By RYAN KING
Residents across the province will choose their next Town councillors on Tuesday, Sept. 28. In Rose Blanche – Harbour Le Cou there are eight candidates on the ballot.
Gary Bateman, Craig Savoury and Frank Touchings did not respond to inquiries by press deadline.
Fred Billard has been on council for the last eight years. He is running for re-election because he believes he can still be of great use to the town.
“I feel I still have a little to contribute. I’m a life long resident of Rose Blanche, I’m retired, and I enjoy trying to do something to better the community,” said Billard.
He pointed out that one pressing issue to be dealt with is the water situation in Rose Blanche.
“Our main issue is still our water. We just finished up a project of half a million dollars there last year. We replaced all the pipes in the pump house and whatnot. A few years ago we put in a new reservoir, but we’re still having a problem with the system that they put in,” said Billard. “We’re working with the government. We have another chlorinator that we’re going to install at the reservoir, supplement to the one in the pump house at the source. So hopefully that’ll clear that up.”
Another issue for Billard is the conditions of the roads.
“We prioritize what roads need to be done, and with a small tax base, no business tax base at all, it’s difficult without putting up taxes, which we don’t want to do. But if people want services, somebody’s got to pay for it and the government will only give you so much. So we do the best we can with what we have without trying to raise taxes, or not put it up too much, because our tax base is mostly seniors, and you can only tax them so much,” said Billard.
Clayton Durnford has been sitting on council since 2005 and is currently serving as mayor. He is grateful for the support he has received over the years.
“I will be running for Council once again as there are some major issues myself and the councillors have been working hard to fix and I would like to see it through,” said Durnford.
Durnford shared that his time as mayor has been great and past councils have overcome many obstacles. He did not elaborate on any one particular issue.
“It has been an honour to be mayor of such a wonderful council who has overcame so many hurdles for our town. As there are more hurdles to come, I am asking once again for your support.”
Gordon Edwards is running for a council seat for the first time. He grew up in Rose Blanche, but moved away for a number of years. He and his wife moved back last year after they retired. He spent 20 years with the Canadian Forces and worked in the private sector after that as an electrical contractor.
“I’ve never sat on a municipal council before, but I’ve worked with various levels of government right throughout both my career with the Forces and working in the private sector. You know, so dealing with those government agencies and stuff, it’s not foreign,” shared Edwards. “And I have a fair amount of experience, broad experience if you will, in terms of dealing with people. Not so much dealing with a community – that would possibly be a new venture – but leadership is leadership. Leadership skills are the same no matter what, you just apply them differently depending on the venue that you’re sitting in.”
Edwards is running because he sees there are issues for the town to deal with and he can offer a new perspective.
“You know since coming back here last year and stuff, in this community there’s challenges that they are facing,” said Edwards. “The other side of it is that a new set of eyes, some fresh ideas, if you will, to help the community to move forward, to continue to grow.”
One of those challenges for Edwards involves the water.
“There was a waterworks project that was completed here probably about two years ago I’ll say, to the tune of pretty close to three-quarters of a million dollars, and it’s still not functioning as it should. So that’s definitely a challenge. And how does the community move forward and get that rectified, two years on,” he said. “You’d have to go back on the work documentation first to see exactly what transpired and where possibly something went wrong, or didn’t get completed, or whatever the case may be. It’s tough to make a statement on how you would get it rectified without knowing the facts.”
Also on his agenda is growing the tourism industry in Rose Blanche-Harbour Le Cou.
“It is a vibrant community. There is a large draw here for tourism. That’s another one. How can we as a community make it better for tourism and promote tourism even? Like in a lot of small communities in Newfoundland, the prime industry years ago, the fishery, that’s on the decline, and in some cases just nonexistent in some communities. So you have to create revenue and interest in the community in other means. Tourism is one of those areas, for sure. They actually have a pretty good draw right now. The question is how do we expand on it?”
Edwards believes that one way to increase tourism will be to create an official website.
“There’s no community website right now. You go on google and type in Rose Blanche, you’re going to get the Rose Blanche Lighthouse come up. They have their own webpage, but there’s nothing linked to the community itself.”
Mona Harris has been living in Rose Blanche for 22 years. She has three kids, three grandkids, and has been married for 22 years. She is new to running for council, and just wants to do her part to help out.
“Unfortunately we’re a really small community. I’d just like to make sure that I am able to help the council keep running, and hopefully make our town prosperous for such a small place, help the people with anything that they may need or want a voice on the council,” said Harris.
Harris noted that the primary issue right now is the water in Rose Blanche, which is being worked on, and that teamwork will be needed to get it fixed.
“I think our biggest issue right now is our water system, unfortunately. We do have a water machine where we can go and get our water, but the water that actually comes from our taps is terrible. So, that would be a big issue I think for most people here in our community,” shared Harris. “I know that they are looking into getting more filter systems and chlorine in the water, but I think other than that, I don’t really know. I’m hoping with the other councillors that we can come up with something.”
Harris will also be making herself available to the public if they have any other pressing concerns.
“We’re a really small community, so sustaining what we have is probably our biggest issue right now. Like I said, this is only new for me, so I’m hoping that the people will come forward or (with) anything they have,” said Harris, “and work with the people and councillors to make our community last.”
Improving tourism in the town is one of the ways Harris hopes to achieve that goal.
“That’s probably one of our biggest industries right now. Unfortunately, we don’t even have a store or anything here now, so anything that can improve our industry at this point is a big bonus for us,” noted Harris. “My biggest thing is going to be working with the councillors that are on board and seeing what they have to offer.”
Jennifer Keeping has been on council for 14 years and is currently serving as deputy mayor. She is passionate about her town and is focused on tourism development.
“One of my primary goals as a councilor is working together to take advantage of what our community has to offer as a tourist attraction and to attract more visitors to our community. People love our uniqueness and therefore we need to promote it and, where feasible, expand and grow. If re-elected I will continue serving as liaison with the Rose Blanche Lighthouse Inc., with hopes that this organization will flourish and expand. I strongly support and encourage growth as we have seen with the recent addition of The Shed Pottery, Katie Lew Art Studio & Gallery, Newfoundland Stained Glass, and Marine Excursions,” said Keeping.
Another issue Keeping is looking to tackle as councilor is dealing with rundown buildings.
“As a council we need to encourage residents to maintain their properties and continue to move forward with our course of action in removing dilapidated properties in order to keep our community attractive and safe, rather than not.”
Henry Lawrence has been on council for two terms now and is running for his third. He owns a business in Port aux Basques and believes his business experience makes him an asset. He is running again because the town is important to him and there is more work to do.
“I feel like I’m a good asset to the town and I feel that there’s a lot of things that we had done for the Council, the previous Council, and I feel that there’s a lot that needs to be finished by us guys. And I feel that the town is important for me because I’ve lived here now for 37 years,” shared Lawrence.
A pressing issue for Lawrence is also the water situation in Rose Blanche.
“We’ve always dealt with issues with water. That’s one thing I would like to get finalized because we have been running into issues with our water not being the clearest and people have complained about the dark water. So as council, the previous Council, we are trying our best to get that settled,” said Lawrence.
Resolving the issue will likely require meeting with the company that installed the system, something that has been done already.
“We met with the companies that installed it and all that stuff. So that’s all being looked into now. So, like I said, a lot of people don’t know yet what we’re doing because we meet with the companies, and we’re trying to figure it all out. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to get the water system here clear for the people for the drinking. That’s our biggest concern,” said Lawrence.
Also of note for Lawrence is expanding the town’s tourism.
“We all know we’re like a tourist community, so I’m hoping that maybe down the road we can do more things for the tourism. As you know, we’ve got a lot of outsiders that bought our homes in this community, which is a big asset to us,” said Lawrence. “The tourism is gonna be our biggest thing too. I say, down the road, we’re going to see what we can do to build the tourism more, like get more people interested in tourism. We are putting up signs, we’re putting up storyboards, we’re doing the trails and all that like. We are trying our best to draw people.”