Well the end of June and beginning of July will certainly be remembered as very wet and very hot. I have several issues I would like to comment on this month. First the flood, I won’t waste your time discussing the details as you have seen them on our website and heard them on the radio. Suffice it to say people are being well taken care of through the exemplary efforts of our Provincial and Municipal governments. During the past weeks I have visited the flood areas on foot, by car, and helicopter. I found myself asking why did we have this much damage and the resulting discomfort? We have had previous floods in 1995 and 2005. Our emergency preparedness plans were in place and executed properly. Granted we have had one of the greatest rainfalls in our history. I think the right answer came to me in a conversation with our Operations Director. We were discussing a large dam of logs on Lyons Creek (see our website for pictures) and I asked how long would it be before we could remove it. His answer was it may be difficult because they are not within our boundaries. Therein I felt was the answer to my question: Why do we suffer through this every decade or so? I think the answer lies in communication, planning and a working integration of government departments and our municipality. Government departments fulfill their individual mandates very well (even if we occasionally disagree with them) and they cooperate with municipalities whenever requested, however each department has a mandate to fulfill. Sometimes they don’t quite fit with Municipal objectives. From my perspective it is our job to create a situation where several government departments, our municipality and citizens with historic knowledge come to the table to seek solutions to our issues rather than avoiding the issue “till next time”. As such I will be discussing with Council the formation of a Task Force consisting of representatives from various government departments, from our municipality, and our citizenry, as well as others with expertise in municipal issues. At this point at least three major contentious situations have been identified as they have previously caused issues. They are: the Drum Creek/Byron Creek situation, the Lyons Creek situation, and the Blairmore Creek situation (above the hospital). Perhaps other areas will be identified. I don’t want to see a repeat of what we have just experienced given that our best planning “may” be able to prevent this from happening again keeping in mind that Mother Nature absolutely refuses to read our plans. Hopefully Council will agree.
The second item I would like to comment on is Ranchland. A number of people have asked me why? Well we are in an inequitable position relative to an area with around eighty residences and seven times our size. We have around 5,000 people in a much smaller area and very little linear assessment. As such we are forced to maintain our costs basically on our taxpayers' backs and to my mind this is inequitable. As a municipality we can only stretch a dollar so far and ultimately we have to go to the taxpayer. I had been looking at the Ranchland situation well before the Riversdale Mine appeared on the horizon. The mine simply reduced the amount of land we need to annex for our future sustainability. From my perspective the partial annexation of Ranchland will have a minimal effect on their current and future sustainability. However let me, from a layman’s perspective, demonstrate what such an annexation would mean for us as taxpayers. Annually, we would receive a tax levy of $3,800,000 from this new industrial base. Maintained in reserve and invested, at the end of a ten year period, the compound interest would provide approximately $1,850,000 of interest income to support the Mill Rate Stabilization Reserve and $38,000,000 for community building. The first year interest can easily be applied to the Mill Rate Stabilization Fund which will begin to stabilize and offset our taxes for many years to come. At year five we would have $19,000,000 being available for community building. In year ten, we would have $39,850,000 in our tax stabilization plan and community building enhancement. Early in the process we could perhaps begin work with the Crowsnest Cando group on a recreation centre.
Of course there will be costs related to the property annexed such as roads, trails and bridges, etc. however I see this area as a major future tourist draw particularly for quading, camping and snowmobiling. As I say these are a laypersons’ thoughts “for demonstration” only. In reality we would be seeking both internal and external financial advice. I think this is the way to overcome our tax issues. Arguing over trucks, equipment, numbers of employees, expenditures on consultants and other ways to stretch the dollar while our community deteriorates is a waste of breath. We must take steps to alleviate our basic problem. To this end we have discussed the matter with Ranchland to no avail. As such I will be calling for a motion to begin the annexation process with the M.D. of Ranchland at the July 16th Council meeting. I hope the Council agrees with me, as I hope you do. It will, if approved, be a long and grueling process (at least two years), but it needs to be done.
On another matter, we have had a rough and disappointing month with our hotel development. To put it in a nutshell, here is what has happened to us. A chain from Fernie, which belongs to the Best Western group, has complained to Best Western that our hotel would infringe on their business area. The “complaining” process took five months (if you remember I was very unhappy over these delays). The Fernie group successfully delayed our progress. In the meantime, the Medican investors took their money and went elsewhere with it. Medican then decided to let our contract run out, although the Best Western Board of Governors still approved us locating a Best Western here. At this point we are still working with the Vachon group (hotel finders) to attract a Best Western or other hotel chain to build. In order to retain our right to build a Best Western for two years, we need to consider putting up $50,000.00. A decision regarding clearing the property will also have to be made very shortly. So there you have it. These things happen in building a hotel, but business is business. There are ups and downs, but we will persist.
On the positive side, I attended a meeting with a developer who is considering building either a mini-storage condo or a smaller hotel next spring. (Thank heavens he already owns the land) Very shortly I also plan to meet with an individual to discuss the possibility of a convention centre separate from the hotel – more to come this fall on both of these potential developments. Please remember most of these projects take several years to complete, so have patience.
In closing, I can’t help but poke some fun at our local “Cavers”. It appears that this newsletter, committed to truth and fact, is somewhat unnerving to the “oracles of rumour and misinformation.” Perhaps they are losing their stature on coffee row or on the silly blogger circuit. This month the usual material has ranged from bad-mouthing our emergency procedures and our people, and of all things, to undermining our newsletter. The actions and success of our Administration and crews speak for themselves. As to our newsletter being political; well, I am the Mayor and I will make some political comments and I do trust that you will form your own opinion. So far no complaints, except from the Cavers. Please note that this newsletter is budgeted for and falls within our plan to improve communication and transparency. It costs you about $0.65 per month and I have many requests for twice a month. Further, the Council expects to have a report on streaming our Governance and Priorities Committee and Council meetings directly to you, hopefully by September. We would also like to arrange for our seniors to view us “in living color” at the York Creek Lodge, Long Term Care and our Senior Centres. Soon I hope you will all be able to see and hear us – and watch us commit our errors and omissions (which we are learning to make fewer of as we progress). Have a wonderful summer!
“The truth doesn’t hurt unless it ought to.” - B.C. Forbes
Note: Cost of administration $4325 per day
Friday, July 12, 2013
"Unvarnished facts and truth" edition number two "The Mayor's corner
Below is another fine example of providing the "unvarnished facts and truth" once again using the Mayor own words. Please don't forget to vote on my poll to the right to voice your opinion on the Mayor's newsletter.