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Siemens joins growing field

By: Grant Burr

Posted: 08/19/2018 4:00 PM

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Sit with Jac Siemens at K.R. Barkman Park and he will tell you the story of every tree growing there. It is part of the long-term, institutional knowledge Siemens has after spending 18 years as a city employee and now 12 years more as a city councillor.

Siemens has announced that he’d like another four years as an elected representative of the citizens of Steinbach.

"Who knew when you start an adventure like this, how long that adventure goes on, but for the most part I just think where did those 12 years go," said Siemens, as he revealed his announcement to The Carillon in a conversation at the aforementioned park.

Council colleagues like Chris Goertzen and Cari Penner are departing, while Earl Funk and John Fehr are running for mayor. Siemens knows the next council will be different, which is one of his motivations to run again.

"One of the biggest reasons is there is a change in the mayor's position. We need the strength in council of some incumbents to stay. I think that's important to continue," he said.

Siemens believe the current council has done well with advocacy work, particularly in the area of senior housing, and also is pleased with improved relations with the RM of Hanover, including work that was done on the recent annexation.

That improved relationship has Siemens hopeful that other challenges, like recreation projects, can be made to happen through regional partnerships too.

"They too have recreation needs in the community of Mitchell and Blumenort...there's got to be some energies that can be used to help Steinbach but also help our region," he said.

"There is more of a willingness to work together on projects. They still have to answer to their own tax base but there's an openness to listen at least."

Siemens says his skills as a critical thinker with an ability to "see through to the heart of an issue" continue to make him a valuable asset to council.

Though he may be one of council’s longest serving members, Siemens isn’t out of fresh ideas.

As part of his announcement, the veteran councillor revealed a plan to offer a homeowner rebate, so that owners of older homes can get a tax rebate on the increased assessment portion if they upgrade their home for three years or until the home is sold.

"It would encourage homeowners to upgrade, help local business and tradespeople," Siemens said.

"If you're going to add $10,000 to $15,000 into your home but that's going to mean you're going to pay more taxes because your assessment goes up...why can't the city cover the increase in that assessment."

In addition to new ideas, Siemens maintains some of his old passions too, like the expansion of the regional pathway programs and a continued focus on connecting communities within Steinbach.

"We need to connect new developments by paths, so we become more pedestrian friendly with walking and cycling paths," he said, offering another idea tied to his thoughts on regional thinking voiced earlier.

"Why can't we begin to consider a pathway from Steinbach to Mitchell, that's off the highway, but could get used on a regular basis and offer people a place to cycle to work or just recreational cycling?"

Providing low cost or no cost opportunities for families is important, he said.

"So that every time you go do something, it's not dollars out of your pocket."

Quality of issues means bigger projects still need consideration too, like addressing current aging recreation facilities while adding a soccer complex and performing arts centre.

Siemens says he’s disappointed they haven’t been able to get traction on these types of projects from other levels of government.

"We need to repackage it when we approach the province or feds for dollars...there's gotta be a way to get that done," he said.

"It's about having a well-rounded community and the wellness of the people in it."

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