“I still have the desire and the want to work on it, and to be on town council. When people ask me if I’m running for council, and I have to stop and say I really haven’t thought about it, or I don’t know — to me, it’s time to step down. To me, right now I still have the want and the desire to do it, and I still want to be part of it.”
Seeking a fifth term on town council, Papp pointed out present and previous councils have always worked together as a team to accomplish mutually-beneficial goals.
“The present council, and all of the councils that I’ve been on since my first term, we’ve always got along very well. We’ve never had any bad words, bad discussions when we’ve had our meetings. We’ve discussed things, and when everyone is in agreement about it, or in disagreement, when a decision has been made, it’s made. There’s no bad words, there’s no name-calling after the meeting — it’s a good, working council.”
Coming up with a strategy to help revitalize the community’s sagging downtown business district is vital, according to Papp.
“I’d like to focus more on energy saving, with buildings. I think we have a certain process with that right now, but I think we could do better. Downtown retention, how do we keep businesses downtown? How do we increase our businesses down there? Do we want some type of housing accommodations downtown? It’s important that we try to maintain, and try to keep business in our downtown area. I realize that our downtown is never going to be a box store centre, but we have to try to understand that, and say now what are we looking at that’s going to be downtown? I think it’s going to end up being doctors and lawyers and accounting and some restaurants, or specialty shops. So how do we accommodate these? How do we influx larger businesses to come to our town? We have to do a better job with our planning and things of that nature to try to entice people.”
The question of taxation versus levels of service provided to the community is a bit like trying to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope without a balance beam — difficult to say the least.
“As for other things we need to look at — a walking path to Wal-Mart, and the lighting there, because someone is eventually going to get hurt there,” said Papp.
“Everybody wants to keep taxes at a zero basis, but how do we do that without taking away from some of the other entities that we have in town? If you want to deal with zero taxes, what do we want to give up in order to get that? I think we’re also going to need to look at annexation in and around the town to be able to keep some of the construction that’s going, so it doesn’t stop us from expansion, so that we have some control on it. We do have a good working relationship with the M.D. of Taber, and over the years that I’ve been on council, it’s been getting better. How do we make it even better yet? There’s always ways to improve, so we’ve got to look at ways of doing it. We’ve also got a bunch of sports areas that are expensive to operate, so how do we become more efficient in operating them? Regardless of whether it’s the Aquafun Centre, or the arena, or our sportfields, how do maintain and keep them viable so they’re affordable for everybody to use.”
The infrastructure that people don’t always notice on a daily basis is often just as important as fixing roads or filling potholes, added Papp.
“If you look at infrastructure, whether it’s above or below ground, it irritates a lot of people about roads and sidewalks, and we have a lot of potholes and whatever. Being on council, we see the other end of it, too. We see the underground infrastructure. Customers, when they turn a tap on and they see water coming out, they feel that everything is working fine, and when they flush the toilet, everything disappears, and everything is working fine. But there’s a lot of infrastructure that is underground that is not seen by a lot of residents, that don’t understand the problems that we have, regardless of whether it’s the wastewater, or the sewer, or the water lines. It’s an advantage that we have as council when we go to make decisions as to where the dollars are going to go. The public doesn’t realize, but they see the roads and the streets and that’s primarily on their minds.”
A push for more affordable housing in the community could attract an increased number of prospective residents to the community.
“My vision would be to live in a perfect world, but I know that’s not going to happen,” said Papp.
“I would like to see more industry, and larger industry. I’d like to see economical housing for people. I’d like to see more low-cost housing coming into place. If we had more of a level playing field for some of these, something that’s more affordable — I think we would have more people in the area if we had more economical housing.”
Low voter turn-out for municipal elections is something Papp would like to see reversed, especially considering the importance of decisions that are often made by municipal councils.
“Get out and vote, make that difference, because I believe last time we had about 25 per cent turn-out on the voter’s list. We’ve got a large population, over 8,000 people, and I’m sure there are 2,000 to 3,000 people that are eligible to vote. Get out and vote, and speak your concerns out, so that council knows. It’s not a guessing game as to what goes. We really rely a lot on the public. I know I have a lot of people that talk to me, but when it comes down to the crunch, get out and vote, because it does make a difference.”
Papp encouraged citizens to bring forth their issues to members of council, as it plays a vital role in helping council reach decisions.
“I respect the town, I’d like to see it grow, and I still want to be a part of it. I hope that the public perceives that I am doing a good job, and I’m open and willing to listen. We live in a community, and we all have to work together to make it a better place to grow and live. We all have concerns no matter what, but come to us with your concerns, bring it forward so we know what’s going on with the public.”