A public meeting to discuss civic affairs in view of the approaching municipal elections was held in Robertson hall on Thursday evening. The hall was fairly well filled and much interest was manifested. D. Ross was elected chairman and J. R. Turnbull secretary. After some discussion it was decided that the chairmen of the different standing committees of the existing council should speak.
Thos. Bellamy was called upon as representing the finance committee in the absence of the chairman. But first spoke on health and relief, having been chairman of that committee. The total expenditure for the year was $290.15, which included the salary of the medical health officer. In '92 the expenditure was $394, in '93 it was $430, in '94 it 316 Regarding the business of the finance committee he said that the prompt collection of taxes instituted by the present council had saved the town a round sum in interest. In '93 the bank interest charges had been $1,236, in '94 it had been $1,512 and in the past year it had been only $703. The present total available assets of the town were $19,404.53, and the surplus over present liabilities was $5,241 (corrected to date by the town clerk as $4,477.12). When the present council took office the surplus was only $898. The sinking fund had been provided for to the extent of $6,859, $4,657 of which was in the bank drawing 3½ per cent. interest and $2,200 was invested in three school debentures which were drawing 6, 7, and 8 per cent interest. The taxes of non-residents had not been collected because the roll had not been turned as in former years. The necessary work had now been completed and the collection would be proceeded with. The grading of Cliff street, and Second street and Jasper avenue had been done by general instead of frontage tax because they were necessary and because they were approaches to the town. The railway meetings has been held with closed doors because that was a business like way of doing business. He did not believe in talking until they had something to talk about. He was offering for re-election, but did not believe in making a personal canvas. If the electors thought he had been of any benefit to the town in the past year he would be glad to serve another year. If not they had the privilege of saying so and he was willing to step out.
W. S. Edmiston, chairman of the board of works, was called on. At a former meeting it had been asked why the council had paid for certain improvements out of the general tax instead of paying for them by the frontage tax. In regard to the Cliff street grade the previous council had spent $75 in surveys for a right of way. The owners of the properties had given the right of way free. This secured the town its only complete right of way to the ferries. The present council had spent $708.50 in completing the work of the old council, that is by making the grade. He did not consider that the town would be justified in charging frontage tax against the properties which had already given the right of way and which received no benefit from the construction of the grade. The grading and sidewalk at the hospital cost $274.54, in all were in recognition of and assistance to the work and purpose of the hospital, and he was sure the council would have the support of the ratepayers in that matter. The grade on Second street cost $250.25, which was mostly paid by licenses. The purpose of this grade was the same as that on Cliff street. An item called the opening of River street $181.60, was caused by the mistake of a past council on the grade through Mr. Oliver's property to Fraser's mill. There was still about $400 to pay on this transaction. An item of $80.40, an account of McDougall street was interest paid by the council of '94 for that of '94. As to the charging of road work to the general tax we had a precedent from '94, as Main street was gravelled at a cost of $1,442, or more than three times as much as we did by general tax this year. We spent the sum of $1,696 for ourselves and $262 for the last council, on general tax. They spent $2,430 in works, and for McDougall street $3,030, or a total for '94 of $5,864. This showed a saving of two thirds. If re-elected he hoped to be able to still further reduce the mills, four of which had already been knocked off. As to the railway, each man could not have a station at his back door nor can we perhaps control rates as we might wish, but this will rectify itself, and perhaps we may take a few chances as to time limit, etc. He hoped that all petty jealousies would be dropped and a united effort made to get a railway with or without conditions.
J. H. Picard, chairman of the fire, water and light committee, said that his department had incurred very little expense outside of the fixed charges for salary. The '94 expense had been $1,421, and for '95 it was $1,204.8 a saving of $22. He did not claim credit for the saving. It resulted from there being less things to buy and pay for. As to his stand on the general questions before the meeting. The Cliff street grade was done on the general tax because it was for the benefit of all. The Second street was the only grade to the river from the west end of town, up which coal and water could be drawn. It was only fair that the west end people should have that accommodation. As to the grade and sidewalk at the hospital. The hospital was a charitable organization supported by public contributions and could not be expected to pay frontage tax. The council took for granted that a hospital was a public benefit and that a sidewalk and grade to it would also be a public benefit. He had asked for the improvement of Jasper avenue from the council of '94, and it was agreed to, but was put off until '95. He had tried to get a market site and had not succeeded. in getting the site he wanted. He had not selected it because it was near his own place, but because it was the best for the town. The present council had been more economical than their predecessors. He offered again for re-election, but would not beg for votes. He would not say that he had not made mistakes. A man sometimes made mistakes in his own business, and he could not do more in a public position.
If elected he would work for the public as for himself. As to the railway, the council had done its best to put the charter through this season. If it was possible to get it we would get it if we stick together. You must have confidence in the men you elected to transact your business. If you have not confidence in them leave them out. I have undertaken to stay with this matter and will do so if returned. If you believe that I have done my duty I ask for your support.
C. F. Strang, chairman of the town hall and market committee, said that the expenses incurred by that committee had not been heavy, some $70 odd dollars. Last year they were $330, which included improvements to the fire hall. Several proposals had been made as to a market site. He favored securing a market site of a convenient site could be secured at a reasonable cost. They could not arrange for one site that they favored, and the other offers they received were not suitable, either in size or location. He had served the ratepayers for four years and was a member of the council which graded the hill to Fraser's mill. He could not agree that any very great mistake had been made in that matter. He was ready to serve as councillor for another year if elected and would do his best for the interests of the town.
John Kelly, chairman of the license committee, said that his was a collecting not a spending committee. They had collected $1465.50 in the past year. He was in the field for another term and would ask for re-election.
Isaac Cowie was called upon by the chairman as one of the aspirants to the council. He said he had no financial statement to make. For many years he had been engaged in transport work for the H. B. Co. In later years he had given much attention to the question of railway traffic and railway freight rates. It was clear that Edmonton needed and should have the railway. That was the important question and if elected he would work to secure the railway and to give assistance to the gentlemen who had brought the matter so forward. The interests of the town should be carefully guarded, but there were two sides to the question. You can't put restrictions in the charter or the work cannot be put through, and the work must be put through. He would do his utmost to advance the charter and to tie it down in any way possible. He solicited the support of the electors, as a supporter of the railway scheme.