Monday, May 14, 2018

Summary from Regional Fire Stations Public Engagement

Below is a quick summary of written comments received at Leslieville Open House (8), Condor Open House (5) and via the County’s website feedback form (11).


Question 1 - Open House helpful?
* Yes (10)
* Yes, hopefully not the last (2)
* Somewhat (1)


Question 2 – Desired Outcome?
* Two smaller stations (7)
* One combined larger station for efficiencies (5)
* One larger station in Leslieville and satellite station in Condor (2)
* Need to know costs (5)
* Does not like the selected location of one larger station (1)


Question 3 – What could have been done better?
* Need more data/cost estimates (5)
* More conceptual slides as to what single fire hall would look like (2)
* Use new website/promote it/Facebook (2)
* Continue with community engagement (1)
* More of a slant to building community (1)


Question 4 - Best part of OH?
* Hearing a variety of questions/comments/questions answered (4)
* Facilitator an awesome speaker/well spoken (2)
* Positive interactions between participants/ participant comments (2)
* Meeting neighbours (1)
* Support for firefighters (1)
* To be informed that the two halls work together and more trucks run to calls (1)


Other comments
* Use the land County owns to reduce cost of two stations (1)
* Use County land for one larger station in Leslieville with substation in Condor (1)
* Need another public meeting with building sizes, one and two, number of units to house (1)
* Local planning committee to look at blueprints and construction (1)
* Do not use water from sewer lagoon for firefighting. (2)
* It is better to have much help at fire, than not enough. (1)
* Need to know ballpark cost of halls (1)
* There is a social purpose and well-being to each community having a hall. (1)
* It will be hard to measure the social cost of fire hall in community. (1)
* Can one hall have a much larger bulk water storage? Availability of water is important. Maybe rural stations should have multiple tankers. (1)
* Concern with rural crime if one combined hall is built outside both communities. (1)
* Seemed to lean towards 1 station (1)
* Offer of land available for sale for one combined station (1)

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

CLEARWATER COUNTY COUNCIL MEETING HIGHLIGHTS


By Marianne Cole

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The most notable highlights of the meeting are as follows:

1. Presentation by Mona Crocker, Executive Director, Rocky Learning Council
Mona outlined various “asks” that council promote: reading to kids, advocacy for raising the age limit to 25 for people requiring GED or high school course improvements(currently the age limit is 19 and getting the additional creditation above that age is very costly), improved high speed internet in the rural area, and encouraging the use of the Rocky Learning Council for various local courses.

2. Attendance by Roger Smolnicky, Director of Recreation and Community Services, Town of Rocky Mr. Smolnicky outlined the capital funding strategy for the North Saskatchewan River Park which included a request that the county match the town’s contribution of $200,000. The funds will be used to help over covered bleachers, water system, permanent washrooms, renos to the announcer and VIP boxes, a BMX track, and additional landscaping. The total value of these improvements would be $1, 200,000 to $1, 270, 000. The Rodeo Association and the Pro Chuckwagon Associations would contribute $150,000 in cash and $50,000 in donated materials, equipment, and labor. Then a matching CFEP grant for $600,000 would be applied for.
After discussion a motion was passed directing administration to write a letter of intent to the town that the county would provide $200,000 in the 2019 budget.

3. Leslieville/Condor Fire Halls
Regional Fire Chief, Steve Debienne, presented the results of the open house feedback surveys along with potential options/costs for either one facility or two. The survey comments indicated a slightly higher number of people favoring two facilities but many wanted more information on the potential costs of each option. 4 options with costs were presented to council:
Option 1: One Large Pre-engineered Station: Total cost $4, 200,000(***not including land purchase)
Option 2: Two smaller Pre-Engineered Stations: Total cost $6,000,000 ($3, 000,000 each)
Option 3: One Large Perma Column Station: Total cost $3, 200,000
Option 4: Two smaller Perma column Stations: Total cost $4, 600,000 ($2, 300,000 each)
Note: the pre-engineered structures use more steel in the structures while the perma column has more concrete and poles.
There was excellent, lengthy discussion as council brought up various concerns, points that need to be considered, and different options available. In the end a motion was passed unanimously, directing administration to obtain more specific information on costs for Option #4.

4. Tax Rate Bylaw
Council passed 3 readings to approve the tax rate bylaw that will see a 3% tax rate increase on residential properties and 6% on non-residential and farmland. It is noted in the agenda package that “the assessment base has increased overall, and therefore will show an increase in the overall tax collected for municipal purposes of $4.4 million.” Further it states, “An increase in 2018 tax rates will remain for the most part offset by the decrease in the school requisition.” (Note: The school requisition is set by the province.)

Broadband Public Engagement meetings:
Wednesday, May 23, 2018, 5:30-7:00PM, Nordegg Public Services Building
Monday, May 28, 2018, 5:30-7:00PM, Leslieville Community Hall
Tuesday, May 29, 2018, 5:30-7:00PM, Caroline HUB Community Hall

Monday, May 7, 2018

IN THE NEWS

1. 2018 Tax Rates
The 2018 tax rate structure was discussed at length at the April 24th council meeting. It was noted that assessments are down significantly, so in order to maintain similar tax revenues as in 2017, the tax rates would have to increase slightly. It was generally accepted that the residential rate (including small “mom/pop” businesses) could be increased by 3%. More discussion took place on the non-residential rates with comments being made that we want to attract businesses to Clearwater County so we shouldn’t be raising taxes in this category too much. In reply to that it was noted that our non-residential rates are lower than most of our surrounding jurisdictions and that a 6% increase would bring us in line with the area average. In the end, this matter was tabled to the May 8th council meeting to give administration time to draft a bylaw suggesting a 3% increase for residential properties and a 6% increase for non-residential.

2. Audited Financial Statements
The 2017 audited financial statements were presented and showed an annual surplus of $1, 469, 330. On the revenue side it was noted that there were less than budgeted municipal taxes collected but higher revenues from well drilling taxes. On the expense side there was higher administrative costs and this was in part due to the severance packages paid out with the “administrative restructuring”. Less than budgeted costs were noted in protective services, public works/roads, waste authority, land use/planning, and recreation. Currently the county has $79, 545, 063 as “restricted surplus” (reserves) which the auditor described as “moderate” compared to the county’s spending.

3. Phase 2 Broadband
Public Engagement Plan Plans are proceeding to host meetings with three different stakeholder groups: the general public, the Internet Service Providers (ISP’s), and the local business people. Suggestions have been made to host meetings in the southern and central areas towards the end of May. Suggested dates are May 23, 24, 27, and 28 with possible locations being James River, Caroline, and Leslieville. All meeting dates, times, and locations will be verified after checking on hall availabilities and will be advertised in local papers and on the county’s website.

4. Leslieville/Condor Fire Hall Plans 
There is no new information here as this matter was tabled until the May 8th council meeting so administration could gather more figures on the various options.

5. Manitok Energy Bankruptcy/County’s Loss
At the last CCTA meeting on April 12th, guest speaker Karl Zajes noted that Clearwater County is “out” over $500,000 dollars as a result of Manitok Energy declaring bankruptcy. Mr. Zajes had information listing the unsecured creditors involved in this case and noted that along with Clearwater County and other municipal jurisdictions, there are various local companies that are also affected. An article from the May 19th issue of The Red Deer Advocate entitled, “Municipalities fight for back taxes” listed Clearwater County along with Lacombe County and nine other municipalities involved in legal action.



ROSES: With Mother’s Day just around the corner we wish to send out very special bouquets of roses to all the mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers in our area. We want to recognize the most valuable contributions you make to our area with your untiring time, efforts, love, and dedication.

God could not be everywhere and therefore He made Mothers.” Rudyard Kipling
A mother is a person who, seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.” Tenneva Jordan
A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take.” Annonymous



Next meetings: Thursday, May 10, 2018, 7:00PM Leslieville Community Hall with guest speaker
                          Thursday, June 28, 2018, 7:30PM, Arbutus Community Hall, regular monthly     
                          meeting.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Appointment of New CAO for Clearwater County

Clearwater County Council with newly appointed CAO Rick Emmons, front, between Councillors Thesesa Laing and Michelle Swanson. Back: Councillors Jim Duncan, Cammie Laird, Daryl Lougheed, Reeve John Vandermeer and Councillor Tim Hoven

News release by Clearwater County

(Rocky Mountain House, AB) – Following a three-month competitive recruitment campaign, Council is pleased to announce that Rick Emmons has been formally appointed to the position of Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for the County, as of May 1, 2018.

 Council appointed Mr. Emmons as Interim CAO back in November, to allow time for a thorough recruitment process to unfold, in an effort to identify the best candidate for the important administrative role of CAO.

“Clearwater County has been fortunate to have Rick’s leadership and guidance over the last five months, and he has been instrumental in providing for business continuity, administrative stability and maintaining the County’s progressive momentum,” said Clearwater County’s Reeve John Vandermeer. “After our third-party candidate search concluded and Council’s thorough review of applicants, Rick certainly was the most qualified for the job due to his breadth of experience and passion for public service.”

 With 33 years’ experience in municipal government, Mr. Emmons was most recently the County’s Director of Planning and Development, previous to that Assistant Director of Public Works. Mr. Emmons has also worked in many other capacities over his long tenure with Clearwater County. He holds a designation as Certified Local Government Manager (CLGM), he completed a National Advanced Certificate in Local Authority Administration (NACLAA) from the University of Alberta and he has numerous other educational credentials specific to municipal administration.

 Reeve Vandermeer continued by saying, “Rick fosters an open and transparent administration and supports Council’s governance role. We thank him for stepping up to the plate and look forward to working with him for years to come.”

Friday, April 27, 2018

CLEARWATER COUNTY COUNCIL MEETING HIGHLIGHTS


By Marianne Cole

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Highlights of County Council meeting are as follows:

1. Leslieville/Condor Fire Hall
This matter was tabled until May 8th in order to allow administration more time to collect comparative figures on the different possibilities.

2. Phase 2 Broadband Public Engagement Plan
This refers to the county’s plans for working to improve internet/broadband service in the county. As mentioned in previous highlights, County Council plans to meet with three stakeholder groups: the general public, the Internet Service Providers (ISP’s), and the local business people. Plans are proceeding to host meetings in the southern and central areas of the county with meetings to be scheduled towards the end of May. Suggested dates are May 23, 24, 27, and 28 with possible locations being James River, Caroline, and Leslieville. All meeting dates, times, and locations will be verified after checking on hall availabilities. We definitely encourage everyone to watch the local newspapers and check on the county’s website for more info. This is an issue that will affect everyone looking forward to the future.

3. Tax Rate Bylaw
Significant discussion took place on establishing property tax rates for the coming year. It was noted that assessments are down significantly so to maintain tax rates at the existing level would have resulted in a large drop in tax revenue. Discussion took place on efforts to keep the dollar amount that residences and small businesses pay similar to last year. With the reduction in assessment this could happen with a 3% increase in the mill rate. Discussion also took place on the non-residential (larger business) tax rate. Comments varied here as there was a concern about making these taxes too high and perhaps discouraging businesses from coming to Clearwater County. As the same time it was noted that our business tax levels are lower than surrounding jurisdictions and the suggested raise would still keep our rates equal to the average. In the end a motion was made to instruct administration to re-draft the tax rate bylaw with a 3% increase for residential properties and 6% for non-residential. This passed with a 5-2 split in votes with Councillors Hoven and Swanson opposing. A subsequent motion was passed to table the passing of the re-drafted bylaw to May 8th.

4. Audited Financial Statement/Auditor’s Report
Highlights here noted that the financial assets of the county increased by $7.7 million in the last year. This includes actual monetary assets as well as capital assets. The annual surplus for the year was just under $1.5 million making the total accumulated surplus now just under $80million. According to the auditor this is “moderate” compared to the county’s overall spending. Other notes of interest was the higher than budgeted administration costs but that was due to “administrative re-organization” and severance payouts. On a positive note there will now be more accountability/better recording of the Regional Waste Authority finances with the county supervising that operation. A complete report can be found on the County’s website under “Administration/Finances”.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

CLEARWATER COUNTY COUNCI MEETING HIGHLIGHTS Tuesday, March 27, 2018

By Marianne Cole

1. Delegations
· Rocky Flipz Gymnastics and Preschool Gennifer Mehlhaff and Nicholas Frank came to present information on a vision they have for a joint not-for-profit organization effort to build a community multipurpose facility. This building could “include a splash park and low-grade entry pool, field houses, gymnastics studio, indoor walking track and fitness center, meeting space, central hub, and events center. Potentially it could be built south of Rocky along the “Cut Across” Road.

· Caroline Community Historical Society Laura Kirbyson, President, and Jim Pearson, Vice President, came to present info on their efforts/plans to move the Cheddarville All Hallows Church from its current location along Hwy. 22/Dovercourt area to the Caroline Museum. Plans are to do the move this summer. They explained the costs along with their fund raising activities.

· Compassionate Care Hospice Society Jillian Lawton outlined the Society’s efforts, progress, funding, and current plans for the Hospice suite that will be set up in the Clearwater Center. Discussion took place on their fund raising efforts including potential money from Clearwater Regional FCSS (Family and Community Support Services).


2. Leslieville Elks’ Hall Tax Exemption
Council gave 3 readings to a Bylaw which would give the Leslieville Elks a tax exemption and reimbursement for property taxes paid in 2017. Consideration may be given for the 2018 taxes after those notices are sent out.


3. Public Hearing re Bylaw1040/18 on Cannabis Production Facilities
About 30 people attended the public hearing for this bylaw that would restrict medical marijuana/cannabis production facilities in Clearwater County to an Industrial Park. There were 5 people who spoke in favor of the bylaw, suggesting that this is not an agricultural venture but rather a business requiring greater security. It was also noted that other municipalities also restrict these operations to business parks. 7 people spoke in opposition to the bylaw citing their desire to grow for personal medical reasons and their own freedom of rights. One letter in favor of the bylaw and three in opposition were also read. Several of these people compared cannabis to hemp, a confused inaccurate comparison. Also this bylaw does not mention personal, medical use. Instead this bylaw states, “CANNABIS PRODUCTION FACILITY means the use of land, or buildings for the cultivation, processing, testing, destruction, packaging and shipping of cannabis as permitted and licensed by the Federal Government of Canada.” It goes on to state, “Cannabis does not include industrial hemp as defined under the Industrial Hemp Regulations (Canada) as amended from time to time.”

Following the hearing Council passed second and third reading of the bylaw.


4. Public Engagement Strategy
Council reviewed the information presented by Administration on the various ways council could proceed with gathering/incorporating public opinion on improving broadband services in Clearwater County. In their discussion the suggestion was made that they meet with three different groups: general public, ISP’s (Internet Service Providers), and business people. Information on each group’s wishes, needs, and concerns would be gathered and from that a definite plan of action, along with appropriate timeline, would be drafted. Administration was tasked with drafting more specific guidelines and report back to council.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Medicinal Marijuana Production---“The Rest of the Story”

By Marianne Cole

This article is being written in response to the one you may or may not have seen on the front page of last week’s Mountaineer.For those of you who have not seen it, the article dealt with a Clearwater County landowner’s opposition to the county’s proposed Land Use Bylaw pertaining to the production of medicinal marijuana.

The landowner, Craig McMorran, is protesting the fact that the potential by-law would restrict the production of medical marijuana to an industrial park. Earlier, Mr. McMorran had been quite vocal in his opposition, posting quite negative comments on Facebook and his site, Clearwaterfarming.com.
In his opposition, Mr. McMorran made the comment that Clearwater County does not put restrictions on the growing of other agricultural crops so why medicinal marijuana? In the Mountaineer article he is quoted as saying, “You plant the seed in the dirt. It’s the traditional agricultural model.” With those comments it became quite evident that Mr. McMorran is either grasping at straws or does not understand true agriculture.

Here are some points for “the rest/other side of the story”:

1. Medicinal marijuana is not your normal agricultural crop. Other ag. crops do not require special security clearance as does medicinal marijuana. According to Health Canada, all applicants, officers, directors, and persons in charge of a medicinal marijuana production operation must hold a valid security clearance involving a screening process through the RCMP. They must also notify the local fire department of their intentions re their proposed facility. Other requirements are to provide a detailed description of the methods used to record transactions involving the sale of their product and be subject to compliance and enforcement measures from Health Canada.
Clearly these restrictions (not required for “normal” ag. crops) indicate a distinct set of concerns by Health and Safety Canada.

2. Of eight other Alberta municipal jurisdictions researched, 5 restrict medicinal marijuana production to Industrial districts, 2 restrict it to Direct Control districts (meaning the allowing/permitting is controlled by council rather than the planning department) and 1 allows it as a discretionary use on agricultural land.
Again, others not only recognize the difference between marijuana and other crops, but also see the need for stricter control.

3. Some jurisdictions have further stipulated the need for secure fencing (6 foot chain link) and adequate security equipment (alarms and cameras).

4. Further evidence that medicinal marijuana is not a “normal” agricultural crop is the fact that in production facilities workers are seen wearing white “haz-mat” suits, gloves, and caps.
Certainly to liken medicinal marijuana to other agricultural cops is like comparing a Holstein to a Hereford. Yes, they are both bovines but distinctly different in use, care, production, and marketing. Such is the case with medicinal marijuana and barley, oats, wheat, etc.

In conclusion may I suggest and ask you to consider:

1. You are free to develop your own opinions on this matter.

2. Consider the pros and cons of having a medicinal marijuana facility next to you or out in the rural area of Clearwater County (considering safety, odor, and need for increased policing/monitoring,etc.).

3. Consider the benefits/detriments of losing more valuable farm land whose productive capabilities can likely benefit a significantly greater number of people either through crop production or grazing.

4. If you have time, research the new bylaw on the county’s website: Clearwatercounty.ca, then click on “Council Minutes and Agendas” in bottom left hand corner, then go to “Agendas, 27 Mar. 2018” and scroll down to page 62.

5. Consider attending the public hearing on this bylaw at 11:30AM, tomorrow, March 27 in County Council Chambers.

6. Consider calling your councillor or e-mailing them with your opinion/concerns. (Their contacts are on the website or you can call me (Marianne) at (403)729-2493 for their contact.

This council is striving to be proactive on this matter and the Planning Department has done extensive work in researching and preparing this bylaw. They are not outlawing the production of medicinal marijuana; they are merely establishing reasonable guidelines in the best interests for the residents of Clearwater County. Any support would be appreciated.


I apologize for the late sending of this info but things have been rather busy here and I wanted to have some research to go with the info. Better late than never. Have great day.
Marianne