Right in the centre - Big decisions


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

Like many councils, the Town of Neepawa council is faced with big decisions, and soon. What has been rumoured for a while, that is  major change in the Town’s cemetery perpetual care policy, is coming to a head. To many, a cemetery policy might seem like a small deal, but in Neepawa’s case, it is both an emotional and expensive policy to maintain. It has been said that the Town of Neepawa spends more on the care of graves, on the dead, essentially, than they do on the living, if you look at Neepawa’s somewhat skimpy recreation budget.

The details of Neepawa’s cemetery problem have been clearly reported over the years and no doubt more information and opinions will be aired going forward.

Neepawa’s cash crunch over cemetery expenses may not be replicated in other towns, but every town and RM has an “elephant in the room” issue, or perhaps two or three. Some areas have huge drainage issues. Many have a shrinking population issue. Due to a dropping population in some areas, it is becoming more and more difficult to do upkeep on roads. Many communities struggle with maintaining rec facilities. If it weren’t for volunteers donating huge amounts of time, money and even food, many rec facilities would just close down. The volunteer efforts are occasionally supplemented with government, foundation or corporate grants. All that aside, there is never enough to get everything done that a community requires.

Every observer of rural Manitoba trends and history can recall a community, or a number of communities, that once were much larger and more active than they are now. It is a great puzzle to figure out why and how some communities grow, some have declined and some have actually disappeared. To use a rather ancient example, how many people know where Totogan was?

Neepawa held on for decades as a service community because it had a large farming area around it. A community alongside a park or a large lake has locational advantages, but then the community only has people on one side, not surrounding it. In Neepawa today, four industries form the economic backbone of Neepawa, namely the pork plant, the wood plant, the education industry and the health care industry.

Many years ago, Rivers benefited from the air base and when it closed, it was major blow. Today, the community still benefits from farming, from industry and ironically, its proximity to Brandon is an economic benefit. The arrival of Heritage Co-op by taking over the food store is a very good thing. The rehab centre is another plus.

Regardless of the size or location of a community, there needs to be an individual and collective will to keep the place looking good. It is amazing how many locations collectively tolerate the accumulation of garbage and junk. It’s also amazing, in spite of all the education we have had about picking up garbage and recycling, the amount of trash that gets dropped.

I saw a mildly disturbing event last weekend. A couple of older people were walking four dogs. They had plastic bags along and a pooper scooper. They were walking in a well mowed area along a railroad track. Instead of bagging the doggy droppings, they scooped them up and flung them onto the railway track. Now, I know I am being picky here, but really! The chances are slim, but what if another person walks along the railway, or a worker has to do some repairs on the track?

The point is, everything is about decisions and sometimes, decisions can be messy. It’s important to make the right ones and not just toss the mess aside for someone else to clean up.

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer chairman of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being  the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.