By Andrew de Souza
Newly sworn in Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne is hoping to ring in his new position by making changes to the way the city does business.
“I was surprised and pleased with such a mandate that I got for change,” he said. “And that’s what today is about, change. I’ve promoted and I will continue to promote for the next four years team work.”
Perhaps more importantly he pointed out that as a new mayor with a new council there was no way to avoid a tax increase.
“I can’t see getting around an increase at this point. We’re just too close to it, we have to proceed with our budget,” he said, though he didn’t define how much the increase would be.
Dionne did say however he would lead by example and cut costs where he could. He said one of his first orders of business would be to remove one of the two secretaries the mayor’s office has and reallocate the position to a department in greater need.
“The last mayor had two secretaries for the first time in the city’s history and I am taking it back to one,” he said. “I’m going to lead by example and effective tomorrow there is one secretary in the mayor’s office."
Dionne said a major change he wanted to enact was the rearrangement of the Prince Albert Board of Police Commissioners, a committee at arm’s length to city administration that oversees the Prince Albert Police Service’s operations.
“When we’re done remodeling the police commission it will go from a mayor, two councillors and two civilians to three members of council and four civilians with the chair being a civilian” he said. “That’s what I call a community police.”
Dionne said another important thing he wanted to change was the way service agreements are made with neighbouring rural municipalities. He said without a change, the city simply couldn’t afford it's own amenities and everyone in the community would suffer.
“Our community can no longer burden the taxes and the capital costs of the facilities we have without our region kicking in,” he said.
Dionne also said he wouldn’t allow funding to outside agencies unless they provided not only financial statements, but business plans to ensure taxpayer dollars were spent prudently.
“We have asked for years for our departments to cut staff, costs and waste to save the city taxpayers. We’ve never asked this to agencies that we fund,” he said. “The taxpayers of Prince Albert can no longer afford tax increases.”
Council swears in
Dionne’s promises were made during Tuesday night’s swearing-in ceremony for those elected in last month’s civic election.
Rookie councillors Rick Orr, Tim Scharkowski and Mark Tweidt, joined the ranks of veteran councillors Lee Atkinson, Don Cody, Charlene Miller, Martin Ring and Ted Zurakowski and Mayor Dionne to make up the new city council.
All swore an oath in front of Provincial Judge Maher to uphold good governance.
In addition to being sworn in, councillors were appointed to various committees.
After councillors were sworn in, the first official council meeting took place with regular scheduled meetings set for the near future.