Troy Reitsma

Troy Reitsma

Housing, taxes, health care among key issues raised by council candidates

Seven people vying for six seats on District of Houston council

With seven candidates vying for the six seats on the District of Houston council in this month’s civic election, Houston Today took the opportunity to ask each the same questions.

Here are their responses in alphabetical order.

Tom Euverman has lived in Houston most of his life, working in forestry and in the travel business and, for 42 years, was the owner of Country Wide Printing which he sold four years ago.

* What is the single largest issue facing the District of Houston council/District government? the condition of the roads. A 2018 study showed that $1.1 million was need just to maintain the roads. This is the first year we have budgeted that amount.

* What is the single largest issue facing the District of Houston council/District government?Lack of government services, eg. social services, college re-opening, health services and more.

* If reelected/elected, what would your first order of business be? I will help lobby the provincial government to get the go ahead to expand the Dungate Community Forest.

* What key level of service, either public or private sector, needs improvement? — We have many assets such as cross country ski trails, bike trails and hiking trail and outside recreational opportunities. We need to market these better and I will work with council and the citizens of Houston to do that.

Rebecca Hougen is a former finance administrator who is 37 years old and is currently homeschooling four sons. Although she moved away for school, when her husband got a job with a local logging contractor, the couple moved back four years ago after deciding to raise their family here.

* What is the single largest issue facing the District of Houston council/District government? — The issues that have come up consistently are the rise of crime in the area and cost of taxes.

* What is the single largest issue facing the community?See above.

* If reelected/elected, what would your first order of business be? — I would examine what other provincial resources could be utilized to ensure the safety of the public without sacrificing our tax dollars to accomplish it.

* What key level of service, either public or private sector, needs improvement?Supporting and building our current local economy and I welcome sustainable business and industry to our beautiful town.

Lisa Mueller is 43 years old and is an entrepreneur, First Nations consultant and community builder who moved to the community two years ago after being drawn to its affordable housing and opportunity to own acreage with plans to open a business or two.

* What is the single largest issue facing the District of Houston council/District government? — Infrastructure.

* What is the single largest issue facing the community? — Our service strains from the growth of the pipeline.

* If elected, what would your first order of business be? — To get caught up and understand the District’s issues, goals, budgets and committees.

* What key level of service, either public or private sector, needs improvement? — Social and community services. We need the ability to provide in-community care versus relying on neighbouring municipalities.

Troy Reitsma — Born and raised in Houston, Reitsma, 51, moved away for 13 years before returning 19 years ago. He owns his own business.

* What is the single largest issue facing the District of Houston council/District government?Maintaining a full complement of staff. The senior management team is finally at full capacity but we are still short at the leisure facility.

* What is the single largest issue facing the community? — Economic diversification. We have to now move away from being just a lumber town. Phase One of the multi-phase downtown revitalization plan is completed and looks fantastic. Amazing groups are working on biking, nordic skiing and the District has plans for upgrading Bymac Park’s boat launch and campgrounds. But we should also recognize forestry still plays a role by lobbying the province to increase our community forest so that we have the funding for this recreational work to continue.

* If reelected/elected, what would your first order of business be? — To get together with the new council and find common ground so we are all pushing the same direction. Then to continue with downtown revitalization to increase the desire of investors to do business here.

* What key level of service, either public or private sector, needs improvement — The District town does a good job delivering services but there have been some hiccups. The paving program has not been good this year and we’ve had challenges in the past with snow removal although snow removal was greatly improved this past winter.

Tom Stringfellow is a fulltime paramedic and at the age of 62, has lived in Houston since he was 10 years old.

* What is the single largest issue facing the District of Houston council/District government? — Housing is one of the single largest issues facing our community. Lack of rental units, as well as affordable housing for lower income and senior citizens.

* What is the single largest issue facing the community? Diminishing population. For example, professionals working but not living in Houston and seniors forced to leave our community for a higher level of care. Ultimately, this leads to reduced resources and the ability to attract investment, both public and private, to Houston.

* If reelected/elected, what would your first order of business be? — If elected, I will continue to advocate for better access and higher level healthcare for our citizens to remain the community.

What key level of service, either public or private sector, needs improvement? — The pandemic has exposed continued gaps in our healthcare system.

Daphne Tofsrud is 46 and does bookkeeping and administration work. She was born and raised in Houston and after moving away when she was 20, returned to the community seven years ago.

* What is the single largest issue facing the District of Houston Council/District government? — Not having enough supports for teenagers and young adults for mental health issues and drugs/alcohol addiction.

* What is the single largest issue facing the community? — Not having enough help for young adults for mental health which in turn can lead to the use of drugs and alcohol and more. We do not have enough facilities or support in place to help put a stop to this before it gets worse.

* If elected what would your first order of business be? — To see what can be done to set up safe places for the individuals I mentioned above as well where they can go to get help.

* What key level of service, either public or private sector, needs improvement? — More mental health, more addictions help starting with the youth to young adults before a possibility of getting worse.

Jonathan Van Barneveld is a forester who is 33 and has lived in the community all his life.

* What is the single largest issue facing the District of Houston council/District government? — The financial crunch of having to replace aging infrastructure and having to pay for it with an out-of-date municipal taxation system. The Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance made up of northwest local governments will negotiate a deal with the provincethat will allow the resource dollars we generate to stay in the community.

* What is the single largest issue facing the community? — For the first time ever, the community is feeling the housing affordability crisis along with the rest of the province. Houston used to be an affordable market, but a combination of factors are contributing to higher prices and lower supply. The rental market is becoming unobtainable and we are seeing increased pressure on our vulnerable populations.

* If reelected/elected, what would your first order of business be? — The new council will come together and gather everyone’s thoughts and ideas to build a new strategic plan. We’ve made great progress downtown and it has gone a long way to improve our image and boost business confidence. I want us to keep moving forward and not lose this momentum. I will be advocating for projects and policies that help accomplish that.

* What key level of service, either public or private sector, needs improvement? — With all the economic activity taking place around us, now is the time to actively our population. We need to come up with creative solutions for housing and commercial development to do that. We should look at streamlining the services the District has to facilitate the needs for developers.

 

Tom Stringfellow

Tom Stringfellow

Daphne Tofsrud

Daphne Tofsrud

Jonathan Van Barveveld

Jonathan Van Barveveld

Rebecca Hougen

Rebecca Hougen

Lisa Mueller

Lisa Mueller

All candidates forum in Houston. (Angelique Houlihan photo/Houston Today)