Friday, August 28, 2009

Community geting creative to attract new development

It would be very interesting to know if this has been tried anywhere else and what kind of success they achieved?

EDMONTON — The town of Bruderheim hopes to spur development in an area hit by the recession by eliminating civic property taxes for three years on new home and business construction.
The town is about 40 kilometres northeast of Edmonton near the Industrial Heartland, where billions of dollars worth of proposed oil upgrader projects have been delayed or cancelled in the last two years.
Officials who once expected property assessments to grow by five to 10 per cent a year now feel values will go up by one per cent at most, chief administrative officer Tim Duhamel said Friday.
“There was a lot of optimism about growth in Bruderheim before the economy went south,” he said.
“A lot of the optimism that was around the town has gone down.”
Councillors approved the tax plan in June as a way to attract new residents and businesses, basing it on a similar scheme run by a town in Saskatchewan, Duhamel said.
“It’s wanting to separate us a little bit … to make us attractive as opposed to living in Fort Saskatchewan or Sherwood Park.”
The deal saves homeowners about $4,500 over three years in municipal taxes on the average house, although they still have to pay roughly the same amount in provincial education taxes, Duhamel said.
So far, he feels it has been a success, with three or four new houses underway, a stalled apartment building now scheduled to begin construction later this year and a company looking at setting up a plant in the town of 1,250.
“When you’re talking three, four, five, 10 new housing starts, that’s big for us.”
The program will be examined annually to decide whether it should continue, he said.

Alberta's Heritage Fund

Interesting comparisons

Alberta's Heritage Fund founded in 1976 Balance March 31 2009 $14 Billion

Norway's Petroleum Fund Started with $285 million USD in 1995 as of June 2009 Balance $395 Billion US

Alaska's Permanent Fund started in 1977 with $734,000 US as of March 2008 Balance of $28 Billion US, from 1982-2008 the Fund as paid out $29605.41 to every man, women, and child that's an average of $1096.50 per year.

Just something to think about.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Alberta Posts $6.9 Billion Deficit, Should we be concerned?

Are we spending too much money? Should we be bringing in more revenue? Should our government be tightening its belt?

Think about the following information Alberta spent $10,513 per person in the 2008-09 fiscal year, how does that compare to other provinces?


In 1996-1997 we were the fifth highest at $4,592 per person. In twelve years it as increased a whopping 129% that's an average of 10.75% per year. Is it realistic to maintain that kind of growth in expenditures?

What kind of trouble would we be in, if it wasn't for those whopping Surpluses?

Alberta Surpluses 2000-2008. All of the following are in the Billions

A total of $40.74 billion dollars in eight years

$17 Billion in the Sustainability Fund at this years level of deficit that will be gone sometime in 2011.

Should Albertans be concerned, what does Stelmach and his government need to do?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Walking Trails in the Crowsnest Pass

Good news, over the last four years we have been plodding away at building a system of walking trails in the Crowsnest Pass. On Tuesday we were presented with the Walking Trail Master Plan. We were told in conjunction with this news that we have received $184,000 from the Ottawa and $240,000 from Edmonton to complete our Trail System. By Spring of 2011 our Walking Trail System will extend from Leitch Collieries all the way to the lakes, linking every community in between.
Big hats off to everybody that was involved in this process. It really is going to be an accomplishment the Crowsnest Pass can be proud of for a long time.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Enhanced Policing Position Crowsnest Pass

I have stated elsewhere on this blog why I voted against the enhanced policing position, please take a minute and leave your vote and or comments on if you believe Council made the right decision to not proceed with the position.

Crowsnest Pass Update

Update all things political in the Crowsnest Pass

Anti harassment policy, is nothing to do with censorship, or attempting to control the public. We all have a right to voice our opinions, to take any position we like. All this policy is about is if a municipal employee feels that they are "unfairly" harassed it lays out a procedure as to how they should deal with the issue. This is not about censoring somebody who says unkind things about Dean Ward in a letter to the local paper. (I know that would never happen)

Gold Creek goes in front of the SDAB tomorrow night; the majority of council already supported this development. This really is no different from a lot of the other country residential around here. If we the Municipality are going to take a position that we do not want country residential, then we should do that and apply it to "all" future country residential. For five years, we have worked under the position that if an area could be serviced in a reasonable fashion then we would not approve country residential. All of a sudden, some of us decide that we are going to attempt to force these folks to service an area that would make the development uneconomical. When there are country residential areas closer to services, that some members of this council approved in the past but did not force to service.Then we have the same people arguing that this area is so sensitive for the wildlife, but also maintaining that they should be forced to put more homes in to the area.

Other developments in the Pass, we will see what the future brings. Yes, we have had developers come in here creating great expectations. Have they delivered? Judge for your self. Yes, I feel there were times a lot of people got caught up in the glitz and glamour of all the big promises, I don't believe I was one of those people.

Enhanced Policing was defeated by council last night; some people felt that enforcing municipal bylaws was only a small part of the job. I believe that council needs to review the unsightly premises bylaw, tighten up the rules of what is and is not allowed, and put some real consequences into the bylaw.

Corporate review is still on going, we are expecting the final report Sept/Oct, and from reading previous reviews done by Cuff it should have, some strong recommendations attached to it. Then the issue will be whether council is prepared to act on it or not. Through the debate, one of the councilors that were opposed to the process took the position that we would just do a study and then let it sit on a shelf and collect dust. Well that councilor and the rest of us will have the opportunity to not allow that to happen.

Crowsnest Centre the never-ending story, a motion was passed last night to have the municipal lawyer begin the process of removing the tenants from that building. (This is a legal issue and will be the last I comment on it)

Voting patterns of council, I ask the taxpayers to look at who votes with whom, I know I am repeating myself, but our Mayor and the local media have put a lot of focus on the "four" voting the same way on issues. When in reality better than 90% of the time the votes are something other than 4-3. Is it not time the pubic looks at why the "three" always vote the same way?

Food bank, there was discussions over the Food bank relocating to a municipal owned piece of property, that as now been put on hold as they are looking at alternative locations.

Infrastructure, is going to be a big issue here over the next two years it was brought to councils attention last night that we have a lot of projects coming up, that have been approved for funding by different levels of government, but require us to do the work in advance, then we have to wait for the funding, this will at times put the municipality into a very tight cash flow situation. We have to come up with a solution to this problem. Big concern for the future years is our population, if the numbers are down in the next Census we will be faced with reduced funding. This is where the weekenders create an issue in the sense that if the Pass is not their primary residence we do not receive funding for them. (Roughly $1200 per year per person, last census we dropped 800 people x $1200 equals $960,000 per year)

Ice Problems, I have received numerous calls over the last week regarding ice problems at our Coleman arena. The issue is we are having humidity problems due to the wet weather and our dehumidifier as not worked for a long time. This gets back to the issue of the number of facilities we run. Some people can not get it through their head that we only have a certain amount of dollars to spend on our facilities. So then you have to make a choice between putting dollars into operating or maintaining the facilities. To replace the dehumidifier is a $40,000 cost, it was dropped from last years budget because we did not have the dollars available. This gets back to making tough choices or running our arena during the summer and praying for dry weather (Not much of an operating plan).

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Enhanced Policing Position Crowsnest Pass

Would like to clear up some misconceptions about the enhanced policing position in the Crowsnest Pass.
First some background, over the last four years we have gone through four bylaw officers.
We have had trouble attracting people who are fully qualified for the position, several reasons one there is a shortage of qualified bylaw officers available, two until last year the position was only a 32 hour per week position, three the municipality pays their bylaw officer in the range of $24 per hour. Most municipalities around southern Alberta pay in the $30 per hour range.
(Easily confirmed if you go to CUPE Alberta's web site they show numerous collective agreements, that a person can compare to.
Any way when the latest bylaw officer choose to leave us, the option was raised of taking a different approach, that of hiring a "Enhanced Policing Position". Many questions were raised during the debate over that the position;
Availability- we were told originally that it could take up to a year for the RCMP to fill the position, with a bit of luck it turned out an officer became available for July 1st 2009.
Cost- The cost of the "Enhanced position" would cost us in the range of $126,000 per year, which would include the officer, vehicle, uniforms, office support, preparation for court etc etc, our Bylaw Officer cost was roughly $96,000 we were told that the difference would be made up by additional revenue coming in from increased enforcement, and by not spending money training less than qualified bylaw officers every year.
Municipal Bylaw Enforcement- I believe this is the key issue, we were told originally that this officer would enforce all municipal bylaws, (plus being a RCMP member would be free of any kind of political interference). As the process moved along Council was informed that a mistake, a miscommunication had been made, the "Enhanced Officer" would not be able to enforce any municipal bylaw that did not fall under either Alberta or Federal stature.
This means in simple terms that bylaws such as the "Unsightly premises, long weeds etc" would not be enforced.
So what began as a process to replace the Municipal Bylaw Officer, now as turned into determining if we want an additional RCMP member in our municipality, doing what the RCMP already does. (No discredit to the RCMP I think we are very lucky to have the people we do here).
We need a Bylaw officer here the suggestion as been made that those types of "Unsightly Premises" issues only happen during the summer months, that we could hire a summer student from the Bylaw Field to fill that role so now the $126,000 cost will become ?
The Enhanced position was a good idea, when we were working with the belief that we were gaining an additional RCMP member who would fill the role of a Bylaw Officer, that is no longer the case, that is why I will not support this position.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Poll Results regarding Vandalism and old mine buildings in the Crowsnest Pass

Sorry I slipped behind on my poll results:

First question was "Due to a recent out break of vandalism would you support a curfew for kids?"

The results were very mixed with voters feeling the following way:
No 8 votes 32%
Yes for up to 16 year olds 11 votes 44%
Yes for up to 18 year olds 6 votes 24%

I really struggle with this issue and obviously so do the people that take the time to voice there opinions. The majority of kids are good around here, this problem is being caused by a very small minority. At the council level we have asked for the Pincher Creek RCMP to come and talk to us about their experience in Pincher Creek

The second Poll was regarding the old mine building in Coleman:
The question was "What should happen to the old mine buildings in Coleman?"

Demolish them 21votes 75%
Retain a minimal part to maintain the historical value 1 votes 3%
Preserve them if the money is available 3 votes 11%
Preserve them even without funding 3 votes 11%

The people that took the time to vote on this poll make their feelings very clear.

The key questions that keep coming up here are; if we kept the buildings who would fund the cleanup, renovations, start up and ongoing operations? When you say the provincial/federal government, everybody points to the old Greenhill mine.
And anybody that thinks municipal dollars can go in to this place on an ongoing basis is dreaming.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Crowsnest Pass Closure of the old Hospital

Much as been said recently about the closure of the old hospital and the impact on its tenants. No question some people will attempt to gain as much political mileage out of this issue as possible. Some people will attempt to show that these tenants are being thrown out on the street with barely any notice.
Not for one moment does anybody take lightly the importance of any one of the groups presently using the old hospital. Because of that every one has taken the time to clearly give the public and the tenants ample notice, so that they would have time to find alternative locations. In fact at our council meeting of July 7 a motion was made to have the municipality continue to do everything possible to support the tenants of the Old Hospital to find and relocate to other sites. Surprisingly this motion was not supported by the whole of council. It as been suggested to us that we should give six months to a full years additional notice prior to closing the old hospital. Would any thing change with additional notice?
Does anybody for a second think that these suggestions are nothing but stalling tactics, six months from now puts us in the middle of winter, a full year from now puts us to just before the next election.
Lets review a little of the most recent history of the Crowsnest Centre Debate and then you decide if the tenants did not receive fair notice.

May 2008 CAO is presented a petition requiring a plebiscite on the Crowsnest Centre if petition numbers are validated
June 24, 2008 CAO informs Council that petition is valid, date of plebiscite set for Sept 22, 2008
July 8, 2008 Dates set for advance poll Sept 8, 2008
July 22, 2008 Wording set for plebiscite
Aug 5, 2008 Council informed that plebiscite wording as been forwarded to municipal lawyers.
Aug 19, 2008 CAO informs council that Bylaw 766 (Plebiscite wording) is valid
CAO presents report to council, providing list of tenants and other available locations
Mayor Irwin suggests that the losers of the plebiscite should resign from council.
Sept 22, 2008 Despite an attempt to have the plebiscite stopped by the courts (Which obviously failed), 69% of voters reject Bylaw 766
Oct 21, 2008 Motion passed by council to shut the old hospital.
Nov 4, 2008 Administration directed to bring paper work to the next council meeting to repeal Bylaws #265 and #404 (Bylaws allowing the Crowsnest Centre Board to run the Crowsnest Centre)
Nov 17, 2008 Council meets with Crowsnest Centre Board
Nov 18, 2008 First and Second reading of Bylaw #771 which would repeal Bylaws #265 and #404.
Nov 19, 2008 Council meets with Chinook Education Consortium, Adult Literacy, and Adult Education.
Dec 16, 2008 Public Hearing regarding rezoning of Centre property
Dec 17, 2008 Council meets with Food Bank
Jan 14, 2009 Council meets with Global Training
May 5, 2009 Notice of motion given to bring closing date to next council meeting
May 19, 2009 Date for the old hospital to be closed set by council for August 15, 2009
June 2, 2009 Council determines Utilities to the Old Hospital will be shut off August 17th and the building secured.

Notice was clearly given by council on Oct 21st 2008, that closure of the old hospital was coming, through December and January every tenant met with council, and was clearly informed of council direction on the old hospital. Two of those tenants have already moved or are in the process of moving. Some tenants choose “to not look” for alternative locations until the last few weeks, and we believe that some have not looked at all.
It has been stated from the beginning of this debate and at every step along the way that council is prepared to assist tenants to move in any reasonable way we can. Please despite the great media headlines it makes and the political mileage some will try to attain, we would hope that nobody would attempt to create the impression that any group is being thrown out on the street without fair notice and without repeated offers to assist from the municipal council.