Thursday, February 4, 2016

Municipality of Crowsnest Pass Electrical system

Big news for the Crowsnest Pass, this is just the very early stages of the process there will be a lot of public consultation as we work through this very important issue.

Press Release - Municipality of Crowsnest Pass Considers Sale of Electrical Utility

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Crowsnest Pass Pool

Last week Council announced that we are going to replace the pool in Blairmore and released the new design.

Historically the last time a new facility was built in the Crowsnest Pass? late 1970"s, the pool itself was built in the early seventies and initially had a life expectancy of 25-30 years.

Why replace now? We had a company come in (2014) and do a review of the deficiencies at the pool  it is in bad shape it's 45 years old.

At the same time we put together a ten year capital plan which really shows the challenge financially of maintaining our municipality moving forward.

Within that plan Council felt it was not just important to plan for infrastructure needs, but it was also critical to replace the swimming pool and protect our other key facilities. (Coleman Complex, and the MDM). You can see from the plan that there is not a lot of spare money to throw around can we squeeze out a few million dollars for our facilities? yes. $20-30 million? show me where.

Which leads me to the choice of an outdoor pool, I have heard comments from a loud vocal minority over the last week. "Put a roof on it, We can only use it for three months of the year, I can't believe that's all we are getting for $1.5million, I don't mind paying a few extra dollars in taxes a year, find grants, why do our neighbors have an indoor pool" and it goes on.  

Let's talk about these issues, yes all our neighbors have indoor pools. I wonder if that would be the case if Sparwood, Elkford, Fernie did not all participate in the Elk Valley Tax Sharing agreement?   

Yes these communities share $9 million a year in property taxes from Teck we will collect $7 million total in property taxes this year and 90% of that comes from residents only 10% from commercial. Pincher Creek talk to anybody that's involved with the town the pool is a large burden on them, and they receive $200,000 a year from the MD of Pincher to offset their costs.

Can't believe the cost $1.5 million, in this day and age of liability, you can't just throw up a building that's going to be used by the public, you have to have design's done by architects, stamped by engineers with everything built to code. So I went to see what other communities are doing surprisingly it's not hard to find towns in Alberta that have built outdoor pools in the last few years.

A few examples and please take a look at the costs and what they are getting:

Spirit River (North of Grande Prairie)

Mayerthorpe (North west of Edmonton)

Rimby (West of Ponoka)

Blackfalds (North of Red Deer)

Then I found a community that is building an Indoor facilities:

Barrhead, below is the borrowing bylaw $13 million dollars just to build an indoor pool with a few extra's, not a full blown indoor facility. They are very fortunate, they are only paying 40% of the cost the county surrounding them is also paying 40% in addition they are fund raising $1.5 million and taking $1.5 million of their grant money.

Now let's look how we would compare to that situation, do I think any of our neighbors will throw in $5 million? MD of Pincher Creek is already contributing to the Town of Pincher Creek facility.
$1.5 million in fund raising can you imagine the task that would be to raise that much money in the Crowsnest Pass with no major corporations?
Then the grants yes all communities get MSI and Gas tax grants, you can look at the Capital plan above we show those dollars every year, if you spend them on a pool you will take those dollars away from some where else, what should we drop. Other grants? we apply for every one just as thousands of other communities do.

So what is this costing the residents of Barrhead?,  their taxes on a home worth $100,000 $59 per year on a home worth $300,000 $177 per year(See link below). But keep in mind that's just on $5 million if they had to finance the full $13 million like we would. Those numbers change to $153 on a $100,000 home and $460 on a $300,000 home, that's every year for 25 years.

We have not even spoke about operating costs, our pool costs us about $120,000 a year to operate. Our neighbors anywhere from $600,000 to $800,000, lets be optimistic and say we can do it better than anybody else and come in at $500,000. That's $380,000 more than we are spending today, to pay for that we would have to increase our taxes 5% so that $100,000 home would pay an extra $50 a year the $300,000 home $150 per year. For the guy that told me he would gladly pay an extra $100 a year for an indoor facility, if that was only the case.

Bottom line in my opinion I believe that council as made a good choice, to replace an aging facility that's way past it's end date. With a facility that we can afford both now and moving forward.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Crowsnest Pass Transit System

Here is one of our New Initiatives for 2016, great idea coming from Community Services department and the FCSS board. The Town Rounder will continue doing what its been doing for years on Monday's and Tuesday's, for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday's we are running a Transit System to serve all our communities. All the information is available at the link below, be patient it will have growing pains, but it's a start. Hopefully residents will use it and this will be a huge success which will allow us to look at ways of expanding the service in the future.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Crowsnest Pass: We are going into debt and why.

Last week at the council meeting (Oct 20) we gave second and third readings to borrowing bylaws 934, 935 and 936 I will explain each in more detail.

Bylaw 934 is for the sum of $1.2 million which will be spent on upgrading the roofs at the MDM facility and the Crowsnest Sports Complex.
The MDM is used by a large number of groups for various programs and the gym is our only community hall that can hold a large crowd or an event of more than 150 people.
The Crowsnest Sports Complex is the arena in Coleman, both of these facilities are in dire need of their roofs being upgraded or they will continue to deteriorate and ultimately we will lose them.

Bylaw 935 is for the sum of $1,672,500 which will be spent on the Frank Wastewater Facility (Sewer plant). With this plant we have a provincial license to operate it that requires the municipality to upgrade the plant by 2019. The total upgrade of the plant will be in the range of $18 million with the expectation on our part that the project will be funded two thirds by the provincial and federal governments. The first phase of the project is for $5 million our share will be the $1.7 stated above, this project/borrowing will not proceed unless we receive the grants or council commits to borrow the full $5 million. The problem with that scenario is if you start the project before you get the grant you no longer qualify for the grants. Second the municipality by provincial law can only borrow up to $19 million so a big chunk of that would be eaten up by the Sewer Plant if we proceeded with that approach.

Bylaw 936 is for the sum of $700,000 which will be spent on either the upgrade of the York Creek lodge or the building of a new lodge. (We expect a decision in the next month). In 2010 previous council had made a commitment of $1 million to a proposal by the York Creek Lodge Board to upgrade the facility. This council felt it was important to fulfill that commitment so if the lodge proceeds we will be taking $300,000 out of reserves and borrowing the other $700,000 to honor that pledge.

How will this affect our taxes? It won't.

This year we are paying out of our operational budget the sum of $450,000 on our existing debt, that amount drops to $75,000 next year, $29,000 in 2017 and 2018.
The annual principal payments on the above: Bylaw 934 $100,000, Bylaw 935 $42,000, and Bylaw 936 $60,000. Our total principal payment for next year would be $277,000 depending on when we borrow the money, if the lodge or the sewer plant doesn't happen until later in the year then we will not see payments until 2017.
Based on the fact that we are paying more than those amounts right now this borrowing should have zero negative impact on our tax bills.          

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Castle Park my thoughts.

There is no doubt that there as been a lot of discussion for many years about the Castle area. Through both the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan and various other forums. 

But never once did this government or the previous one sit down with us and tell us, this is what you are getting, this is when you are getting it and this is what it is going to look like. Even now we have an announcement that we are getting two parks but please fill out a survey to tell us what you would like to see in the park. Good to have a consultation process but after the fact? I would have liked to have seen a survey open to the residents of this corner of the province asking them what they would like to see, even going has far has asking them if they were in favor of having a park. 

The morning of Sept 4th I received a call from a friend asking me if I was going to Stone's Throw for the announcement. I had no idea so I called the municipal office expecting that somebody had missed informing us. Not the case, nobody knew so I headed down to Stone's Throw. I found it intriguing that every pro park group within 200 km was very aware of the announcement. I asked people how long they knew? some told me for a week. Another person said to me it was all over Facebook, well normally local governments are informed especially when we are all going to be partners in a new imitative.  

After the announcement I approached one of the minister's assistants and asked why we were not informed, I was told that they wanted to keep it low key. Kind of surprising response especially when it took me ten minutes to find a parking space, having to avoid the "CTV" and "CBC" vehicles parked on main street. The crowd in Stone's Throw was large they were packed in like sardines. I told Minister Phillips assistant if you had given us some notice, we would have advertised on our website and they could have used the Elks Hall, would have been much more comfortable for everybody.  

How will this park affect us in the Crowsnest Pass? Who knows for sure it will be a while before any of us know what the park will really be. When asked if there were funds available to promote tourism and the other economic spin offs that come with this type of venture, the minister reminded us of the dire financial situation at hand in this province right now. (Which I believe was code for "No").  

One thing that is clear, logging and surface disturbance of any kind is ended. Just as many people will tell me that is bad as will tell me that is good. Personally I believe in responsible use of our resources where would our community be without the coal mines, our neighbors without the gas plant. 

Will this park be accessible to hunting, fishing, camping, OHV use ten years from now? Who knows. Will we have a thriving economy based on tourism creating lots of good paying jobs for young families to stay here? I'm going to be optimistic and say sure hope so. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

2016 Budget-Crowsnest Pass

Once again we have started the budget process in the Crowsnest Pass. The following meeting are all in Council Chambers, open to the public. Meeting start at 1pm, unless otherwise posted. 
Come on down and check it out for yourself. 

2016 Budget





June 11 - 12, 2015
Council Strategic Priorities
August 27, 2015
Budget Process
Budget Overview
Setting 2016 - 2018 Budget Guidelines
 August 27, 2015 
October 1, 2015
New Initiatives
October 15, 2015
Grants to Community Organizations
October 29, 2015
Council Boards and Associations
November 12, 2015
Council Boards and Associations
November 26, 2015
Council Boards and Associations
December 10, 2015
Draft Operating Budget Presentation
December 11, 2015
Draft Operating Budget Presentation
Council Debate & Resolution

Friday, September 4, 2015

Castle Special Management Area-Two new parks announced

If you wish to voice your opinion on this initiative go to the following address and you only have until October 5 to provide your Input:

Province to fully protect Castle area

September 04, 2015 Media inquiries
Commercial forestry in the Castle Special Management Area has been stopped and the process to designate the entire area under Parks’ legislation is underway.  
Castle Lynx II
A view of the Lynx Creek Valley within the Castle area. Photo credit: John Novotny
“Protecting the Castle is critically important for the biodiversity and water quality of this entire region. Under Parks’ legislation, and with the input of all Albertans, we will permanently protect this special place for future generations to enjoy as we transition the land to support good local jobs in tourism and recreation.”

Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks
Government is protecting the area with two new designations within the Castle: an expanded Wildland Provincial Park and a new Provincial Park.
Covering nearly 104,000 hectares, the Castle area is an ecologically-diverse expanse of mountains, foothills, forests, grasslands, rivers and lakes in southwestern Alberta. It is prized for its headwaters, biodiversity and functions as a key wildlife corridor. The Castle is culturally significant to First Nations, and forms part of the Crown of the Continent – the mountainous region where Alberta, British Columbia and Montana meet.
“This will mean more visitor signatures in our guestbook from all over Canada, the U.S. and beyond, who come to play in our backyard. As parents of three young kids, we know how special and pristine this area is, and the importance of preserving it for our kids to enjoy with theirs one day.”

Jessica Atkinson, Owner, Stone’s Throw CafĂ©, Blairmore 
“We applaud the government for protecting this significant piece of the southern Alberta Rocky Mountain landscape. As a business owner in a protected area, we know the benefits and jobs they create. These are jobs and opportunities that are compatible with this landscape and preserve the critical watersheds that they hold.”

Beth Russell-Towe, Owner, Bear Mountain Motel
Designating the Castle under the Provincial Parks Act will allow government to focus on stewardship, protecting and enhancing biodiversity, and boosting the local economy by promoting the area as an outdoor destination for Albertans and out-of-province visitors.
Consultation with Albertans on the future of the Castle Special Management Area begins today and will remain open for the next 30 days. For more information and to participate, please visit
Aboriginal consultation will also begin immediately. The province is fully committed to upholding First Nation Treaty Rights across Alberta.
In addition to discontinuing commercial forestry within the Castle area, there will be a prohibition on surface rights access for any new petroleum and natural gas leases. Existing petroleum and natural gas leases will be honoured. No new tenure will be sold for extracting metallic, mineral, coal or surface resources. Existing leases for metallic, mineral and coal commodities will be cancelled, consistent with direction under the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan. Current livestock grazing permits will be respected.