Infrastructure deficit a priority for former...
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Aug 20, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

Infrastructure deficit a priority for former councillor

Stratford Gazette

Jeff Heuchert

Since coming up short in the 2010 municipal election while trying to retain his seat on city council, Dave Gaffney has pursued various local interests that have kept him closely connected with the goings-on in city hall.

He is currently chair of the Heritage Stratford advisory committee, vice-chair of the local Communities in Bloom committee and parks board, and chair of Stratford’s sesquicentennial ad-hoc committee.

And it’s that energy to serve his city in some capacity that has Gaffney seeking a return to council this October. He’s the first former councillor to put his name forward.

“I enjoy being a part of the civic (decisions and planning),” Gaffney told the Gazette last week. “And I still think I’ve got something to contribute.”

Gaffney sat on council from 2006-2010, during which time he served as chair of the Public Works subcommittee. But he finished 14th out of 24 candidates for one of 10 spots on the ballot during the last municipal vote, earning over 2,600 votes.

“I might have been a little wound up that night, but that’s the nature of democracy,” Gaffney laughed.

“There are lots of very successful politicians who lost elections and went on to do good things, and I’m hoping to go on and do good things.”

Though four years have passed since he last served as an elected official, Gaffney doesn’t think all that much has changed in terms of the issues and concerns pressing council. He said he’s still worried about the city’s infrastructure deficit and making sure there’s money available for when road, sewer, water and bridge work need to be completed.

“I want to be a part of making sure we’re putting resources towards keeping people moving, and the toilets flushed and the lights turned on,” he said.

Gaffney, whose other civic duties include current president of the Stratford and District Agricultural Society, knows from his own experience the difficult job councillors have prioritizing and managing the city’s various budgets, and said he doesn’t really disagree with any decision council has made over this last term.

He agrees fully with the finance committee’s recent decision not to put Festival Hydro up for sale, noting, “That two-plus million (dollars) the city gets every year (in revenue from the utility) is a pretty good bit of money.”

And though he doesn’t plan on making either a major part of his election campaign, Gaffney does find himself right in the middle of perhaps the two biggest and most hotly debated projects involving city-owned land: the redevelopment of the Cooper site and Market Square.

As chair of the heritage committee that is presently reviewing the former CNR shops to determine whether a heritage designation is warranted, Gaffney has heard more than an earful already about what should be done with the property and building. He said it’s tough for him to comment given his position, but noted the committee’s 2012 recommendation –  that the old railway shops be recognized as a site with heritage significance but not be retained due to their condition and cost of rehabilitation – still stands for the time being.

Gaffney is also connected with planning for Market Square, the redevelopment of which was earmarked by the sesquicentennial committee as its project of choice to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017.

Gaffney said the idea for a pedestrian-first space behind city hall is one he sees value in, though he noted it has now “turned into a political issue” that will take time to figure out.

He said he wouldn’t support the project moving ahead if it creates more of a burden for taxpayers.

“To me it should be funded. We would have to see if there’s any appetite for fundraising out there. We’ve got the money from Walmart, but that only gets you so far,” he said.

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