By COLLIN GALLANT on October 9, 2021.
Bill Bergeson’s drive in the upcoming civic election is to keep the city’s owned power company in the hands of public, though the first-time council candidate is also concerned about maintaining community rec centres and the effects of downtown development.
“I don’t think we should ever get rid of the power utility,” said Bergeson, who disagreed with a study launched early this year that considered the generation division’s value. “It’s cash in our pocket and our gas-fired generation isn’t going anywhere soon.”
Bergeson, 52, an electrician by trade, is one of 32 candidates for council in the Oct. 18 election, in which the top eight vote-getters will be elected.
He said as a resident of Riverside, his community was hit hard by rec facility closures in 2017 and is concerned about how the Invest Medicine Hat “Waterfront District” plan for downtown will affect transportation routes.
The plan made an early suggestion that Finlay Bridge could be closed to traffic entirely, but more recently officials say that was a suggestion ahead of public consultations. A traffic circle in front of city hall and closing the bridge for specific events is more widely discussed now. Bergeson says a set plan is required and needs to accommodate traffic.
He also says his community was hurt by the 2017 city closure of Heald Pool and Riverside School by the public school board.
“Financially, you can see a case for it, but with community rec centres, even though they don’t bring in a lot of money, it’s a great value to have to have kids bike down to swim or go skating,” said Bergeson.
Council will be presented with a parks and recreation master plan in October and decisions about several recreation facilities that need capital maintenance late this year and in 2022. That plan is based on consultations this summer that were conducted against a backdrop of three facilities being closed to save operating costs while demand was low during the pandemic.
Bergeson became well known as an opponent to the city utility’s decision in the early 2010s to move to remote readings with smart meter technology.
He says that system still could allow the city to move to time-of-day pricing for power, essentially adjusting prices to real-time demand, which he opposes.
Keeping the utility company under council control gives citizens some safety against higher pricing, he said this week.
“If it was to go private … there are a lot of increases that would be out of council hands,” he said.