Monday, October 26, 2015

Crowsnest Pass: We are going into debt and why.

Last week at the council meeting (Oct 20) we gave second and third readings to borrowing bylaws 934, 935 and 936 I will explain each in more detail.

Bylaw 934 is for the sum of $1.2 million which will be spent on upgrading the roofs at the MDM facility and the Crowsnest Sports Complex.
The MDM is used by a large number of groups for various programs and the gym is our only community hall that can hold a large crowd or an event of more than 150 people.
The Crowsnest Sports Complex is the arena in Coleman, both of these facilities are in dire need of their roofs being upgraded or they will continue to deteriorate and ultimately we will lose them.

Bylaw 935 is for the sum of $1,672,500 which will be spent on the Frank Wastewater Facility (Sewer plant). With this plant we have a provincial license to operate it that requires the municipality to upgrade the plant by 2019. The total upgrade of the plant will be in the range of $18 million with the expectation on our part that the project will be funded two thirds by the provincial and federal governments. The first phase of the project is for $5 million our share will be the $1.7 stated above, this project/borrowing will not proceed unless we receive the grants or council commits to borrow the full $5 million. The problem with that scenario is if you start the project before you get the grant you no longer qualify for the grants. Second the municipality by provincial law can only borrow up to $19 million so a big chunk of that would be eaten up by the Sewer Plant if we proceeded with that approach.

Bylaw 936 is for the sum of $700,000 which will be spent on either the upgrade of the York Creek lodge or the building of a new lodge. (We expect a decision in the next month). In 2010 previous council had made a commitment of $1 million to a proposal by the York Creek Lodge Board to upgrade the facility. This council felt it was important to fulfill that commitment so if the lodge proceeds we will be taking $300,000 out of reserves and borrowing the other $700,000 to honor that pledge.

How will this affect our taxes? It won't.

This year we are paying out of our operational budget the sum of $450,000 on our existing debt, that amount drops to $75,000 next year, $29,000 in 2017 and 2018.
The annual principal payments on the above: Bylaw 934 $100,000, Bylaw 935 $42,000, and Bylaw 936 $60,000. Our total principal payment for next year would be $277,000 depending on when we borrow the money, if the lodge or the sewer plant doesn't happen until later in the year then we will not see payments until 2017.
Based on the fact that we are paying more than those amounts right now this borrowing should have zero negative impact on our tax bills.          

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Castle Park my thoughts.

There is no doubt that there as been a lot of discussion for many years about the Castle area. Through both the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan and various other forums. 

But never once did this government or the previous one sit down with us and tell us, this is what you are getting, this is when you are getting it and this is what it is going to look like. Even now we have an announcement that we are getting two parks but please fill out a survey to tell us what you would like to see in the park. Good to have a consultation process but after the fact? I would have liked to have seen a survey open to the residents of this corner of the province asking them what they would like to see, even going has far has asking them if they were in favor of having a park. 

The morning of Sept 4th I received a call from a friend asking me if I was going to Stone's Throw for the announcement. I had no idea so I called the municipal office expecting that somebody had missed informing us. Not the case, nobody knew so I headed down to Stone's Throw. I found it intriguing that every pro park group within 200 km was very aware of the announcement. I asked people how long they knew? some told me for a week. Another person said to me it was all over Facebook, well normally local governments are informed especially when we are all going to be partners in a new imitative.  

After the announcement I approached one of the minister's assistants and asked why we were not informed, I was told that they wanted to keep it low key. Kind of surprising response especially when it took me ten minutes to find a parking space, having to avoid the "CTV" and "CBC" vehicles parked on main street. The crowd in Stone's Throw was large they were packed in like sardines. I told Minister Phillips assistant if you had given us some notice, we would have advertised on our website and they could have used the Elks Hall, would have been much more comfortable for everybody.  

How will this park affect us in the Crowsnest Pass? Who knows for sure it will be a while before any of us know what the park will really be. When asked if there were funds available to promote tourism and the other economic spin offs that come with this type of venture, the minister reminded us of the dire financial situation at hand in this province right now. (Which I believe was code for "No").  

One thing that is clear, logging and surface disturbance of any kind is ended. Just as many people will tell me that is bad as will tell me that is good. Personally I believe in responsible use of our resources where would our community be without the coal mines, our neighbors without the gas plant. 

Will this park be accessible to hunting, fishing, camping, OHV use ten years from now? Who knows. Will we have a thriving economy based on tourism creating lots of good paying jobs for young families to stay here? I'm going to be optimistic and say sure hope so. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

2016 Budget-Crowsnest Pass

Once again we have started the budget process in the Crowsnest Pass. The following meeting are all in Council Chambers, open to the public. Meeting start at 1pm, unless otherwise posted. 
Come on down and check it out for yourself. 

2016 Budget





June 11 - 12, 2015
Council Strategic Priorities
August 27, 2015
Budget Process
Budget Overview
Setting 2016 - 2018 Budget Guidelines
 August 27, 2015 
October 1, 2015
New Initiatives
October 15, 2015
Grants to Community Organizations
October 29, 2015
Council Boards and Associations
November 12, 2015
Council Boards and Associations
November 26, 2015
Council Boards and Associations
December 10, 2015
Draft Operating Budget Presentation
December 11, 2015
Draft Operating Budget Presentation
Council Debate & Resolution

Friday, September 4, 2015

Castle Special Management Area-Two new parks announced

If you wish to voice your opinion on this initiative go to the following address and you only have until October 5 to provide your Input:

Province to fully protect Castle area

September 04, 2015 Media inquiries
Commercial forestry in the Castle Special Management Area has been stopped and the process to designate the entire area under Parks’ legislation is underway.  
Castle Lynx II
A view of the Lynx Creek Valley within the Castle area. Photo credit: John Novotny
“Protecting the Castle is critically important for the biodiversity and water quality of this entire region. Under Parks’ legislation, and with the input of all Albertans, we will permanently protect this special place for future generations to enjoy as we transition the land to support good local jobs in tourism and recreation.”

Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks
Government is protecting the area with two new designations within the Castle: an expanded Wildland Provincial Park and a new Provincial Park.
Covering nearly 104,000 hectares, the Castle area is an ecologically-diverse expanse of mountains, foothills, forests, grasslands, rivers and lakes in southwestern Alberta. It is prized for its headwaters, biodiversity and functions as a key wildlife corridor. The Castle is culturally significant to First Nations, and forms part of the Crown of the Continent – the mountainous region where Alberta, British Columbia and Montana meet.
“This will mean more visitor signatures in our guestbook from all over Canada, the U.S. and beyond, who come to play in our backyard. As parents of three young kids, we know how special and pristine this area is, and the importance of preserving it for our kids to enjoy with theirs one day.”

Jessica Atkinson, Owner, Stone’s Throw CafĂ©, Blairmore 
“We applaud the government for protecting this significant piece of the southern Alberta Rocky Mountain landscape. As a business owner in a protected area, we know the benefits and jobs they create. These are jobs and opportunities that are compatible with this landscape and preserve the critical watersheds that they hold.”

Beth Russell-Towe, Owner, Bear Mountain Motel
Designating the Castle under the Provincial Parks Act will allow government to focus on stewardship, protecting and enhancing biodiversity, and boosting the local economy by promoting the area as an outdoor destination for Albertans and out-of-province visitors.
Consultation with Albertans on the future of the Castle Special Management Area begins today and will remain open for the next 30 days. For more information and to participate, please visit
Aboriginal consultation will also begin immediately. The province is fully committed to upholding First Nation Treaty Rights across Alberta.
In addition to discontinuing commercial forestry within the Castle area, there will be a prohibition on surface rights access for any new petroleum and natural gas leases. Existing petroleum and natural gas leases will be honoured. No new tenure will be sold for extracting metallic, mineral, coal or surface resources. Existing leases for metallic, mineral and coal commodities will be cancelled, consistent with direction under the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan. Current livestock grazing permits will be respected. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Crowsnest Pass feeling the economic downturn.

Bad news this week our Super Value (formally Extra Foods) is closing down. Back in July Loblaws had announced that they would be closing 52 stores over the next 12 months (see story below). We were hopeful that ours would survive.

Unfortunately I think the moment Wal-Mart opened in Pincher Creek a lot of people that used to shop here drive that extra 30 minutes down the highway to do their shopping.
I feel very bad for the people that worked there, they had some excellent employees I also feel bad for our community it's always good to have choices.

Now we join the ranks of our neighbors to the west Sparwood and Elkford that have had one grocery store for the last twenty years.  It's a story that's going to be repeated many times, in many other communities.

Just had a discussion this morning with somebody that tells me that half of Teck's employee's don't even live in this area any more. They commute from Lethbridge, Calgary, Cranbrook etc.

Loblaws closing 52 unprofitable stores over next 12 months

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Crowsnest Pass Fall Winter Guide and Ski Hill Pass sale.

Please check out the new Fall/Winter guide for the Crowsnest Pass, highlights all our various community groups, facilities, FCSS and Recreation programs etc .

Awesome deal on ski passes for the coming season.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

OFF-SITE LEVY in the Crowsnest Pass

Good news if you paid an off-site levy in the Crowsnest Pass during the period of 2001 to 2011 you may be eligible for a refund. Council recently passed a policy to refund this regressive, anti development form of taxation.

Check out the following:

If you feel you qualify or have questions contact the municipal office.

My opinion of an off-site levy is based on the fact that we has a community are not growing in the sense that the number of people utilizing our Infrastructure is not increasing. We are being forced to replace Infrastructure because it is old, antiquated and does not meet today's standards. Not because we have a population that is 20% higher than it was 20 years ago.
Communities that have tremendous growth impose off site levies because they are growing rapidly they have more people flushing the toilets, turning on the taps, driving on the roads.