DC candidates in-depth: Paul Gevatkoff

Talk about your time in the community and community-building. What boards/commissions or committees do you sit, and talk about key projects you have had a hand in?

Started working with City economic development advisory committees in the 1990’s for forestry and oil/gas. Participated in lobbying Provincial Government for improvements to highway safety and changes to the Agricultural Land Reserve. Past President of the Dawson Creek Rotary Club and Chaired the Rotary TV Auction, Founding member in 1990 of the South Peace Oilmen’s Association and current Board member, past President of the Mile 0 Park Society and Board member and for several years, current President of the Dawson Creek Ski and Recreation Association and current Board member of the Dawson Creek Athletic Association, 

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In your opinion, what is the role of a city councilor in a 10 to 20,000 person city?

To participate in decision making, to provide policy direction for maintenance and growth of the City, to work to provide the needs of taxpayers while maintain financial sustainability and to encourage and support economic development by supporting existing and new business. Actively listen to residents with a view to advocate for changes/improvements where required. 

Are there any particular issues or local decisions that have you running? Why and what are they?

I am concerned with all issues facing the City. My main concern; financial sustainability while maintaining and improving core infrastructure.

What are the three most important issues facing the City?

Fiscal gap, maintaining and improving City infrastructure (roads, utilities, airport, buildings protective services) and supporting and managing growth anticipated with LNG.

Matters such as health and education are more provincial matters and business but are often lumped into municipal politics. What role can a municipal councilor play in health and education when it comes to these institutions in their city?

Working with local service providers to identify needs and challenges, to provide information to local and senior Governments to gain support, encourage residents to participate in supportive initiatives. Council must resist the downloading of responsibilities by senior Governments.

What can you, if elected as a councillor, do to help reduce crime in Dawson Creek? What ideas can you bring to the table?

Provide support to police services. Participate with Police in identifying and focusing on priorities. Ensure street lighting is adequate. Provide security cameras where appropriate. Ensure the public is made aware of current criminal activity. As an individual, support local Crime Watch organization, encourage reporting.

How do you balance the push for economic growth and environmental sustainability?

Most of our economic growth is resource related. Resource related industry must comply with Federal and Provincial environmental regulations designed to ensure environmental protection. Local bylaws reinforce these regulations. 

How do you see industry, small business, and nonprofits’ relationship with the city of Dawson Creek?

Industry provides jobs and opportunities that contribute to growth. Business provides services required by industry. Increased services contribute to the viability of a city as a service center. Non-profit organizations provide services such as social, educational, arts, cultural and sports that improve the quality of life in a community and are normally funded by the Community support, not the City.

Do you think the downtown core is successful and thriving? Why or why not, and cite examples.

Not thriving but successful. Downtown core will benefit from increased housing. More people downtown will help to attract more services. The City can participate by offering incentives to develop vacant properties.

What do you know about public transportation options in Dawson Creek? Do you have any ideas regarding public transportation?

Existing transit provides an exceptional service however the cost is significant due to low ridership. The service needs to become more cost effective. Step Up and Ride also provides a valuable service. There may be an opportunity to integrate the two services.

It has been said by a handful of current councilors that DC must mind its fiscal gap and are not doing it. One current councilor pegs the city’s own building upkeep bill at approximately $40 million dollars behind. What has (or hasn’t) City Council done, and what more can be done?

City administrators have defined the current level of fiscal gap and the level of increase each year. Council has started a process to identify options and consult with taxpayers regarding solutions. Current services can not be maintained without a massive tax increase. The City MUST BECOME FINANCIALLY SUSTAINABLE and taxpayers must play a role. 

If elected, what steps will you take to put DC on firmer financial footing?

Work to rationalize City services with taxpayer’s support. Ensure taxpayers have the information and the process needed to make the difficult decisions that are required. Council must always consider the LOW and FIXED INCOME taxpayers in mind. For example, a household with an income limited to Canada Pension and Old Age Security and possibly a small work pension might receive as little as $24,000 per year. Property tax and utility costs will be a significant portion of their income. Increased taxes and utility fees have a serious impact on the ability of some low-income taxpayers to remain in their homes.

It’s easy to suggest projects, or improvements to services, but it all costs money and the City has a limited budget. Do you believe the City has to raise taxes in order to do what you feel needs to be done? Or do you feel there are services that can be cut? Why or why not?

Taxpayers must participate in decisions to determine the services they are collectively willing to support. Services have been added regularly since “Fair Share” came into existence. Prior to “fair share” budgets were tight and new services were difficult to implement. The City enjoys an exceptional quality of life at the expense, in many cases, of deferred infrastructure work. The choices are to reduce services or increase taxes or a combination of the two to get the City to a financially sustainable position. Taxpayers pay the bills, so they need to participate in decision making! The impact on low income families must be considered when tax and fees are increased.

Do you want Rotary Lake opened? Why or Why not? If so – please provide a list of steps that should be taken by the city or that the city could recommend to operators. (And in what form, if it should re-open).

Rotary Lake has provided and can continue to provide a low-cost activity for locals and visitors for many years. The City needs to actively support the ROTARY CLUB to ensure the “Lake” designation is maintained.  As a Lake, the Mile 0 Park Society can make the necessary safety improvements to re-open the facility. It has been suggested that the City provide an outdoor pool at Rotary Lake. Capital cost and maintenance will obviously exacerbate the fiscal gap unless taxpayers are willing to increase taxes. A tax increase of 1% will provide about $170,000. An estimated cost to build and maintain an outdoor pool is $1,000,000 IE. 6% tax increase plus annual maintenance.

With the removal of Rotary Lake, some have noted the lack of affordable recreation options for families and youth in Dawson Creek? What do you feel council has done in this regard, and what do you plan to bring to the table if elected? (Aside from your feelings on Rotary Lake).

Considering the fiscal situation with the City, non-profit groups will need to continue providing opportunities for people. The fiscal gap predicament has resulted from a continued increase in services by the City. The public can continue to develop affordable activities. Council can often support initiatives at no cost to taxpayers. Disc Golf, Music festivals, Cruisers Car Show, 4H, Jr. Canadian Rangers, Cadets, The Ark are examples that are provided with little or no help from the City.

Are you in support of a runway extension at the Dawson Creek Regional Airport? Why or why not?

Yes. The Airport is a critical part of our transportation system and a catalyst to attract and retain businesses that provide services to industry. A runway extension is needed to meet the demands of modern air travel; new and faster aircraft, improved safety, better capacities for loads and weather conditions. Medivacs are increasing with consolidated medical specialization, aging population and increasing population and industrial growth. We need to be positioned to capitalize on future opportunities for both industry and general air travel. 

What are your feelings on how City Council has handled the incoming legalization of recreational marijuana?

Handled well. Much of the issue is dictated by senior Governments. City is implementing the best approach possible to deal with legalization.

Should councillors travel to and attend conferences and events inside and outside Dawson Creek that the Mayor may also already be attending, expensed to the City? If so, why and what tangible benefits must come out of these? If not, why not?

Attendance to some events is productive however, participation in many events does not provide a tangible benefit to taxpayers. Attendance needs to be discussed and approved by Council on an event specific basis. Most of the time, the Mayor or a designate attendance is enough.

.You get one million dollars for a single DC or related area project. No strings attached — your choice. Where does that money go?

Capital reserve for future Capital need.

Don’t forget the DC Mirror council candidate mega-debate at Encana Events Centre Thursday Oct. 11

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