Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Issues in the Crowsnest Pass

I would like to take a few moments to address some issues raised by one of my fellow bloggers, who recently declared his candidacy for the Mayors position in the Crowsnest Pass.
Some of the issues raised I agree with and some I obviously will not. But I will address each one of them the best I can.

Municipal Shell Game-Finances
Infrastructure Grants were committed to the municipality, administration argued that these projects needed to be completed last year and this. I felt we should have waited until we received the grant monies first and then did the projects. We moved ahead both years with full knowledge that the grant money was on the way, but the projects would be complete possibly prior to the money arriving, contractors had to be paid. So last year we approved a bylaw to borrow up to $1.9 million, (this was never used) and this year we approved a bylaw to borrow up to $2.6 million. If the federal and provincial government come through in a timely fashion our usage of this money should be similar to last year.
This also refers back to the need I have raised again and again for five years of building our reserves, if we had decent reserve levels we would not find ourselves in this position.

Affordable Housing
A study was done and at that time affordable housing was shown to be very necessary for our community due to a shortage of affordable accommodation, then the recession happened and the availability of rental accommodation at more affordable pricing became greater.
But there is no question that not too far down the road this will be an issue again, the municipality would have to partner up with the Feds, Province and developers to make this happen because we do not have the cash, but we do have suitable land available. This is what as happened in other communities the municipalities supply the land the two levels of government financial assistance and the developers build the homes.

Public Transportation
Important issue but one that comes with it great cost, there is nowhere that I am aware of where public transportation pays for itself. Our present town rounder is subsidized to the tune of roughly $120,000 a year. To run for 40 hours a week that works out to about $60 per hour that the taxpayer subsidizes that service. Its only a matter of money we could double the availabilty but it would likewise double the cost.

Community Centre Including an Indoor Pool
Should we go after federal and provincial dollars for this type of project, of course but this is something that will take time and a lot of money to happen, future council will have to get very creative to achieve this goal.

Local Businesses
Every election I have heard people stand up and talk about attracting business here, nobody every talks about "how". We have to make this community as attractive as possible from a visual point of view and the cost factor (taxes) to attract people here and sell what we have (proximity to the mines, and cities and one of the most beautiful places to live in the world).
Anyway I know it makes good propaganda to slam the local council for the loss of business, but to expect us to shoulder the blame for a national chain going bankrupt? for companies making the decision to move out of rural areas? and for other businesses closing due to unfortunate circumstances, how could any of those be councils fault.
Reality in the Crowsnest Pass is that we have a very mobile population, 40% of our home owners are week enders who have the opportunity to shop else where, another 25% work at the mines and have four days off every week to go shop out of town.
Its tough to have a business here that can compete with the big box stores out of town.
What always interests me is when you see some of the strongest proponents of shopping locally in Costco or Walmart.

River Run
Big investigation go ahead, from a municipal point of view the mistake we made was not having security in place. Some Council members asked for this again and again and was told by our administration and our leader that it would be provided at the required time.
We all know where we are at today. Personally I will never vote for a development again unless there is security in place prior to the project starting.
Should our Mayor have been involved in promoting this developer? should an employer of the developer been on council? the Mayor told us it was not a conflict and the councilor excused himself when an issue with the developer came up.
This was a private acquisition of a private piece of property, funded by people that choice to invest their money. I think this is between the developers, the investors and a whole bunch of lawyers.

Silence of other candidates
Obviously I can only speak for myself, every candidate that runs for office as some kind of strategic plan for their campaign. I will announce what I am doing at the time that works best for my plan. The election will decide who is right and who is wrong. (But I am running, just have not decided for which position)

Full Time Mayor
Over the years the present Mayor as been accused of micro manging the municipality, which was confirmed by George Cuff when he recommended that the Mayor no longer attend management meeting.
I can not find a rural community of our size that as a full time Mayor, how much would we pay a full time Mayor?, we have some people that feel that council members should do their job for no remuneration. Its suggested that we take some of the funding away from our CAO and use it to pay for a Mayor, if you think you are going to attract a CAO here for $60-70 000 a year good luck, go look at what other small communities pay their CAO's its part of public record.
We need to have good strong administration that will provide sound unbiased apolitical information to the council so they can make informed decisions

Hiring of a CAO
Interesting to hear our Mayor talk about how this council should not hire the next CAO, our present CAO started in August of 2004 the election took place in October of 2004.
When we received the Cuff report it revealed to us that our present CAO would be retiring at the end of 2010. The election takes place on October 18 2010, new council will not meet until the first Tuesday in November, anybody that as sat on council knows that the first meeting is about swearing everybody in, saying hello, having councils picture taken for the web site, appointing members to various committees and a light agenda.
The real work starts at the second council meeting in November leaving a period of six weeks prior to the CAO's retirement to make a decision, at that same time council is slammed with the 2011 budget, and a group of administrators that are all very eager to justify why their departments need more money.
This would not be such a big deal if you had an experienced council making the decisions, but what if you have a lot of new faces around the table? what if you had a strong Mayor that took advantage of the newness of his council to take advantage and pick his man for the position? (I know that as never happened here but I am sure it as elsewhere)

Local Media-Bias
I cannot imagine what my fellow blogger is referring to, in the Crowsnest Pass!
I like wise believed that the job of the media is to report the news, I could ramble on for hours about this issue buts whats the point.

Anyway there are a few comments about issues in the Crowsnest Pass.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Crowsnest Pass Indoor swimming Pool update

Sorry it's taken so long to analyze my last poll, the issue of an indoor swimming pool.

At the web site listed here http://www.calendarofnakedmen.com/ is a more current update of a community building what sounds like a state of the art facility including an Indoor swimming pool. Do not be fooled by the address it a web site that's attempting to raise funds for this facility in Grande Cache, and provides a lot of good information.
Bottom line their facility will cost $20 million which is made up of $3 million each from the federal and provincial government, $8.3 million from the Town of Grande Cache, and $5.7 million from corporate and individual fundraising.
If we did the same in the Crowsnest Pass $8.3 million over twenty years at 4.5% interest works out to a payment of $627,883 per year divided by which is equivalent to a 10% tax increase roughly $200 per house hold.
That's just to pay for the building, whats interesting from my poll is that of the 62 responses 18 or 29% said they would not support paying additional taxes for a swimming pool, another 23 or 37% said they would only pay up to an additional $100.
That makes it very difficult to come up with $200 per year per household. Then keep in mind that half our taxpayers are seniors.
Then lets look at the operational side, previously I stated it cost Pincher Creek $350,000 to subsidize their pool, that was the 2008 number the number for 2009 which is now available on the Town of Pincher Creeks web site was about $600,000 that's another $200 per year per household.
Then the next big question the $5.7 million that they are fundraising, does anybody believe that would be possible here?
Myself personally I was one of the people that would pay almost any cost to have an indoor pool but only 9% of my responses said the same.
Any ideas on how we could achieve this lofty goal?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

5th Annual Doors Open and Heritage Festival in Crowsnest Pass‏

Very Interesting weekend coming up in the Crowsnest Pass, I would encourage everybody to check out the following links.



I would also ask my readers to check out the following sites under interesting Blogs or Web sites, the "Discover Crowsnest Heritage" site which as all kinds of great links.
Please check out the Heritage Newsletters also, they are very well written and keep you very informed of whats coming up.

Gold Creek Development in the Crowsnest Pass

July 20 the Gold Creek Development came to Council to seek approval on their development agreement and the amount of security they would be required to post with the Municipality prior to commencing.
They provided information that gave a list of quotes for the various types of work required which came to a total of $738,000, within their documentation I noticed that there was a note attached that stated "the quote could vary by up to +/- 20%" which of course alarmed myself and some of the other councilors.
After some debate came a suggestion from myself that a simple solution which would protect the municipality/taxpayers was to pass the Development Agreement with a condition that the Security Deposit would be raised 20% to $900,000.
Within the debate comments were raised that after what happened at the River run site should we not be proceeding, very carefully. All made sense right?
What occurred after that just blew me away when the vote was called Councilor Mitchell and Mayor Irwin were opposed, Councilors Ward, Cole, Salus and Macleod were in favour. Irwin and Mitchell felt that increasing the Security Deposit was not required.
Thankfully it passed and yes the Developer may feel that the additional security was not necessary but if they live up to their commitments they get all the money back, and the faster they work the faster the money is released, and the Municipality has no risk.
How or why would anybody vote against this?

If anybody does not understand the concerns here I will have pictures of the River Run Development shortly