Friday, September 28, 2012

Branding/Economic Development (Doing things backwards)

From different people I have spoke to, the branding session that 98.9% of the population didn't know about was done very well.
Couple of concerns first of all there was a process done less than four years ago paid for by community futures and the province which involved municipal council, administration, local businesses, the Chamber of commerce, various hospitality groups, I even remember one of the present councilors being there. That was  dealing with the issue of branding, focusing on the theme of "Mountain Freedom".
Now maybe that was not implemented as well as it should have been, maybe there was some expertise missing. Now it's been determined by council and administration that we need to spend up to ($80,000) on a new brand.
On September 18 Mayor Decoux states at the G+P meeting that the municipality will have an Economic Development officer in place by Christmas. That's good as one person said to me that should have been the first person they hired, where I have difficulty and think we are doing things backwards. Would it not have made sense to go out and hire the individual (Probably at a cost of $150-$200,000 per year) prior to determining that we needed a new brand, prior to determining what the new brand is going to be.
After all aren't we going to be expecting this person to sell this "brand" seems to me like a pretty key individual not to have involved in this process.    

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Municipal communications

All I have heard over the last little while is a number of people raving over the great job the municipality is doing communicating with the public.
Well I hope this is not being held up as an example of that, the Open House is tomorrow night and is being advertised on Facebook 33 hours in advance. I have not seen it advertised anywhere else so not a big deal. I assume the six people that will read this between today and tomorrow that have no prior plans for tomorrow night will attend.
Should be a big turn out to replace the now ancient "Mountain Freedom" brand.

Community Branding Open House
September 26th, 2012 6:00-8:00pm
Elks Hall, Blairmore

The Municipality invites residents to be a part of the development of the brand for Crowsnest Pass. This initiative is well underway and we need your assistance in reflecting the needs and values as well as economic opportunities and priorities for our community. A Open House will be held on September 26 at the Elks Hall in Blairmore from 6:00 to 8:00. This Forum is open to everyone and will serve to provide a summary of the background research conducted as well as to gain your impressions and feelings about the thematic areas emerging from the research. These themes and your impressions will form the foundation of the creative branding work to follow. Please come and join us and be part of this process.
6 hours ago

Note: Check out the Ratepayers latest update at

Monday, September 24, 2012

Good News for the Crowsnest Pass? Manufacturing Jobs?

Talk of the Town: Crowsnest Pass a Possible Manufacturing Hub

Mayor Decoux speaking to Alberta Primetime about our potential Quebec Manufacturer 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bridgecreek Properties Tax Sale in the Crowsnest Pass

Tuesday Night at the Council meeting a number of  tax sales were approved by  Council for October 24th 11am at the municipal office. Amongst those were the Crowsnest Lake site with a reserve bid of $1,908,260 and the Discovery Centre in Blairmore with a reserve bid of $394,320.
All of the River Run properties were put on hold until a later date (I am told March/April) don't know why maybe there is a deal cooking on these properties? 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Quarter for your thought’s finally a “debate” on Franchise Fees

At the G+P meeting of September 18,2012 I sat patiently for over a hour and a half listening to delegations from the “Forty Developmental Assets Committee and the Southern Alberta Weed Coordinator” then to an update on the Strategic Plan that basically represented a back patting contest on how great the recommendations from the first pillar have been implemented or in the process of being implemented.

Then we found out that the final report on the Rum Runner Day’s weekend is in true TITV fashion being “deferred” to the October 2 meeting of council.

We got down to the issue of the $366,000 tax grab for 2013 better know by the label of Franchise Fees. Councilor Gallant and Saindon very quickly made some comments about looking for other answers than just raising taxes.  Councilor Mitchell came to the rescue with a suggestion that would cut the increase by $70,000 so only hammering us with a $266,000 tax increase instead of the initial $366,000. (I guess six slaps to the head are better than seven) this approach had some support from Councilor Gail.
Then to my surprise Councilor Londsbury took the approach that this is only a $97 a year increase a “quarter” a day. He could not see where people are making such a big deal (On some web sites) he even went as far as to pull a pile of change out of his pocket that he had counted during the break and tell his colleagues here I have my next 35 weeks worth of the increase.
So at this point I am waiting for everybody to fall into line with Councilor Mitchell’s suggestion.
When suddenly I was blown away when Councilor Saindon stated “just because we can take the taxpayer’s money doesn’t me we should” Wow that was great the Mayor then pushed him for detail to which he laid out a list of items to review for cost cuts.
-Reduction of redundant services
-Work order program to determine inefficiencies and waste
-Skating rinks and pools where utilization rates are down and wage costs are up
-Bulk fuel purchases
-Equipment Utilization
-Big ticket equipment items that are not being used, even 100 hours per year (See my story on the Hoe)
Then Councilor Gallant laid out his area’s of potential cost cutting
-The Town Rounder
-Rural Garbage pickup
-Summer Ice ($60,000 at the arena)
-Money to heritage groups (Heritage Board, Museum, Bellevue Mine)

Not for a second did anybody suggest that all of these things should be taken away what they did suggest is that all of these things should be looked at before just imposing another $366,000 of tax on our residents. I have no problem dumping on these guys when they screw up but they also deserve KUDO’s when they do the right thing.
Yes I know it’s only a year to the next election and I feel that some of the councilors are feeling a little heat from the local taxpayers but some of them still did the right thing.
The Franchise Fee issue will be coming back to council in their first budget meeting, I would recommend that anybody that is talking to their councilors keep up the pressure let them know that you are glad they delayed this “tax” now you want it to go away completely.    

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Crowsnest Pass Demographics

A number of readers have asked me for more information has we are always talking about the ageing population in our community.

All the information is available at the following address

Below are the numbers just for the Crowsnest Pass. The first column is total population by age group, the second column male and the third female.

Total population by age groups 4
0 to 4 years
5 to 9 years
10 to 14 years
15 to 19 years
20 to 24 years
25 to 29 years
30 to 34 years
35 to 39 years
40 to 44 years
45 to 49 years
50 to 54 years
55 to 59 years
60 to 64 years
65 to 69 years
70 to 74 years
75 to 79 years
80 to 84 years
85 years and over
Median age of the population 5
% of the population aged 15 and over

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Where are our tax dollars being spent?

Just received a tip that this could be the new Fire Chief's pick up. If in Coleman drop by and have a look where your dollars are going. I did not realise we were in that desperate need of new pickups.

Friday, September 14, 2012

More stuff we don't need in the Crowsnest Pass

Well it sounds like the problems are compounding.

I found the following post this morning concerning legal and more potential legal problems for the municipality.
Plus a further hang over from the highly successful weekend known has Rum Runner Days. Check it out for your selves.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Quiz Answer for Franchise Fees

For my little quiz on the right hand side of this blog regarding Franchise Fee Increases you can either guess the answer or go to and find the real answer.

Just a hint it is a little bit higher than the rate of inflation.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hoe, Hoe, Hoe this is not a funny story.

For the last five budgets I participated in, Administration, specifically Public Works approached council regarding the purchase of a track hoe.
The argument was made that we needed to have our own, due to us having to dependent on the availability of contractor’s hoes the costs involved etc etc.
Every year I asked the same questions give me specifics of when we ran into a problem getting a hoe, and how much were we spending on renting machines. The answer I always got was no specific dates and $10-15,000 a year.
With that information myself and enough of my fellow members of council had the wisdom to not make that $250,000 purchase. Even at a cost of $15,000 a year it would take 17 years to pay for then you would be left with a machine that was worthless, plus costing the town how many dollars to maintain each year.
So budget 2011 rolls around administration brings forth the request for a track hoe again, surprisingly council not only approves it but decides to put the taxpayers in debt to finance it. (at that point 17 years becomes 18-19)
But the story doesn’t end there just a few short months later administration comes back to council and says we need $25,000 to buy a trailer to move the hoe, well I guess now you have made the first mistake you really can’t go out and not have a trailer to move it around so council approves that.
Lets fast forward a year, the story of the track hoe I felt was behind me and could not get any more ridiculous than it already was. So here I am just a few evenings ago having a chat with a couple of fellows that have lived here all there life and spent most of their working life around heavy equipment, when the topic of the track hoe comes up.
I am told that the Hoe the municipality purchased is an odd ball size, attachments and parts can be difficult to acquire, Wow. Then the icing on the proverbial cake comes along (remember the initial argument about availability of contractors hoes) I am told that the municipality does not have a piece of equipment adequate to move the hoe around, we are dependent on contractors to do that for us.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Back taxes property sales and the 52% solution

Remember when the imposition of the 52% tax penalty was going to be the lever that would push all those nasty people in the Crowsnest Pass that were delinquent on their taxes to pay up.

Well if you think it worked check out the Alberta Gazette at   pages 1017-1028 there are 294 properties available.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Let’s Encourage Development Please

In a community that over the last 20 years has averaged maybe ten new homes a year, that has been hit with the closure of the Devon Gas Plant just in the last two months we need to encourage people to build here.

Even during the time when everybody is thrilled to hear that we may be the potential home for a Quebec manufacturer that could one day generate up to a hundred jobs. In addition a major new development going up in place of the Crowsnest Centre remember the “demolition before the first snow falls speech”.

What enlightening new idea have our leaders come up with to encourage people to build here? Bylaw 843-Safety Codes Service Fees.
We are going to take the cost of having those new homes certified from $3,683 to $8,080 by 2014 an increase of $4397 a 119% increase that's right 119%.
Hard to believe isn’t it?    

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Crowsnest Pass Ratepayers Association Press Release

Crowsnest Pass Rate Payers Association
William Kovach, President of the Crowsnest Pass Ratepayers Association is very pleased to provide an update on the progress of the Association. What began back in June has a number of taxpayers getting together and voicing numerous concerns about the direction our community is heading. In a few busy months of public meetings being held in each community, to determine if there was interest in revitalizing the Ratepayers Association and hearing the concerns of the ratepayers it was  determined very quickly that the public is very interested in having a Ratepayers organization in place. 

The decision was made to move forward to elect an executive comprised of residents from all areas of the Crowsnest Pass. President William Kovach is very pleased to announce that the Association has in a very short time frame already signed up over four hundred members. He encourages anyone interested in joining the organization to contact any of the following executive board members (Cost of $5).
William Kovach 564-4709
Gail Montgomery 564-4077
Troy Clark 563 0381
Sasha JaegerBaird 563 6073
Ed Strembecki 564-0184
Marilyn Milley 562-2719
Marlene Anctil 562-8180
Larry Ruzek 564 4384
Rudy Pagnucco 562-8147
In line with the concerns raised by ratepayers at those meetings the executive created a mission statement for the organization one that states the following:
“The Association monitors municipal decisions to ensure that responsible and accountable governance is being provided for the people of the Crowsnest Pass."
The Ratepayers Association wishes to achieve these goals by working in cooperation with the municipal administration and council. To that end the Association has requested the following, a meeting with council and administration to introduce themselves and share the goals of the group (August 21, G+P meeting). A request for information from the CAO, regarding the concerns raised by the taxpayers at the public meeting (Taxation, spending, hiring, use of consultants etc) . The vast majority of which should be readily available as it is contained in the triennial budget put in place by council several months back.
Additionally President Kovach would like to announce that to keep the public better informed of how the ratepayers efforts are proceeding, the group will very shortly have it’s own Facebook page, they will also be holding their next executive board meeting September 20 at 7pm in the basement of the Coleman Legion. All members or prospective members are more than welcome to attend. 

Update: The site is now up and running on Facebook just punch in Crowsnest Pass Ratepayers Association.

Wow the difference a week makes? Legal action in the Crowsnest Pass

Recently there was an article in the Pass Herald about Chinook Pipelines taken legal action against the municipality I was shocked when I got called and approached by a number of residents asking me what we did to upset this company back in 2009.
I did not know how to answer people it was news to me thankfully the Pass Promoter came out today with a   story that clarifies what is going on.

Why a ratepayers Association? Making a difference.

Back on August 2, 2012, I posted regarding the upcoming Franchise Fee Increase scheduled for Jan 1, 2013.
Think about this a three-year budget was passed early this year with much fanfare over taxes only going up 2.5% each year. Imagine if council had announced that the taxes were going up 7.5% in the second year. Taxpayers would have been out raged, there would have been editorials, letters to the editor denouncing our local leaders and tax collectors.  
No the majority remained happy and said “2.5% that not bad” but then the light came on and people began to realize it is not 2.5% it is really 7.5%. I have been asked repeatedly how do you get 7.5%? Simple back to Franchise Fees. These are a hidden tax that the vast majority of the public does not even know exists; they go on you gas and power bill and are then paid to the municipality.
The dollar amounts on these items $211,980 on the gas bills and $124,965 on the power bills for a total of $336,945 right out of the tax payers pockets no different than if they had increased our property taxes by an equivalent amount. Remember every $65,000 is the equivalent of a 1% tax increase so $336,945 is very close to 5%, on top of the 2.5% announced previously by council “7.5%”.
How does the Ratepayers fit in to this equation, well before these Franchise Fees can be imposed very have to be approved by council, that process began last night. Due to what I believe is the fact that most of our local politicians do not like the outcry being expressed publicly over the last few months with a group of concerned taxpayers coming together and forming the Ratepayers Association plus a number of there members sitting in the public gallery last night. Council blinked (At least for one meeting) when administration brought the Franchise Fees forward last night. There was discussion from Councilors Gallant, Saindon and Gail about the hardship of this type of increase, maybe the possibility of looking at other areas to raise additional revenue. Never once did I hear anyone suggest that maybe the municipality could reduce spending by $336,945.
The outcome; administration is going to bring this issue back on September 18; groups like the ratepayers need to keep up the pressure. People need to understand that speaking up at a town hall meeting or at the local coffee shop is great. Those are the voices of individuals; politicians only listen when they hear the voices of many.