Friday, February 27, 2009

Tennis Courts in the Crowsnest Pass (Good news/Bad news)

At the last council meeting all the members of council present voted to turn over the operation of the tennis courts in Blairmore to the Blairmore Lions club.
Good News, because there is no question the Lions Club will do an excellent job of looking after the area, for anybody that does not know take a look at the park they presently operate (next to the swimming pool).
Bad News, this again is a reflection of the problems we have in the Crowsnest Pass of doing to many things poorly instead of doing some things well. (living within your means)
We have in the Crowsnest Pass at last count 23 parks, a park just like any other facility needs to be maintained and upgraded on a regular basis.
I do not advocate for one second that we should not have parks, but 23? how do we maintain and replace them?
I am told in to days world a park should be upgraded every five years, so on average we should be upgrading 4.5 parks per year. (Cost $30-80,000 per park).
Within the discussion about handing over the Tennis courts to the Lions club I asked the question of how many dollars would be saved the answer was none, because we did not plan on spending any dollars on the courts. In fact the Mayor was quoted in one of the local papers as saying that's the problem we have at the Tennis courts is because we have not spent any money on them.
I agree, the only problem is where would the money have come from? any suggestions? should we increase taxes more to pay for Tennis Courts?

Anyway once again I thank the Blairmore Lions for stepping forward, and thank them in advance for the great job they will do on the Tennis Courts and surrounding areas.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Looking for ideas! Cutting Municipal Costs in the Crowsnest Pass

Anybody following my blog can see that we are having a difficult job keeping taxes under control in the Crowsnest Pass. I would certainly enjoy hearing from my readers any suggestions that would help us out. If you are a little shy and do not wish to post on the blog send your suggestions to

Thanks Dean

Why has the Crowsnest Pass budget not been passed yet? Questions and Answers

A local newspaper asks the question is the council taking to long to pass a budget? Well if the taxpayers are ok with a 7.5% increase the answer is yes but I certainly would not agree to an increase of that amount.

Why is it taking so long to pass a budget with a lower rate of increase?
Simple councilors must be willing to make cuts to bring the increase down to a reasonable level.

Why has this not happened? well I can only speak for myself, being a member of council means one must be willing to bring forth suggestions, make motions and decide on tough choices. Is council prepared to do that? I am.

How much money are we talking about? roughly $150,000 just to get down to 5%

Are there ways to close that gap? of course there always is ways to be more efficient, do we have a choice if I or you was spending more money than we had coming in we would have to make tough choices?

What are some of the suggestions? The following are some of the ideas that have been thrown out for debate. I would welcome other ideas if somebody wished to present them. But here are the options presented so far.

Advertising in one local Newspaper would save $25,000 a year minimum.

Seniors rebate, a couple of years back council put in place a policy that tax rates for seniors on lower income levels would be maintained at 2006 levels. The problem with that is twenty years from now those folks would still be at 2006 levels. By going to 2007 levels $10,000 would be saved.

Marketing Consortia/Economic Development
We have in the budget $37,500 for these areas, do we need to leave all that money there? we have not had a Economic Development officer for almost a year, we also have formed a new adhoc committee to look at this area and make some recommendations, by the time this new board does that, a good chunk of the year will be gone by.

Community Organizations Funding
What has been thrown on the table is a 20-25% reduction in funding for such things as the Bellevue mine, Allied Arts, Museum, Thunder in the Valley weekend etc. Which would generate a savings of between $42-52,000

Eliminate a Part time personnel position
Would save $35,000.

Eliminate the Corporate Review
When you are in a difficult financial position it becomes evident that you need to look within, using a totally unbiased non political approach to determine where you could be more efficient. A number of councilors including myself have recommended that we hire a consultant to do this, cost $65,000

Municipal Development Plan
It has been suggested that we start a municipal development plan this year, it has been a quite a few years since we did this, does it need to be done? of course, should it be now? Strategy #1 of the Land Use Framework states "Municipalities, other local authorities and provincial government departments will be required to comply with each regional plan" When will we know what are regional plan is? next year. Do we spend $50,000 this year and find out next year that our development plan does not conform with the regional plan? tough choice.

None of the above suggestions have been decided on by council yet, but they certainly do give us options to reduce the burden on the taxpayers the choices are indeed tough, but never the less must be made.

Municipal Taxes in the Crowsnest Pass

Well the results are in from another poll, from 24 people that voted the numbers came out to the following:

17 felt 5% was to high
5 felt they could live with 5%
0 felt that 7.5% is ridiculous
2 felt they could live with 7.5 if that what it took to maintain all services

It's pretty clear to me where the taxpayers sit, and I am not basing that judgement just on this poll. All one has to do is talk to folks around town.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Big Petition in the Crowsnest Pass

Yes I have a large number of people calling me with concerns regarding the petition:

What can we do? I feel like I was tricked in to signing the petition.
I have had the following comments made by people that signed the petition, they claimed to have been told by various people that encouraged them to sign the petition:
If you want to keep the Alberta Stella open sign up
If you want to stop the coal dust sign up
It's doesn't matter if you are a primary resident of the pass you can still sign
It doesn't matter if you are under 18 sign up
Do you really need to know whats on the petition just sign up and help us out

There is something you can do call the numbers at the bottom of the blog and let the minister of municipal affairs know what really happened here. Ask them to verify the signatures on the petition. And please remember your name will be held in the strictest confidence.

Read article 572 of the MGA:

572(1) The Minister may order an inquiry described in subsection (2) if the Minister receives
(a) a sufficient petition requesting the inquiry that is signed,
(i) in the case of a municipality other than a summer village, by electors of the municipality equal in number to at least 20% of the population, and
(ii) in the case of a summer village, by at least 20% of the electors of the summer village,
(b) a request for the inquiry from a council.
(2) An inquiry may be conducted into
(a) the affairs of the municipality,
(b) the conduct of a councillor, or an employee or agent of the municipality, or
(c) the conduct of a person who has an agreement with the municipality relating to the duties or obligations of the municipality or a person under the agreement.
(3) The Minister may appoint one or more persons to conduct an inquiry under this section.
(4) The person or persons appointed to conduct an inquiry are entitled to the fees and expenses specified by the Minister and the Minister may direct who is to pay for the inquiry.
(5) The person or persons appointed to conduct an inquiry have all the powers and duties of a commissioner appointed under the Public Inquiries Act.
(6) The person or persons appointed to conduct an inquiry must report to the Minister and the council and, if there was a petition under subsection (1)(a), to the representative of the petitioners.

No where in this section does it state that this action will force the municipality to keep over an arena, nowhere does it state that the municipality will be forced to clear up the coal problem.

If you really felt that you were misled on the petition, phone municipal affairs you can do it for free.

1. Phone 310-0000 they will ask you to put in a 10 digit number 780 427 2225 you will get through to the Municipal Advisers number explain to them your concerns

2. Phone 310-0000 they again will ask you to put in a 10 digit number 780-427-3744 you will get through to Ray Danyluks the Minister of municipal affairs number explain to him your concerns.

3. Remember the numbers above are for free.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Development in the Crowsnest Pass

First of all I have received numerous phone calls and emails regarding development in the Crowsnest Pass. I have also had a number of people direct me to a Canadian Business on line thread that is circulating right now. Do I have my own opinions of what's going on? of course. But being an elected councilor of the Crowsnest Pass I can only comment on what I know to be facts. Which with nothing being official coming out yet leaves me very little I can say.
But a couple of comments I will make and let me be clear:
"I Councilor Dean Ward have not ever been an employee of a developer that has had any business dealings in the Crowsnest Pass"
Also at this time I will not be commenting to, or answering any questions regarding any other member of council that has been an employee of a developer. If you have issues with any other individual that has been involved with any developer take those issues up with that person not myself. Even though I understand peoples frustrations, please do not be calling myself in a very anger tone I will only be responsible for my own actions.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Budget Delibrations Continue In the Crowsnest Pass

Well here we are continuing down the path of trying to get a budget in the Crowsnest Pass. As we go through the old process of drag it out, stall and wait until the last possible moment to come up with the tax rate for the next year.
Monday night we did make a little progress we eliminated one of our cleanups, a request from the Chamber of Commerce for $25,000, a request to spend an extra $27,000 grooming trails, and will bring in $3,000 to remove deep freezes.
That leaves a gap of $156,461 to get down to 5% which is still high when you compare to other municipalities check the list on the left side of this blog. To pay that amount the increase would have to go to 7.5% and zero dollars would be placed into reserves. Some will argue that dollars should not go into reserves during difficult economical times, take a look on the Municipal Web site you will see that we have been depleting reserves for the last six years.
The problem we have, is we has councilors must be prepared to make difficult choices to get down to reasonable tax increase.
Councilors need to do one of several things, come to budget meetings prepared with ideas on how to decrease the budget shortfall, be willing to look at reducing services/programs/expenditures, or be prepared to go with a 7.5% tax Increase.
It gets so tiring listening to "I'm not prepared to look at that", "we can't cut that", well bring your idea's lets debate them, I have no problem going with better ideas than mine.

Or maybe the good taxpayers of the Crowsnest Pass can live with a 7.5% increase this year!

Crowsnest Pass Feelings about the Federal Budget

Well another poll closes and here are the results:

Harper did the right thing 9 votes 52%
Should have spent more 0 votes
Not happy but they had no choice 3 votes 17%
Its terrible we will be in debt forever 5 votes 29%

I sure hope this plan of pumping taxpayers dollars into the economy works, especially after seeing January unemployment numbers in both Canada and the USA. (130,000 and 600,000 jobs lost). If it does not work we will be in big trouble and leave our kids and grand children the opportunity to pay for our mistakes