Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 year in review and looking ahead in the Crowsnest Pass

Looking back 2014 was quite a year, the first full year with this council a group of individuals that have come together and worked very well as a team. It's good to work with a group where everybody respects each other, and their different opinions.

We had many challenges, hate to use the term "legacy issues" because from 2011-2013 I sat in the vast majority of council meetings and heard that phrase thrown around again and again but we were left lots of them. Yes these "legacy issues" are a pain in the ass and they will continue for a while yet, lets remember lawyers don't get rich by moving fast.

I doubt very few municipalities have faced the challenge of having to rebuild their total administrative team right after an election. But we did, and now we have an administrative team that is working well together and moving us in the right direction. Even so we can not loose sight of the fact that they were not all in place until June, by the time they became familiar with all the issues in their individual areas the year was not far from over.

Budget for 2014 was a mess,  our CAO had to hire the rest of his team, run the municipality and try to build a budget with a brand new council, comprised of six members who have never worked through a municipal budget previously. So we basically took the 2013 budget renamed it the 2014 budget, and made sure there was no tax increase. Over the year we got some surprises little did we know that the 2013 budget did not include any dollars for gravel and salt for the winter season.

Between administration and ourselves we have rebuilt some of the relationships, the swimming pool is back being operated by the previous society and is doing well. We are working on resolving issues with the previous fire departments, we have a much better working relationship with CUPE and we just worked out a new agreement with the SPCA.

We are getting along with our neighbors we are no longer asking them to give up part of their properties and pay us to take it of their hands. Next week we are meeting with some of our neighbors to look at opportunities for us to work together.

The survey on the branding/logo was completed (for a cost of $200) nobody on council had the desire to spend another $330,000 dealing with this issue. But it was a big issue during the election and the public deserved the opportunity to voice their opinion and they did to the tune of almost 800 completed surveys.

Looking ahead 2015 is going to be filled with many issues that we have to deal with.

We have the Albert Stella Arena, we should be getting test results soon, which should provide us the information to move forward on this issue.

The budget process continues, Jan 8 2-5pm is our next meeting, if you have been following my previous posts you can see there is a lot that we have to deal with. I think everybody understands that our facilities, infrastructure and equipment fleets are all in dire shape. Unfortunately without acquiring a large debt load, and enormous tax increases we can not fix all of the problems in one year. No matter how much justification can be provided for everything on administration's list.
We are ultimately going to have to make tough choices and yes not everybody will be happy.

The great big unknown for us is the situation in Edmonton, our Premier as told us a number of times now that we are going to have a revenue shortfall of $6-7 billion. Not unlike us (just on a much larger scale) the province is going to have to make tough decisions and most people will not be happy. I will be shocked if the provincial dollars coming to municipalities is unaffected.

Our collective agreement with CUPE expires at midnight today and bargaining for a new agreement will begin soon.

We are hoping to have our budget process concluded by the end of January, then we will have to wait for the provincial budget and the ASFF before we can set our mill rate for the coming year. Even at that point council still has the option to change the budget if they so desire.

Both development and real estate sales were up substantially in 2014 hopefully that trend will continue.

For the first time in quite a few years there are indications that our assessment base is growing.

We have an economic development board that is bringing forth some good ideas on promoting our community.

I'm hopeful during the next year, that we reach out again for the public's input on important issues. For a relativity low dollar amount using our utility bills and municipal web site we have a great opportunity to improve the democratic process and allow the people that pay the bills to provide their input more than just every four years.

I'm sure there are things that I have missed, I am sure somebody will jog my memory.

Here's hoping that 2015 is a good year for all of us. Happy New Year



Monday, December 29, 2014

Paying for all the good stuff.

Further to my post of December 19, administration's recommendations on what we need to spend on our Capital Budget.

$14,143,500 is a very large number and a lot of is subject to grants, but here is the breakdown of the revenue sources.

Grant AMWWP $3,327,500
Grant MSI Capital $4,376,000
Grant FGTF/BMTG $1,300,000
Grant ACP $114,000
Longterm Financing-Equipment $1,310,000
Longterm Financing-Frank WWTP $1,672,500
Operating Budget $1,347,500
Reserves-Equip + Electrical $696,000

Total $14,143,500

Pass PowderKeg Ski Hill-Free skiing New Years Eve

Pass Powderkeg Holiday Schedule:
Monday, December 29 & Tuesday, Dec. 30 – The LODGE will be open from 5:00 to 9:00 pm
Come up and get your season passes printed, leave your equipment for servicing, book ski and snowboard lessons, book your snowshoe rentals, tour the upstairs lounge.
Come up and watch the Hockey game on MONDAY night in the lounge!
Wednesday, December 31 – THE HILL WILL BE OPEN!!
Come out and ski for FREE!!
5:00 to 9:00 pm
Thursday, January 1 to Saturday, January 3 – Holiday Hours – 10:00 am to 8:00 pm
Sunday, January 4 – Noon to 5:00 pm
Thank you to everyone for your patience re our season starting a little later than any of us had planned. Mother Nature just didn’t co-operate with us, but hopefully we are on a roll now!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Crowsnest Pass -Capital Budget 2015-

Lots of scary numbers on this page, the following is Administration's recommendations. How will this be paid for? obviously some from grants, some from debt and some from the tax roll.
The items below have a cost attached to them and administration's priority level regarding the need.

In summary we are looking at the following:
Maintain safety $330,000
Preserving existing assets $250,500
Fleet Replacement $2,166,000
Infrastructure Replacement $6,062,000
Frank Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrading $5,000,000
Provide for growth $100,000
Enhancements $235,000

Total $14,143,500

Maintain Safety

LED Streetlight Retrofitting 30,000 High Priority
Gravel Rural Roads 300,000 High Priority

Preserve Existing Assets

Wastewater Collection System Video Inspection 39,500 High Priority
Fleet additions 211,000
Lane Reconditioner 9,000 High Priority
Hoe Tamper Attachment 20,000 High Priority
6" Trash Pump 42,000 High Priority
Grader Packer 20,000 High Priority
Bucket Truck 120,000 High Priority

Upgrade/Replace Existing Assets

Fleet replacement

Wheel Loader 250,000 Committed
Wheel Loader 250,000 High Priority
Light Pickups (3) 110,000 High Priority
Fire Command Unit 84,000 High Priority
Facility Vans (2) 130,000 High Priority
Sanding Trucks (2) 360,000 High Priority
Steamer Truck Deck 5,000 High Priority
Street Sweeper 250,000 High Priority
HydroVac Truck 450,000 High Priority
Low Boy Unit 95,000 High Priority
Fire Support Unit 50,000 High Priority
Water Rescue Boat 10,000 High Priority
John Deere Attachments 40,000 High Priority
Loader Swivel Blade 30,000 Medium Priority
Welder 22,000 High Priority
Snowmobile 30,000 High Priority
Zamboni - High Priority $170,000 requires 2015 commitment for 2016 delivery

Deep Infrastructure Replacement High Priority

Sanitary Sewer Main Replacement 24 Ave 391,000 High Priority
Sanitary Sewer Main Replacement C#402 to C#412 2,420,000 High Priority
Sanitary Sewer Main Replacement BL#136 to BL#140 813,000 High Priority
Sanitary Sewer Main Replacement BL#107 to BL#108 451,000 High Priority
Water and Sanitary Sewer Main Replacement 128 St 302,000 High Priority
Coleman Booster Pump Station Facility Upgrade 55,000 High Priority
Blairmore Main Pump Station Facility Upgrade 55,000 High Priority
Sentinel Water Tower Maintenance and Access Road 125,000 High Priority
Road Rehabilitation 1,000,000 High Priority
Electrical Distribution System Upgrading 200,000 High Priority
IT Upgrades 200,000 In Progress
Office Upgrades 50,000 Medium Priority

Facility Upgrades For Discussion
Sentinel Bridge Replacement For Discussion
Frank Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrading 5,000,000 High Priority Dependent on AMWWP funding approval

Provide for Growth
Passburg Pit Property Acquisition 100,000 High Priority

Enhancements-Fleet additions
Watering Truck 35,000 Medium Priority
Concrete Crushing 200,000 Low Priority

My next post will show how administration intends to pay for all of the above.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Press Release regarding ASMA

December 17, 2014 - For Immediate Release - The Municipality of Crowsnest Pass has received a facility review and evaluation of the Albert Stella Memorial Arena. The purpose of the review, which commenced in 2013, was to investigate the condition of the building, short and long term renovation costs, and the viability of renovation options. As a result of the evaluation, several flags were raised by the consultant with regard to the condition of the building that will require further evaluation and testing. As a precaution, and in the interest of ensuring the health and safety of our user groups, staff and the public, the Municipality must temporarily close the facility until the full scope of the issues are investigated further. The Municipality apologizes for the short notice, however this issue required immediate action to minimize safety risks. The Municipality will be working with the user groups to attempt to find alternate arrangements so that they may continue their programming. For more information please contact Lyle Hannan, Director of Community Services at (403) 562-8833.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Riversdale Resources reaches shipping agreement with Westshore Terminals

The following is information regarding Riversdale and Westshore Terminals reaching agreement to ship product through that port beginning in 2018.

"Westshore has entered into an agreement with Riversdale Resources Limited, a Canadian company with a planned metallurgical (steel making) coal mine to be developed in Blairmore, Alberta. Under the terms of the agreement, Riversdale will pay Westshore an annual  reservation fee to hold up to 2 million tonnes of capacity at Westshore. Production is slated to start in late 2018 and ramping up in 2019. The agreement with Riversdale also includes a 10 year throughput agreement for such volumes ending in 2028."

The full article is available at:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Back to a one party state in Alberta?

Is this the end of the Wildrose, even though I believe that Jim Prentice is showing tremendous leadership, democracy never works as well without an effective opposition. If the Wildrose party is merged with the Conservatives we will return to the days of one party having 90% of the seats in the legislature.  

Wildrose caucus meeting over merger with Alberta Conservatives

Crowsnest Pass Brand/Logo

The results to the Brand/Logo survey are now available at:

I will voice my opinion at the council meeting tonight on this subject.
The public as made it very clear that they do not wish us to spend any more time, energy, effort and (especially) money on this issue.

The great thing that came out of this whole process in my mind is the opportunity that was provided to give the public the chance to provide their input. And input they did almost 800 people responded that's 15% of our population compared to say a Lethbridge could you see 20,000 people responding to a city survey?
I think between using our utility bills and the municipal web site, those are great tools that I hope will be used on a regular basis moving forward.

Also of great importance the cost of allowing the public to voice their opinion on this issue? $200.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Should the taxpayers be allowed to vote on tax increases?

The Mayors Council representing all the metro area's of the lower mainland of B.C. Is looking to raise tax revenue to finance a $7.5 billion transit plan. They are proposing to raise the BC Provincial Sales Tax by half a per cent to fund this project. Nothing unusual government proposing to raise taxes and spend a pile of money.
What is out of the norm is they proposing to give the taxpayers the opportunity to vote on this tax increase. That means they will have to go out and sell the justification to the public for this tax increase. The proposal is to hold a referendum in the spring.

This raises many questions:
How far do you go with referendums? Should the taxpayers be allowed to vote on tax increases? Should referendum be for "one off" tax increases or for all tax increases? Should it be only for tax increases above a certain amount (more than the cost of living)? etc etc.

Our neighbors to the west are having quite a debate on this issue.

PST hike of 0.5% proposed for Metro Vancouver transit referendum

Alberta takes action to control spending

The province is showing some leadership as we head for difficult financial times in this province. 

Key point in this release is payroll/staffing, at all levels of government, the single largest cost is payroll.   

Alberta takes action to control spending

December 15, 2014 Media inquiries
Cost containment measures taken immediately, and new committee lays foundation for Budget 2015.
Resource revenues are expected to be lower while the population is expected to be higher, and the combination poses some unique challenges for Alberta.
“This is not budgeting as usual. Governing responsibly requires us to be disciplined with spending, prudent with revenues, and cautious with forecasts. We are taking action, and I have asked a team to devote their energy and attention to ensuring we make the right decisions for Albertans.”
Premier Jim Prentice
A new seven-member Budget 2015 Committee will begin work on the 2015 budget. Members are:
  • Jim Prentice, Premier (chair);
  • Robin Campbell, President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance (vice-chair);
  • Stephen Mandel, Minister of Health;
  • Diana McQueen, Minister of Municipal Affairs;
  • Frank Oberle, Minister of Energy;
  • Manmeet Bhullar, Minister of Infrastructure; and
  • Ric McIver, Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour
The committee’s work begins immediately, and will continue until the budget is introduced in the spring. The committee will be looking at economic projections, capital and operating budgets, policy commitments, and revenue forecasts. It will make recommendations to Treasury Board.
Ministers are not receiving additional compensation for this work.
The Government of Alberta is also taking action to control spending for the remainder of this fiscal year through cost containment measures.
“While our provincial financial picture is strong and we are in the best position to deal with this low price environment, it is important that we take action and control spending. Sustained low prices are having a significant impact on provincial revenues and we must exercise fiscal discipline and treat taxpayer dollars prudently.”
President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance, Robin Campbell
A number of actions are being taken to control spending in three main areas:

Payroll/staffing costs

Effective immediately, a hiring restraint initiative has been implemented. The intent is to limit any growth in overall staffing costs. Hiring may still occur for positions that are critical to government operations or provide frontline services to Albertans. These will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis with Deputy Ministers required to review and approve recruitment to all positions.
Public sector compensation is the largest driver of government expense, accounting for $22.5 billion in direct and indirect spending last fiscal year.  

Procurement of goods and services

Spending on goods and services is to be limited, wherever possible, to those required to meet critical operational requirements or legal commitments.

Grants/discretionary spending

Any discretionary grants, travel, training and other related costs are to be limited across government unless they are required to meet critical operational requirements or legal commitments. 
Agencies, Boards and Commissions along with the SUCH sector (Schools, Universities, Colleges and Health Authorities) will also be asked to implement similar cost containment measures.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Taxes; what are our neighbors doing?

Town of Pincher Creek approved their budget for 2015 and 2016.

Their tax rates are going up 1.2% in 2015 and 2% in 2016 plus their franchise fees are increasing by 5% both gas and power.

On the Franchise Fee their gas goes from 20 to 25% and their power goes from 8 to 13%. This will bring them in an additional $76,000 a year.

There is no consideration being given to increasing our franchise fees for 2015.

Presently our gas rate is at 25% and our power is at 16%.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Christmas in the Mountains Schedule Dec 5-7th

Event Schedule

Friday, December 5th
• Santa Claus Parade – 5:30pm on Main Street,
 Blairmore at Gazebo Park
• Tree Lighting – 6:00pm in Gazebo Park
• Festival of lights begins – Vote for your favourite
 light displays around the community between December 5th to 14th.
• Bonfire – 5:30pm to 9:00pm in Gazebo Park
• Evening Shopping at select businesses around the community

Saturday, December 6th
• Photos with Santa – 12:00pm to 4:00pm at Spry (13101 20th Ave, Blairmore)
• Artisan’s Christmas Market – 10:30am to 5:00pm at the Elks Hall
• Santa Fun Run – 10:00am at the Elks Hall – Lace up and wear a Christmas costume!
• Tree Auction – 11:00am to 5:00pm at the Elks Hall – Bid on decorated trees.
• Turkey Bowling – 11:00am to 4:00pm in Gazebo Park – Bowl a turkey for prizes!
• Scouts Egg Drop Challenge – 11:00am to 4:00pm in Gazebo Park – a fun activity
 for kids of all ages.
• Hay Rides – 11:00am to 4:00pm in Gazebo Park
• Maple Cones – available in Gazebo Park during the day
• Kids’ Christmas Bazaar – 12:00pm to 6:00pm at the Compass Centre– Kids shop
 for some Christmas gi s at piggy-bank prices while parents enjoy baking and co ee.
• Pottery Sale – 9:00am to 3:00pm at the Pass Po ery Club(Sports Complex in
 Coleman) – pick up hand-cra ed ceramics.

Sunday, December 7th
The Coleman Community Society
presents their annual Christmas in the Park
from 5:00pm to 7:00pm in Flumerfelt Park!
• Visit with Santa
• Wagon rides
• Free hot chocolate and $2 hot dogs
• Games and activities
• Candy bags
Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Budget Update Staffing and Overtime

Now the not so good news:

I have spoke about this before, being a public service our number one cost is staff.

Our cost of wages, salaries and benefits have increased by 43% over the last seven years during those same seven years our cost of living has risen 15%.

Last budget meeting administration presented a package that includes the following new positions:

Manager of Planning                         $137,000
Community Peace Officer                 $29,195
Community Services Casual              $11,600
Community Services Student            $11,059
Planning Clerk                                   $53,601
Operations Casual (2)                        $108,546

The additions above will increase our payroll from $5.7 million to $6.1 million, unless I am totally misreading the opinions of the taxpayers I do not see an appetite to increase taxes by 6% to finance additional municipal staffing.

I agree with Councilor Kovach's comments in today's Pass Herald we totally rebuilt our administrative team which as not even been in place for nine months. We need the benefit of more time to determine the strengths and the weaknesses of this organization.

I also took the similar position to Councilor Kovach that if we need new positions we need to find the savings within the organization to pay for them.

Not for one moment do I believe that council should be micro managing the organization, we do not have the expertise to determine what positions are required and which are not. But the responsibility council does have is to approve or not the amount of dollars that we expect the taxpayers to fork out.

Snow storm and volunteers

I was going to write a post today about some really good stuff and provide an update on the budget. I'm not going to do that because I want to separate the good from the bad.

The good news; we had a lot of snow on Friday (which obviously wasn't the good news) the good news was the way we reacted to it. The municipal staff did an outstanding job from the plowing of the roads, to handling the shut down of the highway, to the regular updates on the municipal web site everybody should be commended. Public Works, Administration, Protective services, big kudo's to everybody involved.

The other good news we are starting to see volunteers step forward for our various committee's, we are now seeing new people that have never sat on a committee previously taking an interest and a willingness to become involved. There are still some vacancies, if your interested contact the municipal office.