Ritchot Council Consults Public on Key Issues

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1 Ritchot Council Consults With Public On Key Issues Pic2
Lesley Gaudry speaks at Ritchot public consultations Brenda Sawatzky

The RM of Ritchot has some big topics on their agenda and from late October to early November they took these topics on the road, stopping at five locations within the municipality. Residents were encouraged to come out and provide essential feedback to council as they move toward some timely decisions in 2018.

From October 24 to November 2, residents attended meetings at the Ste. Agathe Cultural Centre, the St. Adolphe Pioneer Hall, the TransCanada Centre in Île-des-Chênes, the Howden Community Hall, and Grande Pointe’s warmup shed. Topics on the docket included an update on the Main Street Revitalization plans for three of Ritchot’s communities, the proposal to change the ward boundaries in time for next year’s municipal election, and a conversation about policing services. 

Community Economic Development Officer Lesley Gaudry opened the evenings with a review of the conceptual drawings, recommendations, and estimated budget costs for the revitalization projects. In 2016, the RM hired Winnipeg-based consulting company HTFC to perform an extensive analysis of each main street in order to provide detailed feedback based on their 50 years of experience in community revitalization. 

The outcome was a series of tailor-made solutions, unique for each main street yet revolving around the same core values: to create a hub that supports local business and economic development, to provide community connectivity through access routes to the town’s destination points, to provide safer transportation and pedestrian accesses, to instill a sense of community pride through beautification, and to create opportunities for stronger tourism. 

Each main street concept included options from bike racks to boulevards to roundabouts. Each item, Gaudry says, is up for discussion. Results from the HTFC study are merely a planning tool and funding will be a primary factor. She says that smaller changes may begin happening soon while others may take upwards of ten years to complete.

Gaudry reminded residents in attendance at the Ste. Agathe meeting to begin to visualize their main street through the eyes of an outsider, suggesting that residents tend to become indifferent to their surroundings. 

“If we don’t visualize ourselves as being different, we won’t be,” says Gaudry.

She is excited, though, for the potential for each town to grow their business sector, stating that she receives phone calls on a weekly basis from entrepreneurs interested in relocating to the Ritchot municipality. Unfortunately, at this stage there are few good locations to put them. 

HTFC’s entire report, along with budget estimates, is available on the RM website.

Mitch Duval, the municipality’s Chief Administrative Officer, moved the meeting forward into discussions on potential ward boundary changes, a decision council will have to make well before the election next October. As some communities in the RM have grown significantly faster than others, there is a population disparity between wards at present that creates an imbalance at election time. Duval proposed a variety of options to rectify the situation. More details will be brought forward in the coming months.

Mayor Chris Ewen completed each evening’s agenda with an open discussion on policing services, asking residents for feedback on three questions: How do you feel about current services? What are the major issues that the municipality is faced with? What are our future requirements?

Many residents attending the Ste. Agathe meeting were unaware of the RM’s current contract with Prairie Bylaw Enforcement Services (PBES). Others remarked at the infrequency of seeing the PBES patrol cars in and around the community. Council will be looking at a number of options going forward and seek resident feedback for direction. 

Those options include increasing PBES’s presence in Ritchot to create more of a presence during daylight hours, as well as include hours when criminal activity typically takes place. A second option is to consider the possibility of private policing, either by means of establishing a Ritchot police force or a regional police force in partnership with a surrounding town or municipality. 

Regardless of the policing decision council will eventually make, Mayor Ewen strongly encourages residents to become involved in their local Citizens on Patrol program.

As resident feedback is essential to council on every one of the matters brought to the Ritchot constituents during these meetings, Ewen urged those in attendance to reach out to council in the coming weeks via email or phone calls.

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