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.

Clearwater County Council Highlights

There was interesting discussion on some very pertinent issues at council’s regular meeting on Tuesday, October 10, 2017. The key highlights were:

1. Clearwater Cottages Ltd. Development Proposal This development proposal for a resort area of cottages and RV park in the Rig Street area had been brought to council by developer Mr. Craig McMorran earlier this summer. It was tabled at that time as it required an amendment to the land use bylaw as well as addressing road access concerns. In the meantime legal counsel had been obtained by the county and very serious concerns were presented regarding road access. As stated in the agenda package, “This property does not have legal public access to a county maintained road at this time.”
There are resource roads that provide access but there is no guarantee of their continued future use and/or the standard to which they will be maintained.
After excellent presentation of legal advice and discussion, passing of the Land Use Bylaw amendment was unanimously defeated. This virtually stops the development at this time.

2. Restoration of Shank’s Historic Garage in Nordegg Following very positive comments that have been received regarding TdeB Construction’s restoration of the CIBC building in Nordegg, Mr. deBoer has offered to do similar restoration of the historic Shank’s garage for the cost of demolition. A motion to accept this offer was passed unanimously. (Note: Both historic buildings had been slated for demolition prior to Mr. deBoer’s offer.)

3. Rocky Chamber of Commerce Loan Request President Colleen Dwyer and newly appointed Exec. Director Prab Lashar attended to explain the Chamber’s current financial problems. They are in a difficult situation and are asking both the town and county councils to each provide them with a $30,000.00 loan. Concerns were expressed as to how the Chamber got into this situation and how matters will be resolved in the future. In the end it was decided that the county would meet with the town and chamber to discuss options for funding the organization.

4. Rocky Air Show An excellent presentation was given by President Nancy McClure of the Rocky Air Show Association. She outlined the operation, attendance, and support of the air show. They were also asking for financial support in the amount of $25,000.00 for the 2018 show. The presentation was received as information and financial support will be considered during 2018 budget deliberations.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017


1. October 16, Municipal Elections. The up-coming elections are center stage these days as candidates are busy campaigning. The candidates are as follows:

Division 1--- Jim Duncan (Acclaimed).
Division 2--- Kyle Greenwood (incumbent), Cammie Laird, and Dick Wymenga.
Division 3--- Megan Jeffery, Daryl Lougheed, Curt Maki (incumbent).
Division 4--- John Vandermeer (Acclaimed).
Division 5--- Bob Bryant, Theresa Laing (incumbent) and Andrea Grenier Spongberg.
Division 6--- Tim Hoven, Lorissa Nafziger, and Diana Spencer.
Division 7--- Pat Alexander (incumbent), and Michelle Swanson.

2. Candidates’ Forum The Elks’ hall in Leslieville was packed on September 28, 2017 to hear candidate platforms and responses to taxpayer questions. The key issues brought forward that night and that have been repeatedly expressed throughout the campaign are:

 Roads and Bridges 
This is the common number 1 concern with residents suggesting that the maintenance of roads and bridges is a key need to maintaining our county’s economy. The necessity of paving the Taimi, Gimlet, and Withrow roads is repeatedly stressed. Conversely, questions are also raised of the county re-doing roads leading to “nowhere” when occupied roads are needing servicing.

 Internet service
This remains a contentious issue with current councillors and candidates divided on how to proceed with improving services. The battle remains between wireless (using towers) and fibre optics (the use of a high speed “cable”). While wireless is cheaper to install its range is often limited by the terrain in this county and the maintenance cost is higher. Fibre optics has a higher installation cost but provides more consistent, long range, quality service. A combination of the two has been suggested as a reasonable solution.
Note: If fibre optic cable is installed it could be used by any independent service provider (ISP) such as CCI, Harewaves, Xplornet, etc. to speed up their service with greater reliability.

 Condor/Leslieville Firehalls 
The need to maintain these services in each community was stressed at the forum in Leslieville. Not only is it a valuable service that supports the hamlets (a municipal goal) but combining them in a central location would be more costly with land purchase and service installations.

 Ag. Rec Facility
This also remains a contentious issue and candidates were divided on its necessity. Comments that have been raised throughout the past few months have included:
· Serious concern for operating costs
· Actual need (There are currently 10 private indoor riding facilities in Clearwater County along with one larger public arena.)
· The county supports other recreation facilities in town such as the hockey arena and swimming pools why not this?? (Response: There are no indoor hockey arenas or public swimming pools out in the country, unlike riding arenas that there are several of.)

 North Area Development
While not discussed at length at the forum, the need has been questioned frequently over the past year. Repeatedly we have heard the “positive, reasonable sounding” rationale that we need to promote economic development. Agreed, but how do we do it in the most economically responsible manner??
Currently there are 68 developable commercial/industrial lots available in the town and county. How many more do we need?
Furthermore, what would be the cost of putting services 1 ½ miles to the north (much of it through swamp) compared to servicing adjacent lots to the east and south?
To date NO ECONOMIC FEASIBILITY STUDY HAS BEEN DONE to verify need, cost, and financial return.

 Admin. Building
Generally the candidates at the Leslieville forum suggested this was not a high priority, with some saying, “not at this time”, and others saying, “not necessary at all”.

 General comments expressed throughout the campaign:
· Taxes are a key point of consideration in regards to the loss of revenue from linear taxes and government grants. Concern is expressed as to how we can attract people/business here to support the needed tax dollars.
· More fiscal responsibility and greater transparency. Look carefully at where dollars could be saved and have less “in camera” meetings, more citizen engagement.
· Projects to be developed have to focus on NEED vs. WANT. The elected council will need to focus on what will provide the greatest benefit to the greatest number of taxpayers now and in the future.

Coming Events:
October 12, Regular CCTA monthly meeting, 7:30PM
November 9, 2017, 7:00PM Annual General Meeting, Hoping to have the newly chosen Reeve speak on plans for the future.