Lac St. Anne residents want 'grandiose' $11M project stopped
Planned 27,000-square-foot building would provide office space for about 50 county employees
An $11-million battle over a new administration building in Lac St. Anne County has pitted taxpayers against their elected councillors, and has now drawn in the provincial department of municipal affairs.
At the centre of the dispute is a planned 27,000-square-foot building, which would provide office space for about 50 employees.
"If we would have had the (money) we would have sought an injunction," said Chris Yeoman, who helped start the most recent petition against the project.
"We feel that going ahead with this project will bankrupt this county."
That petition, the second one residents have used in an effort to stop the project, gathered 2,543 signatures from taxpayers opposed to the plan.
Yeoman said the petition was presented to the office of Danielle Larivee, the minister of municipal affairs. Residents now hope the province will step in.
County resident Dale Johnson said he first learned of the project when he noticed a small ad in the local newspaper about a borrowing bylaw.
He wrote his own articles in the newspaper and a petition was circulated asking the county to stop the project.
But council ignored that petition, Johnson and Yeoman say, and instead bought property and started construction.
"We can't afford the project that they have proposed," Johnson said. "We just simply don't have the tax base."
Lac St. Anne County has a population of about 10,300, Yeoman said. There is little industry, so most of the tax money comes from property owners, including many farmers.
"Council here hasn't listened to the electorate," said Yeoman, who called plans for the new building "grandiose" and well beyond what taxpayers can afford.
The county has been looking at plans to build a new administrative office for the past decade.
Council approved the funding last September.
CBC News called Lac St. Anne County on Friday, but no one was made available to comment.
Yeoman and Johnson and many of their neighbours now want the project stopped.
"The people have stood up and the people have said, 'We don't want this,' " Johnson said. "It's a complete disregard for what the majority of people are saying.
"When elected officials don't listen to the people, we have massive, massive problems."