The petition says that because the RM has taken steps toward construction of a new RM shop, including a resolution to acquire lands in Raymore and approval of an associated site recommendation report that the signatories are petitioning the RM to hold a referendum to submit the matter to the voters for approval or rejection. “
The move comes the day after the RM put notices on their Facebook page with details of the deadline to request a mail-in ballot and a ratepayer meeting before the RM’s planned nonbinding vote on November 10.
The group of ratepayers say that one of their biggest concerns is that the RM doesn’t have a lot of money, and they haven’t made any infrastructure improvements for years in the West side of the RM.
Jay Holmes is a local farmer and one of the ratepayers in the group of concerned ratepayers.
Holmes says the ratepayers do not know how much money the RM wants to borrow for the new shop because the RM won’t disclose it. “They won’t even say the cost of the shop. So, this thing could be one to three million dollars and they may have to borrow 2 million and if they do that, they will break this RM. And the infrastructure is falling apart now. It’s the same if you are a local farmer and you wanted to build a big fancy shop, but you didn’t have any money in the bank, you are not going to build the shop.”
The RM Council has raised their concerns that costs will only increase if the building of the new shop is further delayed. Holmes refutes this. “When they got defeated 4-5 years ago in a referendum, they could’ve built it in Semans which the referendum was directing it to. They could’ve built it in Semans for 25 cents on the dollar of what the cost is now. So, they can throw that at us, but they are the biggest offenders of delaying this whole thing because they won’t listen to the ratepayers.”
Council has asserted that the cost of borrowing is at an all-time low which would also be a reason to fund the shop now. Holmes said, “If they know what interest rates are going to be in the next 2 to three or five or ten years, they are smarter than everybody else in the rest of the world.”
One of the group’s issues is how the RM has worded the question posed to the ratepayers. “They are asking people to vote whether they want a shop yes or no, and if you vote yes you get to vote whether you want it in Raymore or Semans. If you vote no of course you don’t get any (say). It’s kind of a manipulated question because people are scared then to vote no because they don’t want to miss out on which area. So, it’s a loaded question.” He said that people are afraid of losing the shop out of their community, so they will vote yes so they don’t lose the shop in Semans, but ultimately, they don’t want it built because it would break the RM.
Holmes said that the RM doesn’t need a new shop “These big RMs don’t need a shop they couldn’t even hire heavy duty mechanics to do their work in these shops, the diagnostic equipment for that shop would be so much money and to keep it updated it doesn’t even make sense. Even big companies in the cities can’t keep these heavy-duty mechanics anymore. So how do they think they are going to bring one out and get these guys to stay out in rural Saskatchewan. They have fell behind in their line of thinking of moving forward with these RMs They have just lost touch, now they have dug their heels in, and they are mad, and they want to build this thing at any cost which is ridiculous.”
Holmes also questioned the RM’s deadline for requesting a ballot. “How are they going to notify people on the outskirts of this RM that there is a vote going on that they have to apply for a ballot by the 27th? It’s impossible unless they are going to send every ratepayer a letter.”
Holmes said another considerable concern is the way the ratepayers meeting is being structured and called it manipulative. The RM has asked questions be submitted to the RM office by October 1 for the November 2nd ratepayers meeting. Holmes questioned whether tough questions would be screened out. “There is no rebuttal on any of the questions. It’
“...they are trying to get the answer they want. They can say the ratepayers agreed to it. If they don’t get the answer they want, they are going to say we asked but we are elected to make this decision anyways, so we are moving forward.”
The last time a group of ratepayers forced a referendum and stopped the shop from being built, it stopped it for three years. The same will occur in this case if the group is successful.
Holmes said once they submit the petition to the RM, they will have 30 days to put it in front of the council. From there, they have nine months to have the referendum.
When we reached out to Reeve Bob Digney he said he had no comment.
Jennifer Argue, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Last Mountain Times