Thursday, January 11, 2018

HIGHLIGHTS, CLEARWATER COUNTY COUNCIL MEETING, January 9, 2018


By Marianne Cole

1. Presentation by Kelly and Andrea Spongberg
 The Spongbergs made a presentation outlining the paving improvements they had made on the Airport Road (RR7-0) to make it ban free. They reviewed the various communiques between them and the county dating as far back as 2013. The County’s Endeavor to Assist Policy was thought to initially provide a shared cost plan, but that policy was revised in 2015, excluding the county from shared cost requirements stated in the policy.
In the end council passes two motions: 1. That the Endeavor to Assist Policy be reviewed; and 2. That the Spngberg’s request for cost sharing on the road improvements be tabled until after the review is completed.

2. Presentation re. Hosting the 2019 Alberta Masters Games
 Roger Smolnicky, Recreation Director with the town of Rocky made a presentation regarding the joint town/county bid to host the 2019 Alberta Masters Games. He outlined the various sports/competitions that would be held for ages 30/35 and up, as well as ages 50 and up. He explained how the area’s facilities would be used to host these activities along with outlining the necessary funding. In that regard he mentioned the potential Community Facilities Improvement Program (CFIP) grants that could be applied for and that these would leave long-lasting improvements to the area’s community.
In the end council passes a motion to provide $75,000 of funding that will hopefully be matched by the town.

3. Presentation by Stephen Bull, Assistant Deputy Minister, Service Alberta
 Mr. Bull made an excellent presentation on issues related to improved broadband service in Alberta. Highlights were:
SuperNet up-date--- The province’s current contract with Axia (current operator of the SuperNet) expires in June 2018. Requests for Proposals (RFP’s) for a new contract were put out in the fall.
The province is looking for a partner that would to a quality job of providing service province wide, with the #1 priority of continuing service for current users (government offices, hospitals, schools).
Two proposals were received---from Bell and Axia.
The government is currently scoring/evaluating the proposals to ensure the proposed plans are feasible, with a goal to have a contract ready by February/March. Mr. Bull also discussed the concern for providing necessary connectivity for First Responders, noting problems with coverage around Caroline. Councillor Laird noted problems west and north of Rocky as well.
Mr. Bull brought forward the work being done on a Provincial Broadband Strategy, with the need to gather input from industry groups as well as municipalities. He posed a number of questions that will be addressed, focussing mainly on funding and operations options. Council suggested that they be given a month to 6 weeks to respond when the survey is sent to them.

4. The County’s own Broadband Policy Framework
 A draft of the possible policy framework was presented but will be discussed at greater length at Council’s Agenda and Priorities meeting on Monday.

Monday, January 8, 2018

IN THE NEWS


1. Fire Destroys Leslieville Elks’ Hall 
 A devastating fire on December 29 destroyed the Leslieville Elks’ Hall. Arson is suspected and one person was taken into custody the same evening. Formal charges have not yet been laid, pending completion of the investigation.
This is a serious loss to the community. Aside from being the home for the very community minded, charity supporting Elks’ Lodge, it was the meeting place for various groups, among them our Clearwater County Taxpayers’ Association.
Prior to being the Elks’ Hall, it was a rural school and holds many memories for those who attended it. Along with the loss of the physical structure there was a significant amount of memorabilia as well as elegant elk mounts, all of which are irreplaceable.
As a result of the fire the CCTA will now be holding their regular monthly meetings at the Arbutus Community Hall. It is located 1 mile south of Hwy. 11 on the Arbutus Road (RR 6-3). You will see the hall on your right but you will need to just turn right and go west briefly to get to the approach into the hall.


2. Significant Changes in County Administration 
 As mentioned in our December Beacon, Ron Leaf, past Chief Administrative Officer, resigned and the CAO position has been taken over for the interim by Rick Emmons. Other changes are as follows:
Former Director of Corporate Services, Rodney Boyko, has been replaced by Murray Hagan who held that position in 2010. Mr. Boyko has been hired on as the Chief Financial Officer of the Rocky REA.
Marshal Morton, former Director of Public Works has been replaced by current county employees. Erik Hansen will now supervise the infrastructure matters and Kurt Magnus will oversee the operations area of public works.
The position of Director of Community Protective Services (held by Ted Hickey) has been eliminated. With the restructuring, Clearwater Regional Fire Rescue Services will be supervised by the CAO, Rick Emmons, while Community Police Officers will be supervised by the Infrastructure Department of Public Works.
In all, the equivalent of five full time positions have been eliminated, evidence of council’s new vision of providing more efficiently managed services.


3. Broadband Services
The provision of improved broadband services will be a very significant issue in the coming year. A year ago the federal government declared this an essential service, but how it is to
be implemented and at what cost remains to be seen. Clearwater County Council is dedicated to working on this matter and is looking for public input. We encourage everyone to do as much research as possible, attend meetings on this subject, and pass your views on to your councillor.


4. Road Paving 
This was an area of major concern expressed by residents during the fall election. According to Reeve John Vandermeer in a December 27, 2017 county news release, “residents also indicated additional asphalt projects should be a priority for this Counci, and as such, we’ve allocated funding to progress with paving a few more road segments in 2018 and 2019.”


ROSES
A very huge bouquet of roses goes out to all our emergency responders. Recent incidents in Leslieville(the Elks’ Hall fire) and Rocky (the take down by the RCMP of suspects involved in armed robberies) are clear examples how these dedicated individuals continually exert unfailing efforts and put their lives at risk for our benefit/protection. Their dedication continues in all manner of circumstances (including -30 degree temperatures) when we are basking in the comforts of warmth and safety of our own homes. Huge kudos to these very special service providers.


RANT 
 With the impending decisions on broadband service provisions, it is absolutely crucial for each one of us to do what we can to gather information and make our voices heard. In so doing, it is vital to consider that this is not a matter affecting just the immediate future but one that has a long term impact on the well-being of our economy and the residents of Clearwater County. There are many unanswered questions about what is necessary, what is the most efficient method of implementation, and who should ultimately be financially responsible. It behoves each one of us to do our due diligence in assisting council with our input on this “pillar for the future”.


Coming Events
1. Thursday, January 11, 2018, 7:30PM, ARBUTUS COMMUNITY HALL, Regular monthly meeting. Reeve John Vandermeer, guest speaker.
2. Thursday, February 8, 7:30PM, Regular monthly meeting, Arbutus Community Hall

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Clearwater County Budget Notes

By Helge Nome

The recently elected Clearwater County Council held its 2018 Budget deliberations over a period of three days last week, beginning on Wednesday, December 13. A wrap up session was held on
Tuesday, December 19.

To a regular observer of County affairs, it was obvious that there are major changes underway:
A new CAO and new department heads for Public Works and Corporate affairs presented the budget to Council.

The 2018 budget was formally adopted by Council on December 19 and details will be available when the information is released to the public on the county website next week.
The big change from the 2017 budget was the removal of some $20 million previously set aside for the planned administrative complex in the Rocky North development and the reallocation of $10 million to the Internet reserve. It was also decided to set an amount of $150,000 aside to hire an internet service manager.

Council was informed that to date $4.2 million has been spent on the Rocky North development,
which also has a mandated sand/salt storage facility

It was obvious that Council is committed to the idea of providing enhanced internet service to local residents and leverage county reserves to that end. The way that the infrastructure will be created and managed has yet to be determined, but in order to access external funding (provincial and federal) the county will likely need to be directly involved in the project.

At this time the county has $73 million in aggregate reserves, some of which were reallocated to road paving projects In  the upcoming year. According to Reeve Vandermeer, Red Deer County has made road paving a priority in its budget. The cost per kilometer of paving is about $1 million.

Discussions on the upcoming tax collectible from county residents took place. Last year tax collection fell short by some $2 million and the idea of raising residential taxes by 1% and non residential taxes by 3% seemed to have general council support.

As a matter of interest, the cost of the County newsletter that is mailed to 6,600 county residents bimonthly is about $6,000.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

CLEARWATER COUNTY COUNCIL MEETING HIGHLIGHTS


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

1. North Nordegg Subdivision Resident Dust Suppression Request 
A letter from area residents in this subdivision was presented to council asking that the two main arteries leading into the area (one on the west and one on the east) receive improved dust suppression. Most recently a product called MG 30 had been applied and this basically turned the road into “snot” when it rained. MG 30 is a water based product mixed with various chemicals such as calcium chloride and/or magnesium hydroxide. Another suggested product, SP90, is oil based, mixed with gravel and packed. This is more costly but has a longer life span and is more “user friendly”. After good discussion council passed a motion to provide dust suppression using the SP90 product.

2. Meeting Procedure By-law Final Draft Approved
The major change here is that the council agenda package will be sent out on the Wednesday prior to council meetings. This gives councillors the much needed time to read through, consult, and research information on topics on the agenda. Previously they had received the agenda on Friday afternoon with meeting on Tuesday morning. Another important change was that there would be more information listed as to the topics to be discussed in camera and that the public attending the meeting when council went in camera would be notified as to when the in camera session was ended. They would then be invited to come back in to the public meeting.

3. Code of Conduct By-Law Final Draft Approved
The main change here was that if there is a complaint related to a council member that complaint would be brought to/addressed by the reeve and deputy reeve instead of the CAO (Chief Administrative Officer).

4. Municipal Governance Training
Various opportunities for councillor training were discussed and a motion was passed that administration look first into organizing the Munis 101 and Sage Analytics workshops with potentially a Parliamentary Procedures workshop at a later date.

5. Invitation to council from MP Jim Eglinski
An invitation to attend a Community Crime Awareness Meeting on December 18, 2017 at 7:00PM at the Caroline Community Hub was received. A motion authorizing council to attend was passed.

6. Council Compensation
Excellent discussion took place on councillor remuneration and the proposed County and Board Remuneration Policy. During the discussion it was noted that currently council remuneration is at the 16th percentile of surrounding jurisdictions. As of January 18th the increase approved at the September 12 council meeting would put compensation at the 25th percentile. It was suggested that remuneration would not need to move above the 40th percentile as compensation is not an initiative driver for council involvement.
Most of the discussion focussed on the establishment of a Council Compensation Committee with the proposal that this be a 5 member committee made up of 2 past councillors and 3 members-at-large. The suggestion was made that councillor compensation be reviewed prior to election so it doesn’t look “self-serving”.

7. MRWSA Report on Rural Homelessness
A very interesting report was given by Gwen MacGregor, Point-In-Time Coordinator, and Cindy Easton, Executive Director of the Mountain Rose Women’s Shelter Association on homelessness in the town of Rocky and Clearwater County. They had conducted a survey in September 2017 with 68 surveys completed. At that time 46 people were “unsheltered” and staying in various forms of accommodation. In the survey the participants were asked what the reasons were for their current situation and what accommodation they had been using. A comparative survey is being planned for May/June. This is a community issue and will need to be addressed through various partnerships.
8. Clearwater Broadband Foundation Public Presentation Jennifer McDougall, Chairman of the Clearwater Broadband Foundation, along with four other members of their board attended to present information about their activities, proposed plans, and a request for funding. Following their presentation the meeting went in camera to discuss, with council, their proposal. The in camera session was intended to protect third party interest.
Following a recess for lunch the council meeting reconvened. The Clearwater Broadband Foundation request for $9.5 million was declined

9. All Hallows Church set to be moved  Council agreed in principle to transferring ownership of the Cheddderville Church to the Community Historical Society of Caroline once the society secures sufficient funds for relocation and land reclamation costs.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

IN THE NEWS





1. CCTA AGM
 A very successful Annual General Meeting was held on November 9, 2017 with 42 attendees. Executive and Board Members for the next year will be: President—Marianne Cole; Vice President--- Dan Warkentin; Secretary--- Susan Durand; Treasurer--- Pat Butler; Board Members: Trish Bingham, Jim Foesier, Al Gaetz, Ken Qually, and Larry Titford. Our MLA Jason Nixon was the guest speaker and did an excellent job addressing happenings in the Legislature and people’s concerns, most notably crime issues and Bill 24 re school/parent communications.

2. CAO Change
 Following special council meetings on November 2 and 3, Ron Leaf resigned as the Chief Administrative Officer for the County. Rick Emmons was then appointed as acting CAO and was affirmed as the Interim CAO at Council’s meeting on Tuesday, November 28, 2017.

3. Winter Gravel
 Councillors have received a request from Public Works for information as to where they feel winter gravelling is needed in their divisions. A couple councillors expressed a desire to gather information from residents as to where this might be necessary or beneficial. I said I would put it out in our newsletter and encourage any of you with thoughts on this to contact your councillor.

4. County Council Meeting Highlights, November 28, 2017

Bylaw Reviews/Changes
 Discussion took place on both the Meetings Procedures and Code of Conduct bylaws. Meaningful changes to the Meetings Procedures Bylaws proposed earlier release of the council agenda package with the agenda coming out on Wednesday prior to council meeting rather than Friday. As for the Code of Conduct Bylaws the changes focussed on reporting issues with councillors to the reeve or deputy reeve rather than the CAO.

Live Video Feed of Council Meetings
This idea was brought forward during the election campaign as a method of increasing transparency. An initial estimate of cost for such a system was $75,000, but council asked that more information be gathered not only on various systems but also other ideas to promote transparency.

Rocky and District Chamber of Commerce Request for Funding
President Colleen Dwyer and Executive Director Prab Lashar attended council meeting again to present further information on their operation as well as reiterate their earlier request for financial assistance. They mentioned the various community events they organize/promote and their benefit to the area’s economy. They highlighted their recent hosting of CBC who was doing a special documentary on the Duvernay geological area (the eastern slopes of the Rockies). We will try to notify you when this documentary will be aired.

Concerns from councillors were voiced about the ways the Chamber might ensure future financial stability and a cooperative coordination of promoting the economy with other groups such as Ignite Rocky and the Caroline Chamber of Commerce. In the end Council voted to provide the Chamber with a $30,000 grant.  



Broadband/internet Discussions
 Tracy With from Banister Research presented an excellent report on the broadband survey that Banister had conducted with both businesses and residents in the county in October. They had conducted phone surveys and paper copies could also have been printed off from the county’s website. 380 phone interviews were conducted and 42 paper copies were received.

Questions focussed on what services were used (internet, TV, and phone, both landline and cell), as well as the level of satisfaction with each. The summary suggested that both businesses and residents felt there is a definite need to access faster, more reliable service as these are essential services.
Concerns were expressed equally by both groups over the potential costs that might be incurred with adding to the current levels of service along with suggestions that the county should not be involved in this type of project.

Council will be developing a Broadband Framework Policy and we certainly encourage public input. Stephen Bull from the province’s Internet Secretariat will be addressing council on January 9, 2018. He is very knowledgeable on this matter and has spoken to council before. It would be a great opportunity for anyone to gather information on this subject which will be a major item for council to address in the next year. We need to be informed as best we can and then pass on our ideas to council.


ROSES
A special bouquet of roses goes out to all our council members. It has been a breath of fresh air to attend council and experience the welcoming, congenial atmosphere. Along with that is a noted desire and effort to make decisions in an open, transparent manner, reflective of the best interests of economic well-being, financial responsibility, and resident benefit. You all deserve a special Christmas bouquet and best wishes for a great New Year.


COMING EVENTS
January 9, 2018, 9:00AM County Council Meeting Stephen Bull from Internet Secretariat speaking.
January 11, 2018. 7:00PM CCTA Regular Monthly Meeting. Reeve John Vandermeer speaking.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

IN THE NEWS


1.  Interesting Election Results    
Electors county wide spoke very clearly in most divisions that a change in council was necessary.  The only close race came in Division 6 where there was a one vote split between two new candidates, and a re-count affirmed the original winner.  County results are as follows:
Division 1:  Jim Duncan (acclaimed)
Division 2:  Cammie Laird---  293;  Dick Wymenga--- 161;  Kyle Greenwood--- 72
Division 3:  Daryl Lougheed--- 225;  Curt Maki--- 146:  Megan Jeffery--- 19
Division 4:  John Vandermeer (acclaimed)
Division 5:  Theresa Laing--- 407;  Bob Bryant--- 108;   Andrea Garnier Spongberg--- 35
Division 6:  Timothy Hoven--- 148;  Diana Spencer--- 147;  Lorissa Nafziger--- 50
Division 7:  Michelle Swanson--- 312;  Pat Alexander--- 164

2.  New Reeve Chosen
At County Council’s organizational meeting on October 24th council chose John Vandermeer as the new Reeve with Jim Duncan as the Deputy Reeve.  For both this is their third term as councillor. Council and Member at Large representatives were also chosen for the numerous boards that the county is involved with.  The County still needs Members at Large for the following boards:  Central Alberta Economic Partnership---1 member;  Clearwater County Heritage Board---1 member;  Subdivision Development Appeal Board--- 1 member and 2 Alternate members.  Applications for these positions as well as a complete list of the boards and their members can be found on the county’s web-site under News Releases.

3.  Questions re Caroline’s Salt/Sand Storage Facility Answered
Questions had been recently raised about issues at the new Caroline salt/sand storage facility being built and “talk” had circulated about cement being hauled away and then new re-poured.  In a phone call to Public Works on November 3, 2017 it was explained that the original plans were for a 40’ x 60’ building (the same size as the existing facility).  The footings had been poured for that when it was revealed that the new plow/sand truck was 39 ½’ long, and with the new plan having side doors, the width of the facility was insufficient.  Consequently the footings on one side had to be removed and the building’s size changed to 60’ x 60’.  This has moved the completion date back somewhat but it is expected that the facility will be done by the end of December.

4.  Special Speaker for January Meeting
Our new Reeve, John Vandermeer has kindly agreed to speak at the January 11, 2018 meeting.  Originally invited to be a guest speaker at our up-coming Annual General Meeting on November 9, John suggested that he would have much more information to share at the later meeting.  Much of the time since his selection as Reeve has been taken with orientation, and this will be followed by the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties convention in mid-November.

5.  Guest Speaker for Annual General Meeting
Our MLA, Jason Nixon, will be our guest speaker for our AGM on Thursday, November 9, 2017 at 7:00PM at the Leslieville Elks’ Hall.  Jason was recently chosen by the newly elected UCP (United Conservative Party) leader Jason Kenney as the interim UCP House Leader/Opposition Leader as Kenney does not currently hold a seat in the Legislature. It certainly speaks well for the confidence that the UCP party has in our MLA and it will be very interesting to hear about current plans and issues on the provincial level.

ROSES:    Special bouquets of roses go out to every person who took the time to go and vote in the civic elections on October 16th.  It was great to see the increase in voter numbers and the distinct voice that was proclaimed. Congratulations to all the winners.  Roses also go out to all the volunteers and family members who gave their time and efforts to support the various candidates that were running.  The success of this election was the result of a combination of dedicated efforts.  Roses are being sent to everyone involved!
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:     People who disagree with you doesn’t make them better or less.  (Anonymous)
COMING EVENTS:   Annual General Meeting,Thursday, November 9, 2017, 7:00PM, Leslieville Elks’ Hall
      Regular Monthly Meeting, Thursday, January 11, 2018, Leslieville Elks’ Hall

(NOTE: All monthly meetings will now be starting at 7:00PM until we change to 7:30PM in May.)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Information Correction


A point of correction is necessary with regards to comments made in the “Message from Pat Alexander” in the last Western Star. In response to information from the county’s Planning people indicating “they receive an average of a call per month from developers or businesses that want to expand or build new in Clearwater County”, Mr. Alexander goes on to say, “Right now we have no place for them, that is why we desperately need the Northern Development Area.” That is not true. Right across from the County’s own land is the Spongberg family’s Metal Dog Industrial Park with 12 commercial/industrial lots. The County’s land in Caroline has been surveyed for 10, 3 acre industrial lots and 12 smaller highway commercial lots. That makes a total of 34 lots surveyed for development right in our county. To say we have no place for developers is erroneous and misleading. It makes one wonder if the “necessity” argument is being used to promote services to the county’s land for an Admin. Building or to support other parties who may have self-interest in the land that the REA purchased diagonally south-east of the county’s in 2015 and subsequently sold in 2017???? Either way, taxpayers (town or county) should not be funding unnecessary, risky, development costs.