Just maintaining the status quo isn’t good enough says John Farynowski. That’s why he’s running for mayor of Haines Junction, again.
“If you’re not making an effort to grow, you’re going to start going backwards,” said the 68-year-old.
Starting in 1994, Farynowski spent 12 years on the village council, six of those as mayor.
After losing the election in 2006 he left municipal politics, but the recent controversy surrounding the plan to put an incinerator in Haines Junction drew him back in.
It wasn’t so much the incinerator as it was the process that had people upset, said Farynowski.
“There was no public consultation, it was not transparent,” he said. “Mayor and council had meetings with YTG and made us a regional landfill and then they had meetings to tell us, ‘Oh by the way, were going to get an incinerator and torch everything.’”
After a number of concerned citizens spoke out, the project was shelved with maintenance costs cited as the reason.
The village still has to create a new waste management plan, which Farynowski hopes can be done with the help of the public.
“It shouldn’t be done in council chambers, that’s my feeling,” he said. “It should be open to community consultation.”
He’d like the focus of the new waste plan to be on recycling.
“I think we can achieve 85 per cent recycling,” he said. “If we can, we don’t need to torch anything and we don’t need to look for a landfill. Everything’s fine.”
But waste management isn’t the only challenge the village is facing.
Last fall Haines Junction lost its only store, which has left a big hole in the village, said Farynowski.
“In order not to become a dying community we have to do something to get this town moving again,” he said.
The village should be taking a page from other communities that have offered incentives, like property tax breaks, to help give businesses a chance to get established, he said.
The municipality should also be lobbying the Yukon government to change the Municipal Act so that small towns can tax some of the residences just outside municipal boundaries.
Places like Dawson City and Haines Junction have populations just as big as the towns themselves living just outside the borders. These people depend on municipal facilities, but don’t have to pay for them.
“The reality is the tax dollars in town (pop. 589) are operating a landfill that’s used by 1,000 people,” said Farynowski of Haines Junction.
In addition to looking at ways of getting more revenue, the village should be exploring ways to save money, he said.
During his last stint as mayor, the village was looking at using hot water from the towns artesian well to heat some of the town’s buildings.
Construction was about to begin when Farynowski lost the election and the new council shelved the project. But the potential is still there, he said.
“The study in 2005 said to do the heating in the town office and main convention centre, we would save about 50 per cent of the cost at that time in fuel. And that was 55 cents a litre – water is still the same price.”
If he’s elected, Farynowski plans to revive that project.
“I’ve lived there a long time and I’m willing to work hard and do everything that I can.”
Contact Josh Kerr at firstname.lastname@example.org