Crowsnest Pass Municipal Council held its first public town hall meeting at the Elks Hall in Blairmore on Wednesday, November 9th, taking the opportunity to discuss organizational changes and the Strategic Plan with the public and answer questions.
Mayor Bruce Decoux started things off by giving an overview of some of the issues and projects
Council and Administration focussed on in the past year since the election, including the way the Municipality does business internally, the economy, policies and bylaws, the switch to a three-year budget cycle, facility utilization, bylaw enforcement, restructuring to the fire departments, organizational restructuring, the Crowsnest Centre, the River Run property, and the future of Hwy 3.
“We’re trying to improve so many facets of our community to make it attractive not only for the people who live here, but also to those who may look to move here,” said Mayor Decoux, noting the importance of attracting residents and businesses to the valley.
When it comes to the future of the Crowsnest Centre and its property, Mayor Decoux announced that Council and Administration plan to demolish the existing building and look into the possibility of redeveloping the land and constructing a major hotel, which could include an indoor pool.
“We see this as an ideal location for recreation and visitors,” said Mayor Decoux.
“A large hotel is the way to go, and that is what we’re working on.”
Another major issue Mayor Decoux discussed was the future of the River Run property, a sore spot among the many people who lost their investments into a proposed residential development along the Crowsnest River in Blairmore and to the residents who live nearby the land which has been disturbed and where wind causes nearby homes to become caked in blowing coal dust.
Mayor Decoux said the matter is currently before the courts, and that no legal recourse can be taken regarding the property until the court process has been completed.
“We are watching like eagles looking for a salmon,” said Mayor Decoux.
“But at this point we would have no option but to wait until the case is finished – it’s basically a wait and see.”
Mayor Decoux also discussed the relocation of Hwy 3, an issue which is vitally important to the planning of many existing and potential businesses and industries in the community.
He said Council has spoken with Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Evan Berger, as well as the province’s Ministry of Transportation, who informed Council that plans for Hwy 3 relocation remain similar to those which have been known to the public for many years.
According to a map projection released in 1979, the highway will be reconstructed south of Coleman, with a large interchange west of Blairmore and another east of Sentinel.
“They made it very clear to us that this is the map and the plan but it could change,” said Mayor Decoux.
He said it will likely be another 20 years before the project gets underway, but by promoting Crowsnest Pass as a unique tourist and cultural destination and the only year-round access to the Crown of the Continent, we may be able to expedite the process by as much as 10 years.
“These things take a lot of time and we just have to be patient,” said Mayor Decoux.
Following Mayor Decoux’s presentation, Councillors presented the 2012-2014 Community Strategic Action Plan, which addresses Council’s goals and visions for the community over the next 10 years.
Councillor Brian Gallant gave an introduction to the strategic plan and Councillors took turns giving an overview of the plan’s “Four Pillars”.
Councillor Jerry Lonsbury gave an overview of the first pillar, “Effective Governance and Management”.
Councillors Siegbert Gail and Emile Saindon discussed the second pillar, “Economic Sustainability”, which addresses Rum Runner Days weekend among many other economic concerns.
Councillor Andrew Saje reviewed the third pillar, “Community Identity and Quality of Life” and fielded a number of questions from the public.
Councillor Larry Mitchell then presented the final pillar, “Environment and Infrastructure”, noting that a major priority is the development of an emergency access route connecting the area known as Bushtown in East Coleman to Blairmore.
Interim Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Robins then discussed the proposed changes to the structuring protective services, including the municipal fire departments.
He gave an overview of the changes which were announced in October, answered questions from the public as to how certain aspects will work, which areas will fall under which jurisdictions and the roles and responsibilities of new positions relative to protective services.
He informed the public that the position of Manager of Protective Services / Fire Chief will include many responsibilities, including bylaws, the municipality’s contract with the RCMP, the agreement with the Solicitor General, and safety codes, as well as the operation of the fire department.
Robins announced that a $105,000 annual salary has been allotted for the position.
Finally, Mayor Bruce Decoux also announced that Council will be increasing tax penalties by 50 per cent, in light of the $1,044,759 in outstanding property taxes which have yet to be paid this year.
He said several residents fail to pay their taxes every year, opting instead to simply pay the tax penalty, as it is often a significantly smaller sum.
In order to rectify the problem and in an attempt to ensure the funds necessary for budget items is available, the tax penalty will be raised by 50 per cent this year.
Council and Administration then fielded additional questions from the public before adjourning for the evening.
For more information, including the complete Community Strategic Action plan, visit the Municipality’s website at town.crowsnestpass.ab.ca.