Friday, January 28, 2011

2011 Crowsnest Pass Budget, dollars and the wonderful things you can do with them.

Council this week looked for more clarification on a few issues, that they appear to be going around and around on.

Administration has given them the opportunity to have a 0% increase on the tax rate.

This is good in the sense that are taxes are high enough, I agree with Councilor Gallant that taxes are a deterrent to attracting people and businesses to the Pass.
Hard enough to say to a coal miner we want you to travel an extra hour a day to work, plus we will charge you an additional $700 a year in taxes to live here.

The bad side to this budget is there is absolutely no allowance for dollars into the reserves for a number of years those reserves were depleted to catch up on infrastructure projects. Two years ago the majority of council put an end to a proposed new shop in Coleman that started out at a cost of less than $400,000 and grew to $1,300,000 which would have virtually wiped out almost all the reserves we had.

Council last year budgeted for $450,000 to be put back into reserves which would have allowed them to grow for the first time in many years. To allow for that same amount to be put in reserves with the present proposed budget you would be looking at a 7% tax increase.

The issue of borrowing money to buy equipment, for the last six years council set aside $250,000 per year for purchasing new equipment. This year that $250,000 is not being put aside its being borrowed in addition to another $300,000 to buy a grader and a track hoe. If that $250,000 was put into the budget for equipment you would now be looking at a 4% tax increase, instead the municipality is taking on $550,000 of debt.

Number of councilors have raised the concern about the justification of the track hoe, administration stated that they are spending $10-13,000 a year to rent a machine. Those numbers by any financial formula do not justify borrowing $250,000 the saving will not even cover the payment on a machine, let alone depreciation.

The issue of hiring, one I struggled with personally for years. I agree with Councilor Saje do an organizational review before you hire more people. Much wiser approach than Councilor Mitchell standard position of “if administration feels we need these positions,then we should fill them”

Administration argues that they have to grow to find the inefficiencies in the organization, with positions being deleted down the road as attrition takes place.

Government positions seldom disappear once they are put in place, work is found to
justify them. In addition you run into labor relations issues with your employees, I have never yet heard of a CUPE local that stated we don’t need that position any more.

Water Meters are going to be sent to the purgatory known as further study.

Administration is also counting on the sale of municipal land to the tune of $125,000 to balance the budget, the current market is almost making the sale of land impossible unless you are prepared to give it away. Should the municipality do that with the taxpayers assets? Should they be in competition with private sellers forcing land values even lower?

Where will the process go from here? A number of councilors have already expressed the willingness to increase taxes by a smaller number than 5.3%.

They will chop at least a couple of the full time positions, placing those savings into reserves, they will increase taxes by 1-2% with the cash like wise going to reserves. The fiscally conservative councilors will get to vote against the increase, which will pass any way.

The track hoe will also go the same direction as the water meters, to be re evaluated when further inefficiencies are found.

Finally Councilor Saje raised the issue of the lack of dollars (zero) for the New Strategic Direction of council, I also have not heard of any dollars for marketing or promoting the community. Likewise for new recreation facilities, affordable housing the only reference that as been mentioned in that regard is Councilor’s Gail idea to put a tax on weekenders that own more than one home in the Pass, which some how will encourage those people to provide those home’s to lower income families.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wow, Did Not see this coming!

I guess Morton really did not want to present Stelmach's Budget

For those concerned about land owners rights in Alberta

Check out the following web sites in regards to bills 19, 36, 50

Special Council Meeting Jan 25, 2011

Special Council Meeting Jan 25, 2011

Adoption of Agenda:
Mayor Decoux added two additional Personnel items in camera.
Motion to accept agenda as amended passed unanimously

Business arising from the Minutes:
1. 2011 Budget

CAO presented a list of changes to the budget to eliminate the need for a tax increase.

Increases of the following:
$24,000 to make a benefit clerk full time
$50,000 to demolish the Maplevue Hall
$14,538 Casual Wages Rescue

Then the following reductions
Advertising of $30,000
New rug for the office $34,200
Table + Chairs for the council chambers $7000
CCHS/Hokuto exchange $250
Thunder in the valley traffic control $500
Policing Thunder in the valley $30,000
Bellcrest Community Association $500
Coleman Community Association $1500
Casual Wages for Fire Departments
Coleman $1,800
Blairmore $8,500
Bellevue $4,100
Hillcrest $4,900
Benefits on wages for fire departments
Coleman $1,920
Blairmore $3,090
Bellevue $1,440
Hillcrest $2,055
Permanent Staff Rescue $14,538
Foothills Regional Inc $11,000
Bylaw Contracted Services $650
Public Works Casuals $11,700
Streets and Roads Casuals $24,400
Coleman Metering $7,000
Sanitary Sewer Casual $20,900
Sanitary Landfill tipping fees $41,000
Chamber of Commerce $4,800
Pool-Floor Tiling $15,000
Crowsnest Museum Grant $2,000
Allied Arts Grant $7,500
Library Grant $5,646
Archiving System $30,000
Parade Float $10,000
Hillcrest Fire department storage shed $10,000
Generator for Municipal Office $30,000
Sno-Gates $15,000

Plus Revenue from Municipal Land Sales was estimated to bring in $75,000 now increased to $125,000.

He also stated that all dollars for protective services and external organizations would be maintained at 2010 levels. In addition felt that council should meet with the ski hill and swimming pool boards to discuss there operations.

Then the following comments and questions were raised by councilors:

Emile Saindon-
Concerns about the recycling contract and why none of the revenue was coming back to the municipality, feels the contract should be renegotiated.
Take another look at the recreation programmer.
Advertising for the ski hill and an additional snow gun.
Felt that the Track Hoe could be financed by reduction of inefficiencies in the budget realized by council and administration in the next six months.

Larry Mitchell-
Money for water meters that comes out of reserves will it be put back.
CAO suggested that this program come back for further review
Concerned about no dollars going into reserves.
Feels that the Ski Hill budget should be decreased by 10% a year for the next three years.

Jerry Londsbury-
Concerned that no dollars are being placed into reserves, felt that a small increase made sense for that reason.

Brian Gallant-
Believed that the $6,000 cost for the ski hill web site was a one time cost
$9500 for a green water supply for the golf course is a concern due to them being a private business
Track Hoe needed more justification
Water Meter Funding should be paid for by a different source than reserves

Director of Public Works stated that the green water study would be paid for by the golf course to 50%. Also readdressed the reasoning for the track hoe, stated that the municipality is paying $10-13,000 a year in rental costs.

Seigbert Gail
Stated a small increase in taxes was acceptable
Concerned that there are no dollars to finish the ball/soccer complex
Increased fees for recreation needs to be looked at.
Special Tax for weekenders who own more than one home.
Also opposes water meters.

CAO stated that there needs to be a policy for reserves put in place.

Andrew Saje
Advertising needs to be shown to the public that there is a difference between advertising and public notices
Without an office generator would the municipality be prepared for an emergency
Administration should look at contracting out the archiving
Concerned about the track hoe and whether its warranted
Need to put dollars into reserve.
No allocation for the Ball/soccer complex
Administration spending increases, note a 14% increase in travel, meals and lodging, and a 53% increase in convention costs.
No dollars shown for Council’s strategic direction.
Opposed to increases in additional human resources
Spoke to several public works employees who felt that one of the present lead hands could be promoted instead of hiring.
There should be an organizational review completed before any additional staff hired.
Felt the municipality should change the way it does business before it adds more people
Should seek outside help, use consultants for professional advice a new set of eyes.
Taxpayers have expressed to him the willingness to accept a small tax increase to put money into reserves.

Felt that the budget provided dollars to invest in the present staff
Felt the organization needed to build capacity for change
Consultants could cost in the range of $3-400,000 and still not provide the additional capacity for change.
Removing the track hoe would not provide a lot of dollars for reserves as it was be payed for by borrowing, the only dollars saved would be the payment.

At this point the Mayor requested that each councilor summarize his concerns so administration could take them away and bring back answers.

Andrew Saje
Take six months for a organizational review/strategic plan prior to hiring
Look at archiving alternatives
More Info on the track hoe.

Seigbert Gail
Would like to see council vote on each major line item

Brian Gallant
Track Hoe justification and hiring additional employees

Jerry Londsbury
Concerned about the municipality having to spend a significant amount of dollars in a short period of time, due to our aging equipment fleet and facilities. Felt that those dollars will have to be provided either by building reserves or borrowing.

Larry Mitchell
Agrees with the need for the back hoe, feels that if administration requires more employees they should be provided. Feels that administration as no spare time, and council should not be micro managing.

Emile Saindon
Numerous opportunities for cutting costs
Concern with the recreation programmer
State of the present facilities

Cam Mertz requested the opportunity to address council
The agricultural services person will be covered of by grant funding
He began to speak about the full time positions for the rec programmer and the FCSS when the Mayor cut short his comments and suggested that he provide any additional information for council to the CAO.

At this point Mayor Decoux made a motion to have the Administration take back councils concerns and re address them with council at a later date.
Motion to accept passed unanimously.

Council by unanimous motion goes In Camera.

G+P meeting January 25, 2011

G + P Meeting January 25, 2011

Adoption of Agenda
No additions or deletions motion to accept carried unanimously


1. Robin Thiessen Hepher-Assistant Director-Chinook Arch Library
Presentation on the Library system that our two libraries belong to, the structure costs, resources available etc.

2. Dale Paton-Environmental Overview
Presentation by local environmental consultant, focusing on movement of wildlife through the area, emphasizing local wildlife corridors. Local municipal development plan, and the hope that council takes in to consideration environmental concerns when looking at future development.

Topics for discussion: None

In Camera: None

Adjourned at 8pm
Motion passed unanimously

Teck given strike notice by Steelworkers

The information below is posted on the Steelworkers web site at


UPDATE - Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - 4:30pm

Talks with the Company have broken off and the Bargaining Committee has served 72 hours strike notice.

Pickets will go into place SUNDAY, JANUARY 30, 2011 AT 8:00pm. Sign-up sheets for picket duty are up at the Union Hall. We are asking everyone to come to the Union Hall and sign up for picket shifts.

Committees will be set-up over the next week to deal with our current struggle, volunteers for these various committees can sign-up at the Union Hall.

We are asking everyone to get involved as much as they can during these tough times.

You can stop in from 9am-noon and 1-4pm Mon - Fri or email or call 250-425-0131.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Introducing the next premier of Alberta

Everybody’s favorite second choice Premier Stelmach today announced that he will not be running in the next election, he felt that he could not fulfill another term as Premier.

Surprised? No, in this province we call Alberta the home of the one party state. There as finally risen a second party from within the ranks of the right wing itself. The Wildrose party led by Danielle Smith, it is becoming quickly what the true conservatives in the province see as a viable alternative. The people that have a vested interest in seeing the Conservatives remain in power, understood a year back that Stelmach is not the leader that’s going to win the next election. Then the final nail in the coffin was the Hospital Emergency waiting time issue with MLA Sherman. The premier was left with a choice take himself out of the equation, or wait until it was too late as Ralph did.

So who takes his place? Who will save the Conservatives Bacon, can it be saved?. A leader from within the party, the most likely name Ted Morton, still probably seen by most people as part of the conservative right wing, Horner, Hancock, Liepert, Danyluk all good conservative foot soldiers, but not Premier material. In addition probably seen by the voters as part of the Stelmach legacy.

You really need a candidate from out side the party, the profile would include obviously a conservative, not too right wing more to the moderate side of the party, somebody with lots of experience, highly respected in both Alberta and Ottawa, especially if Alberta boy Harper wins the next election. Most importantly somebody that can bring the Conservative party back to its roots, and as the charisma and the appeal to take on Danielle Smith.

Who has all of those attributes? Who can ensure that the PC’s do not meet the same fate has the Social Credit party of 40 years ago?

Jim Prentice, his suddenly resignation from federal politics three months ago, he carries tremendous respect in Ottawa, he is an Albertan born and bred, he is considered a moderate within the conservative ranks. He would also have the charisma to take on Danielle Smith and the other parties leadership.

I would be interested to hear a better choice.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Special Council meeting "as the die been cast?"

Not trying to confuse anybody but there is a G+P meeting on January 25, 2011.
First of it struck me as strange that at the meeting of January 18, following a one hour debate on the budget. With a lot of questions asked by council, and administration indicating that they would bring those responses forth at the meeting of Jan 25 that they wouldn’t just add the budget to the G+P agenda.
After all, they left Jan 18 still sitting at 5.3% (which means in simple terms an extra $365,000 a year coming out of the taxpayers pockets).

In my mind I felt Administration would come back on the 25th with clarification to the councilors concerns, pull all the give me’s out of the budget. (Item’s that the admin team would like to have, but understand that to keep what they really want, they will have to sacrifice during the final strokes of the budget process to make the politicians look good).

Then I got to thinking maybe the “die as already been cast”, Councilor Saje will not be at the meeting of Feb 1st, if the budget was on the G+P meeting agenda then no motions could be past.

Therefore, what happens Jan 25, in my humble opinion?

Administration brings forth $200-250,000 in “give me’s” carpet in the office; reduce two casuals, float, storage shed for the Hillcrest Fire Department etc, etc. Council digs in there heals a little bit understanding that there will be a negative public reaction to all the new jobs being created, so a couple of them get chopped, in addition the evil water meters go back for further study.

Some councilors will suggest that a few dollars need to be put aside for new initiatives (marketing the community, looking at new facilities) the argument will be made that more time is needed, to review the municipalities services and facilities, wait for the recommendations of the economic task force .
Therefore, council in conjunction with administration will be more than willing to look at those issues next budget.

Then the majority supports a 1-2% budget with much bigger and better things to come next year.

I have been asked how does the municipality find the money to pay for all these new positions, keep in mind that last year council at that time did not allow the new positions which saved approximately $250-300,000.

The previous two councils had taken a position that each year they would put $250,000 aside to replace the aging equipment fleet; the present budget proposes to take on debt of over $500,000 to finance equipment. Where did the $250,000 go? Look at the new positions.

Anyway I may be wrong and if I am that’s Ok, I maybe off on my timing. But I look forward very much to seeing who takes what positions.

And much more importantly who proposes real “change”.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Holding the line in the Crowsnest Pass

In response to a question I was asked regarding tax increases in the Crowsnest Pass.

Is there anybody that believes the line as been held on Taxes? I don't.

In the George Cuff report it states on Page 86 Municipal Taxes in the Crowsnest Pass, grew at an average of 3.8% between 2002-2007. In 2008 they went up 11.2%, 2009 3.4% and 2010 3.2%. That's an average from 2002-2010 of 4.5% or 40.6% over nine years.

I would describe that far from holding the line.

According to Stats Canada and the Consumer Price Index the cost of living in that same time frame as gone up 21.5%.

Versus 40.6% on taxes that's almost double.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tax Increases in the Crowsnest Pass

Recently ran a poll on what would be a reasonable tax increase for 2011, offered up six options on what in my mind would provide an opportunity to cover all ends of the spectrum.

They were, with the corresponding results

0-1% 6 votes 10%
1-2% 7 votes 12%
2-3% 7 votes 12%
3-4% 6 votes 10%
4% or greater 3 votes 5%
Get creative and cut taxes 27 votes 48%

Well from amongst the people that spoke here, the message is loud and clear.

Why is this relevant? for the following reasons: Tuesday Night Jan 18th Mayor Decoux asked council at least twice, "does council feel that they were elected to maintain the status quo, or to bring change to the municipality"

If you read my post on the meeting Councilor Saje offered up change in the form of a budget with some different ideas. Councilor Saje also spoke about how our population and tax base continues to decrease, but our spending goes up and up.

Councilor Saje also spoke about our organizational structure, why does the Pass have a Financial Department and an HR Department, when most other municipalities group the two together?

Councilor Saindon talked about the need to increase user fees, spoke to how the general public can no longer be expected to support programs that only 20% of the public uses. He also addressed the issue of performance of our various facilities.

Councilor Gallant also raised the issue of the Albert Stella arena how it brings in so little revenue versus its costs to operate, he also stated that there is no greater deterrent to bringing in new people and increased tax base than municipal tax increases.

Mayor Decoux stated that positions taken regarding no tax increases are very short sighted, that in the long term you need dollars to invest in the infrastructure of the municipality, or people will go else where, where the streets are all paved and facilities are provided.

Administration responded by making the case that the municipality needs to hire "more" people to find the efficiencies, so that in time as attrition takes place the positions at the municipality will "change" and where possible those efficiencies that the new people find will take place "in time".

Councilor Saje in his motion proposed that operating costs of some departments be reduced by 7%, in a previous post I stated that if you want to find real efficiency improvements that is the way to do it.
If council attempts to "find" the inefficiencies the debate between them and administration will go on forever, give administration clear direction and goals and let the people that do the job every day find the inefficiencies.

Status Quo, versus change, versus being creative.

As far as the 2011 budget, I clearly heard on one hand Councilors Saindon, Saje and Gallant talking about zero tax increases.
On the other hand I heard Mayor Decoux, Councilors Mitchell, Londsbury, and Gail talking about tax increases.

Council Meeting of January 18, 2011

Council Meeting of January 18, 2011

Public Hearing: None

Adoption of Agenda

#5 under other business-High water levels in East Coleman
#6 Office Procedures

Under In Camera #1 Land

Motion to accept Agenda as amended passed unanimously

Adoption of Previous Minutes Jan 4, 2011
Correction, Motion made by Councilor Mitchell that states Councilor Mitchell abstained it should have been Councilor Londsbury
Motions to accept corrected Minutes passed unanimously

Delegations: None

Admin and Agency Reports: None

Business Arising from Minutes: None

Correspondence: Two letters one from John Pundyk and the other from Shane Stewart regarding tax increases. Both spoke to the high cost of taxes in the Crowsnest Pass, and the impact on attracting new people to the area.

Councilor Mitchell stated that both letters were good but offered no solutions to the municipalities financial problems, Councilor Saje stated that the solution is not to raise taxes.

Committee Reports: Minutes from G+P meeting of Jan 11,2011
Motion to accept minutes as presented passed unanimously

Bylaws: None

Notice of Motions
: None

Other Business:
1. Get Outdoors Weekend: Motion made to support this initiative passed unanimously

2. Elected Officials Course: Motion for all of council except Councilor Saje will participate in an Economic Development Course in Pincher Feb 3, motion passed unanimously.

3. Councilor Saje requested approval for absence for the Feb 1st meeting, motion passed unanimously

4. Budget 2011: Some points regarding the budget

Proposed Budget sitting at a 5.3% increase

Various members of council spoke to a tax increase of between 0% and a small increase (?)

Administration to bring back program/service reductions for the meeting of January 25, and clarification for individual councilors concerns.

Various new positions are included in the budget-additional person in the HR department, one new programmer in the Recreation area, a full time Agricultural service field man, a Foreman for public works, and a part time position for the finance department, also two additional casuals over last year usage. (This will be served up Jan 25 as a cost reduction)

There was a lot of debate around the performance of facilities and various services/programs.

Prior to the debate Councilor Saje attempted to make a motion on the budget which the Mayor requested that he hold of on until the debate took place.

After the debate Councilor Londsbury moved to table the budget until Jan 25, to which Councilor Saje stated that he had attempted to make a motion prior that dealt with the budget.

The Mayor asked Councilor Londsbury to withdraw his motion, to allow Councilor Saje motion to be dealt with.

Councilor Saje then made a motion to accept the 2011 budget with the following conditions:

1.The $230,000 for the back hoe to be removed from the budget
2. IT archiving to be suspended until outside options can be looked at
3. IT Desktop be reduced to $10,000
4. IT soft ware be reduced to $12,000
5. Parade Float be reduced to $5,000
6. All departments with the exception of culture, and FCSS have their operating budgets reduced by 7%
7. No hiring for 2011
8. All non union staff be limited to a 2% wage increase for 2011
9. Municipal advertising be limited to $25,000
10. $65,000 be side aside to upgrade the municipal web site and for rebranding the municipality

After debate, and with everybody knowing that this was coming back on Jan 25th, the motion was defeated by a vote of 6-1 with only Councilor Saje in support.

Motion was then made to table the budget until Jan 25, which passed unanimously

6. High water levels in east Coleman: Councilor Mitchell requested that admin to bring this back at a later meeting providing council with information

7. Office procedures: Admin advised that they are working on this and will bring back at a later date.

Council Member Reports: Several councilors spoke about meeting they had attended.

Public Input: Mayor did not offer the opportunity for anybody to speak.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

We have heard this story before.

Another sad story, in a time when banks were paying investors 1% or less on their money, this group was paying 10% sometimes it seems too good to be true.

Tens of millions missing

Investors take stock after bankruptcy of prominent Edmonton familyRead more:

Friday, January 14, 2011

Water Meters, what my readers think.

Interesting out of 46 votes my poll received:

18 or 39% said No to Water Meters
10 or 21% said Yes as long as I do not have to pay for them
4 or 8% said Yes at any cost
6 or 13% said Yes if I can pay for them over a year
8 or 17% said Yes if I can pay for them over 5 years.

I know this is not a scientific poll, but never the less it certainly reflects that water meters are going to be a very contentious issue, where council is going to have to do a very good job of educating the public as to the real purpose of water meters.

Will it be a method of conservation or will it become an additional source of revenue for the municipality?

Rum Runner Days weekend

As I previously reported council, specifically Mayor Decoux raised several issues in regard to Rum Runner Days, and the Thunder in the Valley event, further to those comments Joni raises the isuue in the Promoter Editorial today.

In addition the Promoter provides an opportunity for the community to vote, for their opinion as to whether the weekend is benefical to the community or not, whichever side you stand on this issue here is your chance to at least vote on it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Forum of interest

For all you folks that can not get enough of Bridgecreek, here's another forum that has some interesting discussions about the issue.

G + P Meeting Jan 11,2011

G + P Meeting Jan 11,2011

All members of council were present:

Adoption of agenda:
Councilor Saindon added item #6 to Topics for Discussion, The Crowsnest Community Support Society
Councilor Saje added item #7 to Topics for Discussion, The Crowsnest Pass Emergency Plan.
Mayor Decoux added an issue of Personnel/Legal to the In Camera session

Motion to accept the agenda as amended was passed unanimously

Delegations: None

Topics for Discussion:

1. Municipal credit card policy: After debate a Motion was made to accept the policy as presented, the motion failed with Gallant, Mitchell and Saindon in favour. Then a motion was made to refer it to the Policy Committee (January 20) and bring back to the next G+P (Jan 25), discussion followed with administration pointing out, that it would not give them sufficient time Council responded by voting unanimously to withdraw that motion. Then a motion was made to refer it to the Policy Committee to bring back to the G+P meeting of Feb 8th. This motion passed by a vote of 5-2 with Mitchell and Saindon opposed.

2. Municipal Snow Clearing/Ice Control Policy: Councilor Mitchell attempted immediately prior to debate to make a Motion to send this to the Policy Committee, Mayor Decoux asked him to withdraw to allow discussion which council voted unanimously to do. After a short debate, Councilor Mitchell again made a Motion to send it to the Policy Committee which passed unanimously.

3. Notices of Motion: Administration raised a concern about Notices of Motion being made with insufficient detail, the issue and date were being supplied to administration but no detail, makes it very hard for council to be provided with information on the issue. Motion was made to send to the Policy committee which passed by a vote of 6-1 with Councilor Saindon opposed.

4. Letter from MLA Dave Rodney asking for the community to support the Alberta get Outdoors Weekend initiative, the CAO wanted direction on how these types of requests should be handled, Motion was made to send these requests straight to council which passed unanimously.

5. Advertising Policy: After much debate about whether flyers could be used, or inserts, with Councilor Mitchell wishing to know if they filled the requirements of the MGA. A motion was made to accept the policy which was defeated by a vote of 4-3 with Gallant, Londsbury and Mitchell in favour. Then a Motion was made to send it to the Policy Committee which passed by a vote of 6-1 with Councilor Mitchell opposed.

6. Crowsnest Community Support Society wishes to haul some refuse out to the landfill, being a non profit group they requested that tipping fees be waived. Administration requested that they be allowed to do some research on this issue and bring back to council. Motion was made to allow this which passed unanimously.

7. Crowsnest Pass Emergency Plan, due to the power going off last Sunday and bringing up memories of the previous major power outage. Councilor Saje raised the concern about the communities Emergency Plan and the awareness of such plan, the CAO informed council that he has had discussion with the provincial rep who will be attending the council meeting on Feb 1st.

Motion was then made to go In Camera which passed unanimously.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Budget continues in the Crowsnest Pass? When?

Checked out the Municipal web site today, looking at the agenda for the G+P meeting on Jan 11, I was surprised that there was no mention of the 2011 Budget.

I'm sure a lot of taxpayers are waiting anxiously to see what there tax bills will look like.

Interesting process going on in the city of Toronto right now. They similar to us have a new Mayor and council, who took the approach during their election campaign that they will do things differently that they will not increase taxes, that they will find the "inefficiencies" within the system. Sounds familiar doesn't it? any way the Council directed all of the department heads to reduce their budgets by 5%.
Today the Mayor announced due to the fact that two city managers are resisting that direction, that if they can not do the job, they will be replaced by people that can.

If you really want to find the inefficiencies, Council won't do that. Individual councilors only see the obvious issues that the vast majority of taxpayers already know. (Its not a huge revelation that we spend a lot of money each year on spring cleanup).

If you really want to see the inefficiencies cleaned up then the role council should fill is having the guts to direct administration. Management put in the right position with clear direction and support from council, and a council willing to deal with the reaction of vocal interest groups will find places where the municipality could be more efficient.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Update on Bridgecreek

Check out today's Pass Promoter, the real story is now beginning to unravel, Joni did an excellent job.

Here is the Bridgecreek Video as requested

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Optimism and the lack of it.

One example of the lack of optimism in the Crowsnest Pass which really surprises me.

This week the Herald for its poll of the week asks the question: "Do you expect the economy of the Crowsnest Pass to pick up in the New Year?"

The responses as of 4pm today total 46:
of which 5 people say absolutely
11 people perhaps a little
15 people choose I doubt it
and finally 15 people stated definitely not.

When you look at whats going on with Teck, (largest employer here) they are hiring numerous people at all of their mines, the price of coal is going through the roof and with it will come profits in the billions.
The slow down in real estate sales as levelled of, and I am told that 2011 is anticipated to be a decent year for this sector of the local economy.
There is a new council in place that spoke about positive change, holding the line on taxes, new recreation facilities, and attracting new business to town.
And the one thing that will never change, we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

I ask the question. Why not be optimistic, is it really that bad here?

I am really shocked that 65% of the votes were placed in the last two catergories.

Jan 4 council meeting and observations

I am going to talk to three issues that jumped out at last nights meeting.

1. Advertising:

That darn advertising issue, just does not want to get resolved after almost three months of debate, being sent back to administration at least three times, the policy was defeated again at last nights meeting.

Some of the comments that I found very interesting Councilor Saje requested that this be discussed further at the Council retreat (Jan 6), Mayor Decoux made it crystal clear that it would not be on the agenda or added to it. At one point if I heard right, Saje made a motion to that effect which the Mayor never did put to a vote.

Councilor Gail wants to further examine inserts into the papers and better use of the municipal web site. Councilor Saindon also wants to look at the insert idea.

I also heard comments about the huge increase in costs being presented to council by administration, Councilor Mitchell seemed surprised again that it would jump so much.

(I really struggle with this, if you take something that you were doing one time a week, and do it 2 times a week at 3 times the cost, surprise your costs are going to go up by at least 6 times)

Councilor Saindon threw out the number of $18,000 for advertising in two papers, $10,000 for the use of inserts, and $8000 for quarter page ads for development issues.

The year that we advertise in two papers for $18,000 will be the year that I part the red sea.

Mayor Decoux talks at great length about how this would not have been an issue if there had been a policy in place, to which I reply there was. It was very simple and easy to follow once a year each paper was given the opportunity to bid on the advertising with council awarding it to the "lowest" bidder. Not very complicated at all.

2. Policy Committee

Mayor Decoux as decided to strike up a policy committee, to review all municipal policies to make them functional, efficient and effective.

The Committee will be comprised of himself, the CAO and the Director of legislative services.
With the addition of ad hoc members when necessary and relevant.

I have a concern with this committee being struck, that being that the Mayor will in essence be in complete control of all policy coming back to council. The committee will meet once a month to put together policy, the Mayor by his presence and participation will play a big part in developing such policy and steering the direction of that policy. The example that was held up to justify this process would be the advertising policy and all the delays that have been created by that policy.

What drives my concern? our previous Mayor had a committee similar to this, except his committee was made up of himself and two councilors (one of whom would usually side with him on most issues). This committee would send back policy to council that usually was framed (nice political word) in a direction that worked for the Mayor's agenda.

When somebody on council spoke against these recommendations or the direction/tone. One of the pro Mayor councilors would give the speech about how so much time and effort of the Committee and administration had gone into these policies that it would be more than acceptable to go along with the policies as presented. The point being that the committee was used as a screening process, and tool for the Mayor to control and set the direction of policy.

I truly hope this is not the direction that this committee is going.

3. Thunder in the Valley

The Mayor requested that the CAO bring back a report on the policing of Thunder in the Valley and what struck me as really interesting, who owns and operates Thunder in the Valley.

Councilor Saindon stated that he had heard last summer that Thunder in the Valley was owned and operated by the Blairmore Fire Department.

Going back to my own experience I got slapped last summer on both my blog and around town when one of my readers requested the amount of municipal dollars that go into that weekend. I made the mistake of referring to it as Thunder in the Valley, when it was pointed out to me that it was Rum Runner Days, that Thunder in the Valley was just a part of the weekend.

It really will be interesting to see where council is going with this issue. It is indeed the event that brings out a bigger crowd than any other event in this town each year.

Council Meeting of January 4, 2011

Public Hearing: Bylaw 814, 2010

Regarding the land use bylaw for lots that required a 5’ and 10’ setback on each side of a residence where there is no back lane
No one spoke in favor or opposition

Adoption of Agenda

Councilor Mitchell added an item 3 to other business Office Protocol

Mayor Decoux added an item 4 to other business Thunder in the Valley Policing

Motion to accept Agenda as amended passed unanimously

Adoption of Previous Minutes

1. Regular Council Meeting of December 21 Motion to accept passed unanimously

2. Special Budget Meeting of December 14 Motion to accept passed unanimously

Delegation: None

Administration and Agency Reports: None

Business Arising From the Minutes

1. Advertising Policy-Motion made to accept Option #1 failed (3-4) with Mayor Decoux, Councilors Mitchell, and Londsbury in favor.

2. Consideration for a time extension, Council had previously asked for all resolutions of council for the previous two terms to be reviewed and see which ones were not enforced. Administration requested an extension to have more time to complete this project. Motion to extend until March 15 passed unanimously

Correspondence: Lloyd Bentz regarding Bow Crow Forest Trails Grant

Motion was made to send a letter of thanks passed unanimously

Committee Reports:

1. G + P minutes of December 14 Motion to accept passed unanimously

2. FCSS Minutes of Dec 1 Motion to accept passed unanimously

Bylaws: 814, 2010

Second reading Motion passed unanimously

Third reading Motion passed unanimously

Notices of Motion: None

Other Business

1. Request for a Letter of Support-Bellcrest Community Association Motion passed Unanimously

2. Policy Committee, after a lengthy presentation by the Mayor regarding the definition of and the need for policy. A motion was made to set up a Committee comprised of three permanent members (Mayor, CAO, and Director of legislative services) and ad hoc members from areas that are relevant to the issues at hand. Motion passed Unanimously

3. Office Protocol, Councilor Mitchell raised a concern about members of the public wandering the office, taking up the time of municipal employees. After a puzzled look from everybody else in the room, the CAO committed to look into this issue.

4. Thunder in the Valley Policing, Mayor Decoux requested that the CAO bring back a report to the council regarding the policing at Thunder in the Valley, and inform Council who owns and operates Thunder in the Valley.

Public Input: None

In Camera: Personnel Issue

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Mayor's Task Force

Well here it is the terms of reference for the Mayor's task force.
Available at: The Municipality web site
Mayor and Council will pick the members in the month of January, the committee will start its work in February with the final report coming back to council in May.
Should be an interesting process, can't wait for the recommendations from this group.