tomorrow we will be hearing from the Mayoral Candidates - be sure to check back then.