Community growth and jobs important to Area B hopefuls

Max Lentz and Willow MacDonald debate the issues during an all candidates forum in Blue River

Willow MacDonald debates with incumbent Max Lentz to be TNRD director for Thompson Headwaters (Area B) during an all candidates' forum in Blue River last Monday evening.

Willow MacDonald debates with incumbent Max Lentz to be TNRD director for Thompson Headwaters (Area B) during an all candidates' forum in Blue River last Monday evening.

How important is it to residents of Thompson Headwaters (Area B) that their representative to the Thompson-Nicola Regional District actually live in their community?

That seemed to be the most important issue on the minds of participants during an all candidates’ forum held in Blue River on Monday evening.

About 30 residents turned out for the event (out of a total Blue River population of about 270).

They came to hear incumbent TNRD director Max Lentz defend his record against challenger Willow MacDonald.

Lentz lives in Kamloops, not Area B, and in fact has never lived in the electoral area.

MacDonald, on the other hand, lives in Blue River and operates a business (Janie’s General Store) there with her husband.

“I have a vision for Blue River and we can only make it grow by bringing in business, especially larger businesses with good-paying jobs,” said Lentz. “Eventually Blue River could get its own mayor and council, but it’s going to take a lot of work.”

“I’ve done three years of work and I have another three years of work to do. Give me my job back so I can continue,” he asked.

The incumbent director pointed to a number of accomplishments achieved during his three years on the regional district board.

A 200-foot cellphone tower is visible from town and should go operational by the end of this month, he said.

A similar tower near Vavenby needs an upgraded power connection and so won’t go on until next spring.

Construction of a third tower near Wire Cache south of Avola should begin next spring, with it going operational in the summer.

Once all three are operating there should be continuous cellphone coverage from Blue River to Kamloops, said Lentz.

“It’s a tremendous safety and business thing,” he said.

Lentz produced a letter from Telus thanking him for his support in moving the cellphone project forward.

The incumbent director said he also worked hard to get recent upgrades to Internet service in Blue River.

Other accomplishments include an improved skating rink, financing for a new roof on the community hall, and money for upgrades to the water system (with construction to start next year).

Talks are being held about upgrading Blue River’s airport. Improvements possibly could include a wider runway, resurfacing and a new, larger hangar.

“We’ve not had a vote for 18 years, so it’s really nice to see people supporting our community,” said Willow MacDonald, referring to the relatively large audience.

“It matters that we have a representative who represents us,” she said. “We need a really loud voice to yell down to Kamloops.”

“I’m not a politician,” she added. “I’m really just a salesperson with a big mouth.”

Patricia Tyacke asked what contacts MacDonald has in Kamloops.

The challenger admitted that she does not know as many people in the city as does the incumbent, but said she would make that a priority.

Lentz said he typically attends 70 to 80 meetings per year in Kamloops.

“There’s a tremendous advantage to living in Kamloops,” he said.

Michelle Wiegele asked what the candidates would do to help Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing get longer and more secure tenures so it could invest more and create jobs.

“I’m for that,” said MacDonald. “I totally support things that bring jobs and families.

Lentz said he plans to meet soon with a delegation of investors that could bring in $80-90 million to the area.

 

“Tenure is very important,” he said. “Investors want that before they invest.”