There were a few concerns expressed by residents about traffic safety in the village, specifically about the safety of children who need to cross Highway 2, and while the candidates all agreed it is a serious issue, they had different proposals for solving the problem. Carl Sahlin proposed advocating for traffic lights where the highway intersects 51 Street, but Red Merrick argued stopping traffic at the intersection would create other safety issues on the hill leading into Pouce Coupe. He suggested council look at increasing the hours of the current crossing guard at the intersection instead.
Gerta Kut said council needs to start planning now for the impacts of the pending twinning of Highway 2 and the increased traffic that will create more safety issues, and while Merrick didn’t disagree, he said he can’t imagine a four lane highway going through the village and suspects it will ultimately bypass Pouce Coupe.
Merrick, Sahlin and Kut all listed paving and improving city streets as a top priority if elected.
Candidates were split on the issue of expanding a public transit service into the village. Kut and Colleen Evans were is support of having a transit service, while Merrick and Jonathon Simmons said they did not believe it could be economically feasible. Sahlin noted the elimination of the Step Up and Ride service to Pouce Coupe as a big loss for the mobility of residents.
Merrick is the only incumbent running for re-election, having served on council for one term. He said the last three years have been busy, and while there have been many obstacles, he is proud of many of council’s accomplishments including the completion of the new fire hall and water tower. He said, if elected, over the next three years his priorities will include increasing the capacity of Pouce Park, improving enforcement of village bylaws and rewriting some of the village’s building codes.
Kut has lived in the village for the past 15 years, and is the wife of the late former councillor, Peter Kut. She has been a volunteer with Tremblay House, a non-profit rental housing society, since 1989, is currently a volunteer with the South Peace Hospice and Palliative Care Society, and serves as secretary-treasurer of the Pouce Coupe Community Foundation. She said her priorities include making more land available for residential development, and advocating for more money to be put into upgrading and maintaining the Peace River Haven care home. She added she would like to attract more tourists into the village by erecting a monument recognizing Pouce Coupe as one of the oldest communities in the Peace region.
Jonathan Simmons has spent 25 of his 30 years in Pouce Coupe, and said he would like to see the community grow and add more services and amenities to make it a better place for his and other young families to live.
“Do we need more hotels where people can fly in and stay there then leave? No, we need to make this a place where people can come and live where there’s more than a gas station and a hotel,” said Simmons. “We have to make it so there are some facilities, and land to build new housing.”
Colleen Evans has been a resident for over 20 years, is married with two children, has worked for a local care home in the past, and currently works for a local oilfield company. She currently serves on the Pouce Coupe Library board, as well as on the board of Community Futures Peace Laird.
“I’ve seen our community expand over the last 20 years and it is nice to see the bedroom community that Pouce Coupe is becoming, and it is my hope that we continue to attract long-term residents,” said Evans. “Pouce Coupe needs to be a warm, safe and welcoming community, a community that is attractive to businesses, young families and retirees.”
She said she would like to see council upgrade existing infrastructure in a “controlled, reasonable manner that is supported by our ability to finance,” but also to continue adding new amenities, especially more recreational opportunities such as walking paths and hiking trails. She added council needs to enforce stronger animal control bylaws to protect residents from stray and potentially dangerous dogs.
The five candidates are vying to fill four seats on village council. Pouce Coupe voters are encouraged to make their voices heard by casting their ballots for both mayor and council on Nov. 19 at the village office.