By Lyonel Doherty
Aimee Grice is once again setting her sights on filling a town council seat in Oliver this fall.
The local mom ran in last year’s by-election but lost out to Dave Mattes, who garnered 365 votes. Grice finished second with 197, followed by Peter McKenna with 101.
At the time, Mattes said he was very impressed with Grice’s ideas and hoped she would run again.
McKenna said he isn’t running for council again because he plans to retire and do some travelling.
Grice said she has been working hard to make improvements in certain areas including housing and business.
“Affordable housing was at the top of the list of concerns that were voiced to me during my campaign last year.”
Grice took action on this and, along with other community members, founded the Oliver and Area Affordable Housing Society.
“We are working towards building a mix of affordable, market and economical rental properties to help alleviate some of the housing pressure.”
Grice supports the legalization of marijuana, noting she looks forward to the economic opportunities this will bring to the area.
“I’m also committed to ensuring we have a safe community in which marijuana use is regulated in a respectful way to protect individuals and businesses.”
Grice attended the recent crime forum in Oliver, citing the important issue of drug treatment, adding that much of the local crime problem is related to the opioid crisis.
“Although council could not build a treatment centre, lobbying the provincial and federal governments for funding to open a treatment facility is a start.” Grice said this could emerge from a local grassroots effort.
Mattes said he is running to retain his seat on council.
“I think I continue to provide a strong voice on council on many issues. I bring a business perspective, a questioning perspective and a strong belief in fiscal responsibility.”
Incumbent Larry Schwartzenberger is also running for re-election, noting he wants to continue working with council to accomplish its unfinished priorities.
He pointed out the lobbying efforts required to receive two extra RCMP officers for Oliver.
He said the existing group of officers is overworked in an understaffed detachment, which is one contributing factor to the increase in crime. Others include the fentanyl drug crisis, minimal punishment for repeat offenders and a lack of mental health programs and facilities.
“To move forward on increasing public safety and crime prevention, council can make some changes but it will require the cooperation of higher levels of government as well,” he said, noting the increase in criminal activity in Oliver didn’t happen overnight and it won’t be solved overnight either.
If re-elected, Schwartzenberger said he will push for the two additional officers, substantially increase the Town’s bylaw enforcement budget to deploy a security contractor at night, and provide further support to Oliver Crime Watch.
The councillor said he wants to see further improvements to roads and sidewalks, and on downtown revitalization. In addition, the new public park project adjacent to the Oliver Coast Hotel is something else he wants to be a part of.
Fellow Councillor Petra Veintimilla is also jumping back into the race, saying she appreciates the opportunity to serve local citizens.
“It’s really something special to be a part of making decisions on behalf of and for our community that will help shape its future.”
Veintimilla said the top issues on her mind right now are securing funding for the Gallagher Lake siphon and developing open (park) spaces on either side of the new hotel. A regional aquatic facility is also a project she wants to be involved in.
“I really believe that we need to continue to look ahead when having conversations and decision making, and plan for the future.”
Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes confirmed that he is also seeking re-election. He noted his desire to secure required funding for the canal fix and to ensure that Oliver gets its new RCMP officers.
As far as crime goes, the mayor said he is continually working with and meeting with local enforcement officials, and beefing up bylaw budgets during busier periods.
Hovanes noted he’s lobbying the province for more personnel and addressing ministers and senior RCMP. He also reports all crime and concerns that come through Town Hall, and ensures that Crime Watch is being funded.
“This is an ongoing concern with a need to be continually addressed. There is not a single fix.”
The mayor said the one thing he would like to discuss with council is a real increase in the bylaw enforcement budget to allow for more after-hours patrols and security.