Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Opposed to tax Increases? really or just saying so.

Just received an e-mail from one of my readers telling me that there was a Councilor on the Radio this morning talking about how he did not support the tax increase.

I sat in Council Chambers last week when they voted on the budget, and the only councilor that voted against it was Councilor Gallant so I will assume that he was on the radio this morning. Interesting when I was sitting there last week there was an opportunity given to everybody to say their piece about the budget. The Mayor made a point of once again mentioning how disappointed he was that so few people came out to budget meetings. Here at this meeting was the perfect forum for everybody to say their piece in favor of or against the budget there was representatives from the ratepayers, a larger than normal crowd of residents. What a great opportunity to speak up if you were truly opposed to this budget with its tax increases, utility rate increases, franchise fee increase, service cuts etc and make those concerns very apparent to the public. Very quickly as the Mayor called for the vote, Councilor Gallant asked that the vote be “recorded” for those that do not know, that means it is shown in the minutes who voted for and against the motion.
All in favor? The Mayor, Councilor’s Gail, Londsbury, Saindon, Mitchell, Opposed? Councilor Gallant. (Councilor Saje was absent).

Did I miss something was there comments made at that point in the meeting where Councilor Gallant explained why he was opposed to the budget, or was this just about being able to say I never voted for a tax increase somewhere down the road. (maybe October)

A sign of things to come March 7?

Thousands of Alberta student summer jobs could be axed

The municipality has used STEP funding for years to hire students in the summer to work in the parks and various green spaces.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Will the politicians listen?

Will the politicians listen? About the Hillcrest Fire Hall or any other issue.

I would like to say if enough people speak up? Yes
But I am really starting to lose faith in that but never the less people need to speak up in the sense that you can send a message now that you are not happy and you will not be happy in October either.

How can you do that,  call the politicians they took the position they should expect the public to talk to them. They spend every Tuesday night talking about how all these people are telling them to "keep up the good work", "your on the right track", "can't wait for you to walk on water two days before the election". Well maybe once in a while they will receive a comment that's not so positive.

Talk to them about the Hillcrest Fire Hall and keep in mind a few things the $49,000 they will save a year does not just come from closing the hall, it also comes from a significant reduction in the number of Firemen this community will have and the lessor cost of providing gear for them.

What can $49,000 a year get us the taxpayers? A new brand, 2 more pick up driving around town, five months wages for a Director, the COP speed trap sitting at the high school three nights a week for the rest of the year, six months wages for a deputy Fire Chief, the opportunity to send council members to conventions, one quarter of the new entry signage to the community.    

Let these people know how you feel call them at the numbers below, vote on the poll available on the Promoter site at the address below.

Bruce Decoux 562 7743
Larry Mitchell 562 8537
Jerry Londsbury 562 2405
Seigbert Gail 564 4465
Brian Gallant 562 7963
Emile Saindon 753 2403
Andrew Saje 563 8584

Remember these guys still have to vote on March 5.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Crowsnest Pass Help me out with CAO's

At the Fire/Rescue Master plan yesterday administration made a comment about us going through 13 CAO's in 15 years.

I could sure use some help from my readers, that number does not make sense to me, so please fill in the gaps if you can.


March 2004 to Oct 2010 Gord Lundy

Oct 2010 to July 2011 Tully Clifford

July 2011 to June 2012 Kevin Robins

June 2012 to Present Myron Thompson

Did we really have 9 CAO's from 1998 to 2003? one every 6 months.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hillcrest Fire Hall soon to close

Council will be voting on March 5 to accept the Fire/Rescue Master Plan, that was presented at the G and P meeting today. If accepted the Hillcrest Fire Hall will be lost.

More news to follow in the morning. The financial justification on this was based on a savings of $47,000 a year.

Phone numbers for Council if anybody can send me the phone numbers for Saje and Saindon
I would be glad to post them

Bruce Decoux 562 7743
Larry Mitchell 562 8537
Jerry Londsbury 562 2405
Seigbert Gail 564 4465
Brian Gallant 562 7963
Emile Saindon
Andrew Saje 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

MD of Ranchlands and Annexation

Check out the story on John Prince's Blog regarding the MD of Ranchlands position on the Annexation process and Riversdale.

When Riversdale came to the Pass the local leadership should have told them to involve Ranchlands, was there a "don't worry they will be part of the Crowsnest Pass before the first snowfall"

I also suspect that Riversdale just like any other corporation will not be standing up and demanding the opportunity to pay more taxes.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Press Release by the Crowsnest Pass Ratepayers Association

Press Release by the Crowsnest Pass Ratepayers Association – Feb 14, 2013

2012 was a very busy year for the Ratepayers Association of the Crowsnest Pass.  Concerns of how our community was being governed were presented to council but fell on deaf ears. On October 4th and again on the 11th, 2012 we informed the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Doug Griffiths of these concerns and that the electorate wanted to petition the Minister to intervene.

We informed the Minister of the bullying that went on with our volunteer fire departments, the miss-information council was giving out regarding Thunder in the Valley, that our community wasn’t enjoying the Alberta Advantage and that we couldn’t continue to absorb increases in fees, spending and hiring. We informed the Minister a petition from the people was forthcoming.

 On November 1st, 2012 we delivered a petition signed by 2510 voters here in the Pass. Since the petition was delivered it’s been three and half months and now we understand why those of us that delivered the petition were treated so poorly at the Legislative Building in Edmonton.  The Department of Municipal Affairs continues to drag their feet in picking an inspection team and the Minister’s Chief of Staff indicated it would probably be summer time before the inspection takes place. At that point I informed the Minister’s Chief of Staff that wasn’t satisfactory.  The damage being done to this community has to stop and the disrespect council is showing toward the electorate that signed the petition has to be addressed.

To add to our many concerns the Department of Municipal Affairs is giving a Regional Collaboration Project grant to our municipality.  This $257,000.00 grant will cover communication upgrades, training of fireman and paying of personnel.  We had four volunteer fire departments that in total cost us $285,000.00, now we have one fire/rescue department that needs training and from the Community and Protective Services Director down to the Fire Chief, Deputy and three paid firemen that will cost the taxpayer $500,000.00. The best part of this grant is retroactive to last year and it doesn’t even include the present volunteer fireman or the cost of fighting a fire. 

The citizens if the Crowsnest Pass don’t deserve this type of bullying from our council and especially not from the Department of Municipal Affairs.

Crowsnest Pass Fire/Rescue

For all of you that have any interest in the Crowsnest Pass Fire and Rescue situation. The long awaited Fire/Rescue Master plan will be presented to council on Tuesday afternoon at the G+P meeting at 2pm.

I wonder what would happen if council determines that they don't want to go with a Full time Chief and Deputy Chief plus full time Firemen or disagree with the direction or contents of the plan?

There is much speculation that a couple of Fire Halls will be closed, I don't think so, the timing does not work for the politicians being an election year. I think all of the stations will be maintained has storage facilities and to allow responders quicker access to equipment for now.

Later on at the Council meeting 7pm I see one of the items on the agenda is:
Donated Used Apparel and Old Surplus Fire Apparatus Removed, it will be interesting to see what was on the list.

Ratepayers Meeting Reminder

There will be a Ratepayers meeting Wednesday night Feb 20, 7pm at the Hillcrest Miners club, everybody is welcome.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Crowsnest Centre are we moving forward?

Tuesday night I went to the open house for the Crowsnest Centre site. Prior to the meeting I was asked by one of our residents that I have known for a long time. If I was surprised to see this happening, and if I wanted it to fail so it would be a black eye for this council.

To clarify that statement there are people that disagree with me on some sensitive political issues in this community, that are running around telling people that I have my own political agenda, that people need to keep that in mind when they read or hear my comments.
Well I’m going to shock you, yes I have my own agenda, some politicians call it a “vision” or “goals” etc. Any politician that tells you he does not have his own agenda or vision is either full of crap or should not be doing the job because who needs leaders without vision? Yes I am going to shock you even more I will be running for council this fall, it is just eight months away I think it is time for people to start stepping forward, speaking up and getting involved in the political process. Personally, I was never impressed with people that showed up for the first time in their life at a council meeting a month before the election, or the night before nomination day suddenly feeling the urge to save their community.  Now you still have time to learn about the process, see how council works and get a feel for the issues that are important to the community and it’s people and decide what your “vision” for this community will be.

To the Crowsnest Centre Site and the comments that have been directed at me. Was I surprised to see this happen?
No for six years I argued until I was blue in the face that this property was the most logical piece of land in the Crowsnest Pass for commercial development. Now some people fought against that with tremendous passion, to maintain what used to be on that site, I did not agree with them but after what has happened in this community over the last two years I understand a whole lot more about the issue of “passion”.  

What did we see Tuesday night? well it started with Bruce spending ten minutes patting himself, council and administration on the back for all the hard work they did to put this together. I am sure there was a lot of work involved and I give credit to them for that, but they should have sat in that council chamber 4-5 years ago if they wanted to see the real “work” that went in to this issue.
Then he introduced the people from Medican, the Architect, and Vachon group and turned the floor over to them. They all spoke well obviously educated people that have seized an opportunity in the Crowsnest Pass, nothing wrong with that.
What did they have to give us? When everybody walked in they were met by a large board with a picture of a nice hotel across from Summitt Home Hardware, a McDonalds and a Boston Pizza behind it. Green spaces, smaller businesses, a park that we the taxpayers will be paying for, and lot’s of large trees on the side facing Drain Brothers yard.
Exciting stuff, then Mr Day from Medican told us this is only a conceptional  diagram there is no guarantee that this is what the hotel will look like, or that these restaurants will be here, they were here tonight to get a feel about what the community wanted to see. He went on to talk about how they have to find all of these businesses, then he introduced the other people in the party who all gave a little information about their backgrounds.
When that was finished the different members of the groups went to separate tables and allowed the public to approach them with questions.
What do we have “today” for the Crowsnest Centre site? We have a group of businessmen that have signed a contract with the municipality (most details of which we will never know) that are going out to attempt to attract a hotel, with possibly some type of convention centre. Later it will be followed  up in phases with restaurants, and other smaller secondary businesses coming in. Do we have anything more solid that that right now? No.
Do I want this project to fail because it will be a black eye for this council and help my political “agenda”? Not a chance, this community needs commercial development we need tax base, we need employment.
I hope for the sake of this community that this is very successful. Myself and the other politicians past, present and future can decide later who takes the credit for this.       

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Shell Game-Municipal Finances 101

Back during the deliberations on the municipal  budget for 2011. It was determined that the need existed for more administrators in the municipal office so money was placed in the budget to fill those position. The organizational chart comes out with a Manager of Corporate Services in place. By April of 2012 the position is filled, by July the position is vacant so following a logic path one would assume that this being such a priority to have this position in place, that very quickly it would be filled. Well it was not now the shell game begins, in our case it’s called making the numbers work. This position was probably somewhere in the $70,000 a year range so the fact that it was only filled for three months now means that $55,000 of those dollars are available to help make the year end look good.
Monday night I go to the Municipal open house and part two of the shell game is played, despite the fact that this job was created by this council over a year ago and had such a high priority that it was only filled for three months. They now show the job has being eliminated which get this reflects as a $70,000 savings for the 2013 budget.
Then they show two CUPE positions being eliminated for an additional savings of $100,000 a year, a warehouse position and the additional HR clerk position they created not that long ago, why create positions to turn around and eliminate them?
The next shell game is beinging for this year they are showing $70,000 in wages and $10,000 in other costs for a Economic Development Officer to be put in place from May 1 to the end of the year. It is now Feb 12 does anybody believe that you are going to be able to find an Economic Development office by May 1? It is probably very unrealistic but again it will be money that can be shuffled from one shell to another for 2013. 

Crowsnest Pass Hotel Update

In today's Crowsnest Pass Promoter is a little more information from Joni MacFarlane about the Hotel development with the financial implications included . From reading the story it appears now that the $300,000 cash we received a $100,000 is directed towards creating a green space next to the development so in all essence the Municipality is only receiving $200,000. At the end of the story is a poll for you to vote and how you feel about the deal.

Hotel announced for Crowsnest

Joni MacFarlane

A 50-75-room hotel, located at the former site of the Crowsnest Centre, was announced last week.
Medican, a Medicine Hat-based construction company and Group Vachon, a Calgary-based hotel management company, signed an agreement with the municipality to build a development that is to include a pool, hot tub, breakfast area and meeting spaces. The project will be accompanied by a complementing restaurant and sports bar as well as a green space with amenities such as a dog run and playground area.
The development group said their vision for the project is to “create a signature hotel and commercial area that will allow tourists to enjoy the numerous outdoor activities available within the Crowsnest Pass and also to create the primary rest area location between Lethbridge and Fernie”.
Medican has been in business since 1974 with a primary focus on development and construction of seniors’ residential communities and retail commercial development.
Group Vachon is a Calgary-based company with over 22 years experience in the hotel industry, building and managing properties including international brands as well as independent hotels across North America.
Details from a public open house on Feb. 12 were not available as at press time.
After the announcement was made, The Promoter spoke with Chief Administrative Officer Myron Thompson to discuss the financial details and implications for the municipality.
Thompson said the purchase price was $1.1M that includes $300,000 cash and total responsibility for the demolition and clearing of the site.
The municipality had looked at doing the demolition themselves, he explained, but it was included in the proposal from the construction company.
“We said, well fine, because that takes that risk and liability from us,” he said. “If we had to spend that $800,000 on the demolition and then get $1.1M, it’s all the same.”
Thompson said they discussed the offer with an appraisal company who said it was “very close to being at market value”. The value had decreased slightly from July 2010 when it had been appraised at $1.4M, he said.
“There was talk about giving the land away for nothing so I think it’s a good deal,” he added. “Because what it does, it develops an entire parcel of land.”
The purchase price of $300,000 is held in trust, Thompson said, and the developer will get title to the land. If they don’t meet the requirements set out in the agreement, there is a certain time period that the municipality can take the land back.
The demolition is to be completed by late summer, the foundation is to be in by late fall, and the development has to be completed within two years from the date the agreement was signed, said Thompson.
He added that Medican and Group Vachon have been working with a hotel developer and the name of this hotel will be announced within the next month.
Lethbridge architect Alvin Fritz is developing a design for the hotel.
A stand-alone restaurant will be built on the site by Medican, he added, and another restaurant will be located inside the hotel.
A separate company has been contracted to do the demolition work, but Medican is unable to confirm their name until the agreement is signed.
As part of the agreement, one-third of the funds from the sale - $100,000 – will go towards development of a green space on the northeast corner of the site, said Thompson.
This land is owned by the province and will be leased to the municipality for Medican to develop a tourist/rest stop with picnic tables, playground, dog run and other amenities.
The balance of the funds $200,000 – will go into land reserves, Thompson said.
There are many steps to be taken before demolition and construction get underway, he said, such as rezoning of the land and development agreements and permits.
“We had 82 changes in the agreement. Eighty-two,” Thompson emphasized. “I don’t think people realize the amount of work that we went through… to protect the community so we didn’t end up with another River Run… I know the concerns and it’s a balancing act not to scare these guys away but yet protect ourselves and I think we’ve got a really good deal.”

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mayor Decoux clarifies Annexation and Taxation

At Council meeting Feb 5 the Mayor gave a little bit of a commentary on two issues in the Crowsnest Pass and even though his comments sounded strange to me the public deserves to know.

(Anybody that was at the meeting and feels I am misquoting the Mayor please let me know and I will be glad to change the comments but this is what I heard)

He began by talking about "Annexation" he stated "let me be clear we are investigating and talking about the process of annexation, we have never said that we are actually doing it"

Then he went on to talk about the inequities between municipalities in this province within his comments about those inequities he stated the following "This small community is having the life taxed out of us"

On point number two myself and the Mayor agree, fortunately for the Mayor and Council they have the opportunity in their hands to reverse that direction right now, the budget process is still ongoing. 

Note: Administration was asked the question what percentage of the RCMP tickets does the municipality receive? the answer was the same has the Peace Officers tickets.
Now keep in mind one subtle difference, we do not pay for the RCMP just another thought for the budget process.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Riversdale Presentation

Just got back from the Riversdale presentation, would have been earlier but apparently my invitation got lost in the mail.
Good turnout I would say roughly 100 people, the folks from Riversdale gave a little back ground about themselves, explained why they were here and then answered a few questions. They made it clear that nothing is guaranteed and best case scenario they will start production in 2017 if everything goes perfectly. (Very much in line with my previous comments of 5-10 years).
Either way I do not believe our community can lose, hopefully this will bring some economic activity to our town. Unfortunately it will not increase our tax base due to being in Ranchlands, but the people will live here, put their kids in our schools and spend their money in our local businesses those are good things.
Yes I think these people are here to take advantage of our resources and make lots of money, that is a good thing healthy companies create good jobs.

Note: One comment I found interesting from Mr Dann (Spelling?) was his comments about how he has been coming here for a while and that just a few months prior to purchasing the land he gave the Mayor a courtesy call to see how accepting he felt the community would be about them coming here. Certainly took the bite out of the assumption some people have been making that Mayor and Council have been working on this for a long time and were very instrumental in bringing them here.  

Either way good to see them in our community and hopefully 5-10 years from now the coal industry will return to the Crowsnest Pass.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Crowsnest Centre Sale

Well tonight at Council the CAO informed all that attended that the Centre deal is in place.
The municipality shall receive $1.1 million $300,000 in cash and the rest will be covered by the demolition.
Demolition will be complete by late summer (Oct 21), foundation will be in place by late fall and completion of the hotel within 24 months.
He also informed us that the Vachon Group will be announcing the name of the hotel within 30 days.    

Monday, February 4, 2013

GroupVachon coming to the Crowsnest Pass

Available at

Media Release
Crowsnest Pass soon to be home to signature hotel and commercial area
“New 50-75 room hotel will include pool, hot tub, restaurant and meeting spaces”
CROWSNEST PASS (February 4th , 2013) - Crowsnest Council is very pleased with the announcement this week of the proposed development of a 50 - 75 room hotel and complementing services in Blairmore. “This is a very exciting initiative for us,” says Mayor Bruce Decoux. “Council has worked very hard to bring this project to fruition and we are certain that it will generate many positive dividends for our community.”
The hotel, which will be located at the intersection of Highway 3 and 20th Avenue is to see construction commence in 2013 and will include a pool, hot tub, breakfast area and meeting spaces. It will also be accompanied by a complementing restaurant and sports bar and an enhanced commercial area development. Developer Medican and Group Vachon described the location of the hotel and commercial area development as “one of the most strategic locations in the southern travel corridor of the majestic Rocky Mountains.”
“Council is very pleased that we arrived at a place where we can now move forward with the development process," said Mayor Decoux. “Council and Administration have delivered on their commitment to address the Crowsnest Centre site issue,” added Mayor Decoux.
Medican Construction and Group Vachon’s vision for the project is to create a signature hotel and commercial area that will allow tourists to enjoy the numerous outdoor activities available within the Crowsnest Pass and also to create the primary rest area location between Lethbridge and Fernie, B.C. “We are extremely pleased to be able to work with the
Municipality of Crowsnest Pass to bring this hotel and commercial development forward,” said Bill Cooper, Medican’s vice president of Sales and Marketing.
The hotel project is just one part of Council commitment to the Municipality’s strategic plan which—among other things—focuses on diversifying Crownest’s local economy. A hotel feasibility study was undertaken by the municipality as a way of building confidence in a hotel project. Christopher Vachon of Group Vachon said “When you look at the feasibility study and some of the things that are going on in the Crowsnest Pass, you can’t help but get excited about this development.
"The recommendation to complete a hotel feasibility study put forward by our Chief Administrative Officer and supported by Council, proved to be an invaluable asset in attracting a signature hotel and other supporting development for the site," said Mayor Decoux.
Media inquiries may be directed to:
Myron Thompson
Chief Administrative Officer

Efficiency: Doing Less for More in the Crowsnest Pass.

On January 22 at the last G+ P, meeting Administration had intended to present the Fire/Rescue Master Plan to council, at the beginning of the meeting the CAO requested that the issue be placed “In Camera” due to there being some sensitive Personal issues. They also stated that this plan is tentatively scheduled to be brought back to council and the general public on May 19 at the next G+P meeting. 

Most of our present members of council ran on a platform of “Change”, change that would make the municipality more “efficient”. My understanding of efficient was doing the same for less, or in a perfect world doing even more with less.

So let us get to the issue at hand the Fire/Rescue plan, this great opportunity to provide us the good taxpayers of the Crowsnest Pass with a better service at either close to what we were paying before or optimistically even cheaper.  

Therefore, what confuses the hell out of me is I and many other folks are expecting this Grand Fire/Rescue Plan to bring us Less Fire Stations, Less Equipment and Less Firemen. Some taxpayers would be open to debate this issue if it was going to make us more “efficient” but the sad reality is it is not.

In 2010, our operational cost of running the Fire Departments was less than $300,000; today we are paying close to that just to administrate the Department. Don’t believe me? Let us look at the numbers Director of Community and Protective Services $110,000, Fire Chief $95,000, Assistant Fire Chief $85,000. Assume that half the Director’s wages are being applied to Fire/Rescue that is $235,000 just in salary, add on top of that the 35% that the Municipality allows to cover benefits, the $235,000 becomes $316,000.   

The next issue is the contract Firemen nobody knows how long they are going to be here but at $6,000, a month each multiplied by the three that are here that becomes $216,000 for the year.  

Now keep in mind that we have not included a dollar for Firemen’s wages for call out, being on call, or training. For a uniform, for a tank of gas, a bad tire on a truck nothing has you can see for yourself the numbers just do not make sense.

Would anybody like to disagree? Please show me that we will have even the same number of Fire Departments, the same amount of equipment to protect us and the same number of Firemen to serve us. After the full implementation of the Fire/Rescue Master Plan.   

Only in the Pass under this regime can we argue that being more “efficient” is providing less at more cost.