• Jim Mosher

Beach council newcomers bristle at lack of progress

Winnipeg Beach councillors Larry Banks, foreground, and Frank Masi think progress has been slow during their first six months on council.

First-term Winnipeg Beach councillors Larry Banks and Frank Masi are none too happy six months into their four-year terms.

Their frustration was on full display during a regular meeting Wed., Jan. 23.

Each suggested their input on a variety of matters has been minimized by their veteran council colleagues.

“You have to understand the frustration we go through,” Banks said. “We want to do some good things for our taxpayers.”

“Our people are getting a lot,” Coun. Daryl Carry, the longest-serving member of council, said.

“We can’t give them more?” countered Banks. “We can’t give them [outdoor] recreation?”

Masi was equally frustrated. “You just get shut down every time you open your mouth,” Masi said.

Mayor Tony Pimentel said he understands the frustration of the new councillors.

Deputy mayor Pat Green defended council’s progress on a variety of fronts. “We’ve always been open to making things better,” she said. “But, yeah, I think it would be great to do more.”

“It would be great to work as group,” Banks, top vote-getter in last year’s election July 27, said after making the pitch for creating outdoor activities “to get people out of the house.” He suggested, for instance, the town should keep access to the lake open after public works staff plow it for Wonderful Winter Weekend activities Feb. 15-17. “The question is are we going to continue with it after WWW?”

But Coun. Carry suggested that would be impractical. “You’re better off having it [outdoor activities] in town,” Carry said. “Out on the lake, you’d have to be out there all the time clearing snow.”

Masi suggested “at the very least a skating rink near the bandstand.”

But that may be a non-starter, as well.

Mayor Pimentel noted that a group of residents is considering a cross-country ski trail in the park, one that would likely cross through the bandstand area. “We have to think about how it’s going to affect other users,” the mayor said. “But anything is possible, however there are limits in what we can do in the park.”

Masi said later that he and Banks want to get things done. “In a general sense, we want to make sure council has the will to expedite things,” Masi said. “We have the will and determination to get things done quickly. We are frustrated because we have had business experience all our lives. When we come to a roadblock, we just jump over it.”

Masi says he understands getting some projects off the ground will take time. “But, at the same time, we don’t appreciate being told that we’re new; that things have a process; and things have a timeline. Yeah, we understand that but we’re not dummies.”

He concluded: “We don’t want to be lethargic in our approach to anything.”

Banks was not available for comment but he said during the late-January regular meeting that he and Masi met earlier that day to discuss their shared impressions.

Mayor Pimentel said it’s sometimes difficult to get things moving. He says there are budgetary and other constraints, such as funding, regulations and relations with senior levels of government.

“When we’re looking at projects this time of year, they’ve got to go to the budget for discussion,” the mayor said. “I think that’s one of the frustrating things that they’re finding. Both of them are from having run their own businesses. So when they make a decision [as business people], they decide today that they’re going to do it, and it gets done. In government where we’re dealing with public funds, it’s a little different in that things do take time.”

The constraints aside, Pimentel welcomes the energy and passion provided by the new councillors. “They’re working very hard. They have lots of ideas, lots of energy — and I think, going forward, we’re going to see some good changes and things happening because of their enthusiasm,” he said. “If we have good ideas, we as a council are going to work toward getting them done. We’re all on the same team.”

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