Public’s concerns heard loud and clear by council
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“There’s a vocal group for sure that you will hear from, but I have not received one call or email or inquiry from one resident in my ward that felt they did not have input or an opportunity to provide input. From my perspective, I don’t see the urgency or requirement to hold another hearing. I’m not sure what we hope to gain from it.”
— Coun. Glen Parker (Ward 9), Oct. 3, 2022
If any members of Brandon City Council thought residents didn’t have anything more to say on the $30-million loan for the southwest lift station project, it was obvious early on in Monday’s public hearing they were wrong.
In one of the most well-attended city council meetings of any kind in the last few years, approximately 40 people gathered at city hall for the second public hearing on the project.
In both written and oral submissions for the record, the public clearly and loudly articulated large concerns or outright opposition to the project.
They discussed their anxiety over the rise in utility rates and the city’s escalating debt load.
They expressed worries that the project will benefit developers and not residents, that the city will be on the hook for the whole project should developments not proceed and that the area planned for development could be prone to flooding.
There were only two people who expressed support for the loan. Even then, both discussed caveats.
Brandon Chamber of Commerce president Tanya LaBuick wrote in a letter that her organization and taxpayers would continue to have reservations as long as the city doesn’t provide a clear link between the costs and potential benefits of the project.
Steve McMillan of J&G Group — one of several developers with interests in the area these lift stations would service — advocated for the project, but appeared to sense the crowd’s anxieties by asking if there was any way of lowering costs.
From an observer’s perspective, it appeared as though councillors were taken aback by the volume of negativity thrown at the project.
Multiple councillors also spoke of how they’d received negative feedback and questions from their constituents ahead of the second hearing.
After several extra months to consider it as well as two briefing sessions and an open house, city representatives might have hoped any remaining wrinkles had been smoothed out, making way for a delayed but easy approval.
We applaud city council for delaying the process and giving residents the chance to learn more about why these lift stations were thought necessary. We would also note some of the concerns and questions people raised at the meeting had been previously addressed in some form by the city.
However, their efforts were clearly not enough to make a case to the general populace that this project as currently proposed is the right move for the city.
At the end of last week, Coun. Shawn Berry (Ward 7) asked people with any thoughts on the project — positive, negative or mixed — to show up and speak their minds.
In an interview with our paper published last Saturday, Berry said he’d been approached last week by members of the business community who believed there would be harmful implications for the city if the project was not approved.
If these people had shown up at Monday’s hearing and made a case as to why this project is so essential, the story might be different. But they did not.
Should council members continue to push for this loan and this project, they had better make a more compelling case between now and the final vote sometime next month.
Despite what some council members said last year about there being nothing else to say on the topic, it’s clear the general populace would disagree.