Monday, June 1, 2020

IN THE NEWS


By Marianne Cole

 

Land Use Bylaw Revisions 

Proposed changes to Clearwater County Land Use Bylaw caused significant up-roar and response on social media recently. As part of the County’s review of land use and development guidelines, the LUB was the first document considered for revision. First reading of the proposals had been passed earlier and 2nd and 3rd reading were up for consideration on Tuesday, May 12, following a Public Hearing scheduled for 9:00AM that day.

 

A few days earlier an article regarding some noteworthy changes to the original document had been posted on Facebook and an immediate outrage ensued. The issue went viral and very negative comments about Clearwater County were spread far beyond county borders. The main concerns focussed on 3 restrictive clauses: 1. Inability to sell home raised produce from a CRA parcel; 2. Restrictions related to Sea-Cans; and 3. Restrictions related to the parking of RV’s on residential parcels.

 

Due to Covid19, public participation in the Public Hearing was restricted to phone-in only and 16 people registered. People could, however, follow along on the live streaming on their computers. Unfortunately, within a short time, due to sound problems, the hearing was postponed. Once the Covid19 issues are resolved, and in person public engagement meetings can be held, the process will resume.

 

In the meantime, we encourage everyone to get a copy of the LUB with its revisions and review ALL parts of it. Comments/concerns can be raised on any part as the entire document is up for review. Your input is valuable and necessary to develop an acceptable document.

 

Clearwater County Reserves 

At the May 26th Council meeting a statement of reserves was presented. There were 29 categories of reserves listed with year end balances for 2018 and 2019, along with projections for 2020, 2021, and 2022. As of December 31, 2018 there was $95,284,282 total reserves. An additional $6,998,086 was added in 2019 for a December 31, 2019 balance of $102,674,528. Categories of particular note are:

 

Category                 2018                2019               2020               2021                 2022 

1. Tax Rate
Stabilization     $12,000,000    $12,275,730   $12,127,240    $11,377,336      $11,377,336 

2. Nordegg
Development     $3,897,259      $3,047,782     $5,992,898      $8,654,798        $9,414,798
 
3. Fire
Facilities            $5,934,706      $2,301,156      $351,156        $201,156              $351,156

 

Questions: With significant amounts in tax rate stabilization is there a need for any taxes to increase? What are the plans to recoup some of the debt in Nordegg development costs? With the significant decrease in fire facilities reserves due to the recent/proposed builds at Leslieville and Condor, where will the money come from for Caroline or other areas if necessary?? 

 

Leslieville Public Works Building 

 Concerns still continue to be expressed on the size and scope of the proposed Leslieville Fire Hall. Plans have consistently been suggested to include either a 5 bay or 3 bay equipment area with complimentary staff space. A 5 bay apparatus area would incorporate 10,000sq. ft., a 3 bay area 6,000 sq. ft., and a two story staff area 6,000 sq. ft.. 

 

As mentioned in our April Beacon, County staff has admitted that a 5 bay facility is NOT needed, but no verified justification has been given for the necessity of the immense staff space for 11 “on call” local fire volunteers.

Recent research on Office Space Standards for employees suggested the following sized areas:

· Break area (11-20 staff): 120 sq. ft.

· Meeting and training room (20 staff): 215 sq. ft.

· Additional meeting room (20-24 staff): 480 sq. ft.

· Washroom, shower, change room (4 @ 58 sq. ft. ea.) 232 sq. ft.

· **Laundry room with 2 washers and 2 dryers 120 sq. ft.

· **Overnight accommodation for 2 120 sq. ft.

· **Storage space (10 ft. X 20 ft.) 200 sq. ft.

TOTAL 1,487 sq. ft.

*** These 3 areas were not included in standard office space but estimates have been added to accommodate fire fighter needs. Also note that the first four standards above are for full time employees.

 

With these figures in mind, why is more than 4 times that amount of space necessary in the new proposed facility at Leslieville??? “Reasons” have suggested it is for training but that was provided at Condor. A second provision of that amount of space 11km. away is NOT NECESSARY. 

 

Financial reminders: The original 2018 budget for Leslieville was $2,157,938; the 2019 cost of the Condor facility was $4,303,000; and the now current proposal for Leslieville is $5,620,000 (2.6 times the original and $1,317,000 more than Condor.) How can the expansive plans for Leslieville be even remotely supported by a Council that has suggested they value fiscal responsibility?? 

 

SUMMER SMILES: 

 What did the pig say at the beach on a hot summer’s day?? I’m bacon.

Where do cows go on their summer vacation? Moo York. 

 

Coming Events: 

 Due to Covid19 the June meeting is cancelled. We’ll keep you posted about September. Have a great summerJJ

Friday, May 1, 2020

IN THE NEWS

By Marianne Cole

FOCS Exciting news!!! 
 Friends of the Corridor Schools (a committee of dedicated young moms along with current and former teachers as well as community members) has had a very busy and exciting week. After receiving an urgent email from Wild Rose School Division last week saying they needed a Letter of Intent, by Tuesday, April 28, stipulating the desired enhancements to the proposed new schools at Leslieville and Condor along with the financial support we’d be able to provide. An online meeting of the group was quickly organized and everyone sprang into action. By the deadline we excitedly notified WRSD that we had raised $81, 355 which would then be matched by Clearwater County for a total of $162, 710!!! These extra dollars are going to provide for an enlarged gym and CTS lab at the high school at Leslieville along with kitchen facilities at the elementary school at Condor. 

We send huge thank you’s to all the people, organizations, and businesses that so generously stepped up to the plate. The group’s original fund raising activities/plans all came to an abrupt halt with Covid19 so it is absolutely amazing the results that were achieved by word of mouth and social media. 

There is still a need, however, for more financial aid and it is hoped the county and community members might continue to add their support. Information on this can be obtained from WRSD or by going on the FOCS website. 


Clearwater County Tax Rate Information 
 At their meeting on Tuesday, April 28, Clearwater County Council passed first reading of a motion that would see a 0% tax rate increase for 2020. In explanation of the tax rate bylaw it was noted that there are 4 requisition areas: 1. Provincial School Tax 2. Municipal Tax Levy 3. Senior’s Foundation and 4. Designated Industrial Property Assessment (set by the province).

The province has lowered the school requisition down to the 2019 rates. The municipal assessment for 2019-2020 has remained fairly steady so non-residential properties will see a decrease in their school requisition while residential ratepayers will remain the same or have a slight increase. Maintaining a 0% municipal tax rate would satisfy the budgeted tax revenue for this year. The Senior’s Foundation requisition saw a budgeted increase of $19, 382 so that results in a 3.2% increase in tax levy for that category.

Second and third reading of this bylaw will take place on May 12. Earlier, Council had passed a motion to delay penalty dates for unpaid taxes to November 6 (from September 16) with an 8% penalty applied then and an additional 4% on December 16 if still unpaid.


Broadband Projects 
 Discussion also took place on April 28th on the current status of improved broadband/internet service projects in the county. It was noted that Alberta Economic Development has deemed improved rural broadband service a high priority. While no definitive provincial support was mentioned, there are various federal grants that may be applied for when projects are “shovel ready”. This means that the engineering has been done and tenders are ready. Currently RFP’s for a fibre backbone to Ferrier have closed and staff will be evaluating them on April 30th. Another project in the works will provide improved service to the Condor Public Services Building and the hamlet of Condor.

Along with the expressed need for better service, Council also noted the need for public engagement on this matter. In the end, Council passed motions that direct Administration to develop a public engagement strategy along with proposed projects, including RFP’s on the Condor project. 


Leslieville Public Services Building 
 In the April 28th agenda package it was noted in the Public Works report that “The RFP for the building was advertised April 20th, 2020. Closing date for proposals is May 12th, 2020. Construction is to commence July 31st, 2020 and be completed by December 31st, 2020.” 

The proposed size and scope of the building remain a concern with comments continually being expressed about the definite lack of need for the Leslieville facility to be as large as the one at Condor. Most frequently the comments focus on the need for 6,000 sq. ft. of staff/training space when an equally large area is already available at Condor. Currently the two groups train/meet together at Condor. It is also often expressed that there is no need for 5 storage bays and this was substantiated by administration at Council’s March 24th meeting. 

Finally, it has been suggested that the 12 acres initially allotted to a training area at Leslieville could better be used for commercial development. A rather forward thinking “millennial” even suggested a mobile home park on that land would be a great use of space and a positive addition to Leslieville. 

In consideration of the fact that the RFPs close on May 12 and Council will then make their final decisions it is crucial that you let your councillors know your opinion: What are the basic needs for the facility at Leslieville: *** 5 bays vs 3 bays??? *** 6,000 sq. ft. of staff space vs something much smaller??? *** Training area in 2 places vs training in the already available space at Condor???

As mentioned above, please let your voice be heard by Council. You may also email your comments to mcmajic@telus.net or give me a call at (403)729-2493 and I will pass them on. Fiscal responsibility is even more crucial at this time.


Smiles for spring: 
What flowers grow on your face? (Tulips) 
What did the tree say to spring? (What a re-leaf!!) 

Coming Events: Due to Covid19 future CCTA meetings are cancelled.

Monday, April 6, 2020

IN THE NEWS

By Marianne Cole

Leslieville Fire Hall
 At the March 24th Council meeting Marianne Cole, on behalf of the CCTA, made a presentation to council. She reinforced the need for fiscal restraint, noting there is no need for another large facility 11 km. away from Condor. As well, she questioned the need for 6,000sq. ft. of staff/admin. space at Leslieville when there is the same amount at Condor. Currently both groups train together on a weekly basis at Condor. Furthermore, there has NEVER been any information forth-coming from a supposed “interested training facility stakeholder” and absolutely no figures on potential rental income from outside usage. Finally the need for a 5 bay facility vs. a 3 bay one was questioned and Mr. Erik Hanson, Director of Public Works Infrastructure, admitted there was no need for additional storage space at this time. 

Significant discussion took place on the matter and two motions were made:

1. Moved by Councillor Laing that Council direct Administration to re-design the fire hall proposed for the hamlet of Leslieville to be located on the newly purchased 27.43 acres and that this building with the land and site development not exceed $2.2M. (Note: The original 2018 budget was for $2.1M and the current one is for $5.1M). Motion defeated 5/2 

2. Moved by Councillor Duncan that Council direct Administration to proceed with Plan 2 which includes gathering Requests for Proposals (RFP’s) for either a 3 or 5 bay facility , along with grading for Phase 1 and 2, including the appropriate drainage and access road. (Note: Phase 1 includes the building of the fire hall and the ground work for levelling, grading, etc. for that area. Phase 2 includes the proposed training area.) Motion passed 5/2

While it would seem that the decision has been made, there is still time for public input. It will take approximately 3 weeks to get the RFP’s and another 2 weeks to evaluate them and report back to council. Council will then evaluate the information they are given and make a final motion on the scope of the Leslieville Fire Hall. The CCTA is in the process of formulating a letter to be sent to council, asking that the letter be put on the April 14th agenda. The letter will be requesting Council to delay any decision on the facility until the proposed build can be accurately assessed in light of current economic conditions. We also encourage people to call their councillor and express any concerns they may have. 


RANT It has been a long time since earlier, frequent, “rants” were included in the monthly newsletter. After the election in 2017, it seemed we had a fiscally responsible council, eager to accommodate the wishes of the people. Unfortunately, it seems that now the tables may have turned.
First of all there seems to be a real divide on Council: the experienced vs. the rookies. During the discussion re the Leslieville fire hall at the March 24th meeting the experienced focussed on financials such as: 

· Overall unnecessary size and cost.
· Lack of business plan/numbers for the proposed training facility
· Questionable need for a training facility at all at Leslieville when land and facilities are available at Condor.
· Questionable need for extra bays/storage space.
· The commitment/dedication of volunteers has nothing to do with the size of the fire hall. 

The newer councilors and CFRS staff focused more on passions with the following comments:

· Desire to make the facility more efficient as these Paid on Call volunteers are somebody’s family member and we want to make it easier for them. As such it would be better to keep the training props all in one area. (Note: There is room for that at Condor.)
· Concern that a smaller facility won’t adequately serve our fire fighters. That is not the way we support our people.
· A smaller facility undermines the level of service.
· A smaller facility might be perceived as punitive.
· There is a need to plan for the future and to build community. (Note: The population of Clearwater County has been steadily declining since 2014. The most important consideration in attracting people to an area is price of the property and being central to amenities such as schools and stores.) 

I have received numerous phone calls and emails re the unnecessary need for this large a facility in Leslieville and the seemingly irresponsible financial actions of the majority of Council, ESPECIALLY IN THESE ECONOMICALLY CHALLENGING TIMES. The following are some of the comments received:

· Who is not doing adequate research and calculations to reveal actual costs? (re. training)
· Plans to go ahead are absolutely ludicrous in this current economic situation.
· This should be tabled until we see a light at the end of the tunnel.
· What would the comparative extra cost of operating/utility cost be for a larger facility?
· If they’re so passionate about helping people, why are they proposing to inflict extra costs on the taxpayer?
· We’re being run by a ship of fools and they’re determined to sink us, especially when we hit the iceberg of desperation and we join the Titanic.
· There are too many unknowns and unanswered questions. What is going to be the contribution to land/grading by Wild Rose School Division, and the phantom 3rd party potentially involved with the training facility?
· Ultimately, it comes down to common sense vs. a questionable subjective focus; fiscal responsibility vs. unnecessary over-spending; consideration of the greater good of ALL taxpayers vs. personal glory. 

May fiscal responsibility take precedence over unfounded wishes.

Up-coming Events: APRIL MEETING CANCELLED. Potential Meeting Monday, May 11, 2020, 7:30PM

Friday, March 27, 2020

BURNING ISSUES RE PROPOSED LESLIEVILLE FIRE HALL

By Marianne Cole

On Tuesday, March 24, 2020, Marianne Cole, on behalf of the Clearwater County Taxpayers’ Association, made a presentation to Clearwater County Council on the proposed plans for the new fire hall at Leslieville.

Originally this current council passed a motion in August of 2018 to build a 10,000 sq. ft., 5 bay facility at Condor for $4M; and an 8,950 sq. ft., 3 bay facility in Leslieville for $2.1M. 

Condor’s facility was completed in 2019. It sits on 8 acres of land and includes 10,000sq. ft. storage space (3 apparatus bays and 2 public works/ag.service bays) and 6,000 sq. ft. admin./staff space. 

Recent plans have seen a drastic change in the plans for Leslieville and a dramatic increase in costs:

1. Purchase of 27.43 acres of land for $365,000, to be allocated as follows: 
  a. fire hall building site, parking area and fire pond = 7.25 acres; 
  b. future training area, including fire training tower = 12 acres; 
  c. future parks and sports field = 8.18 acres. 

2. Site design/construction = $1, 056,000

3. Building = $3, 529, 000 (5 bay) and $3, 160,000 (3 bay)

4. Equipment = $170,000

5. TOTAL COST = $5, 120,000 (2.6 times greater than the original budget and $1, 317,000 more than Condor) Note: Not included in that figure is $500,000 for the training facility in 2021.

SERIOUS CONCERNS

Justification of need for another large facility when a smaller one would suffice.

The need for two facilities in such close proximity---11km. apart. Other areas of the county are much farther away from ANY fire hall. 

The need for a training facility when there is one in Red Deer that local fire fighters can access at a cost of $4800/yr. No need to spend $500,000 on a facility here. 

The complete lack of figures/business plan related to the training facility. 

The need for another 6,000 sq. ft. of staff/admin space in Leslieville when there is that much in Condor.

THE MOST CRUCIAL NEED TO BE FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE IN THIS CURRENT ECONOMIC SITUATION. The County is currently owed $6M in tax arrears for 2019. 

Significant discussion by council followed the presentation and it was clearly evident that there was a divide on council--- the experienced vs. the rookies. The experienced councillors (Duncan, Vandermeer and Laing), most notably Vandermeer, expressed distinct concern for the definite need for figures related to the training facility along with the questionable need for over-spending on a large facility. The newer councillors (Laird, Lougheed, Hoven, and Swanson), along with county staff, focussed more on the emotional passions of ensuring support for our volunteers who willingly give of their time. 

In the end, two motions were made: 

1. Moved by Councillor Laing that council direct administration to re-design the fire hall for the hamlet of Leslieville, to be located on the newly purchased 27.43 acres of land and that this building with the land and site development not exceed $2.2M. DEFEATED 5/2 

2. Moved by Councillor Laird that council advise administration to proceed with Plan 2 which includes tender grading plan for Phase 1 and advertising for an RFP for the Leslieville Public Services Building as described including a 3 or 5 bay option. PASSED 5/2 

The timeline for the gathering of information and making of a final decision is about 5 weeks--- 3 weeks for advertising/receipt of RFP’s and 2 weeks for their evaluation and bringing the results back to council for approval. 

Currently the CCTA is discussing further plans and options to encourage citizen engagement that would ensure council makes the most financially responsible decision, reflective of resident wishes. We would love to hear your comments and concerns. You may reply to this website or send an email to mcmajic@telus.net.

IT IS ALL OF OUR TAX DOLLARS AT STAKE

Sunday, March 1, 2020

IN THE NEWS


Leslieville Fire Hall 
Concerns continue to be expressed over the plans and lack of information being provided to the taxpayers on the scope of this project.
At the February 9th CCTA meeting there was significant discussion on the matter and we were very happy to have 6 councillors in attendance to not only hear taxpayer concerns but also to share what information they could.
It was suggested that we organize a meeting so that information and concerns could be more widely addressed. Reeve Tim Hoven suggested that the county could host such an event and we graciously thanked him for the offer.
When the notice appeared in the February 19th Western Star for an “Open House” at the Leslieville Fire Hall we were distinctly disappointed with the format for the following reasons:

At an Open House people come and go so not everyone is present at the same time to hear the information offered or the questions asked/responses given.

Furthermore, people can talk to/question different “presenters” and get different, potentially conflicting information.

If the intent of hosting the event at the fire hall was to allow people to see the “state” of the facility, the equipment should be in there for an accurate picture of the crowded size, and then where would there be room for people to gather or information to be presented?

Having the most important part of the evening, the “presentation” at 6:00PM is definitely an inconvenient time. People are just arriving home from work and/or having supper. Also, wouldn’t it be more beneficial to see the fire hall before the presentation??

Finally, the last concern was over inadequate parking.

These concerns/frustrations were immediately voiced with members of council and administration. We were subsequently informed that the format would be changed. There would be a tour of the fire hall first, followed by a meeting at the Elk’s Hall. Consequently, we put together a page of information to be published in the February 26th edition of the Western Star so people could have some background information before the meeting. In the interest of transparency, and so those involved in hosting the event could have more prep time, a copy of this information was emailed to both council and administration on Friday, February 21. 

Ads then appeared in both The Mountaineer and Western Star advertising an “Open House” on March 5th with a “Presentation” at 6:00PM at the Elks’ Hall followed by a “Tour” of the fire hall at 7:00PM. This is a complete reversal of the information we received regarding the format and we definitely question its effectiveness with only a 1 hour presentation and the tour to follow. Our most sincere hope is that the “presentation” might allow for more time for citizen engagement/questions to adequately occur. 

Partnerships 
Words have been floating around about County partnerships with Wild Rose School Division and an “unnamed” private company for “opportunities” on the newly purchased land/proposed Fire Hall. Unfortunately no concrete information has been available to date.
With the extensive amount of land purchased (27+ acres), it seems possible that the partnership with WRSD might involve future consideration for recreation fields (ball diamonds, track, soccer pitch, etc.). Such a partnership is certainly commendable.

The other option, a partnership with a “private company” for a potential fire fighter training facility leads to more questions. Who is the company? Why have they not come forward with their vision? What is the need?

Currently there is a quality training facility in Red Deer which our volunteer fire fighters access about 3 times per year. There is a rental fee for its use and attempts have been made to gather information on that cost but it was unavailable at time of printing. Hopefully we will have it for sharing at the March 5th meeting.

In the meantime, questions abound on the necessity/viability of such a facility with very limited use. Comments have been made that we could rent it out to other fire fighter groups but, with a centrally located option at Red Deer, who would travel out to Leslieville?? If this private facility become non-viable, who would be responsible/accept the future operating costs??? 

A LOT OF UNANSWERED QUESTIONS REMAIN. WE ENCOURAGE EVERYONE TO ATTEND THE MEETING AT THE ELKS’ HALL AT 6:00PM ON MARCH 5TH.
 
Smiles for March: 
Why do leprechauns love to garden? They have green thumbs.
Why shouldn’t you borrow money from a leprechaun? They are always a little short.

Coming Events:
 Clearwater Rural Crime Annual Meeting, Monday, March 2, 2020, 7:00PM Leslieville Community Hall 

 Clearwater County Information Open House re Fire Hall, Thursday, March 5, 2020, 6:00PM, Leslieville Elks’ Hall 

 Clearwater County Taxpayers’ Association regular monthly meeting, Monday, March 9, 2020, 7:30PM, Arbutus Community Hall

Friday, February 14, 2020

Email To Clearwater County Council



Hi all,
The link below is to the Strategic Planning Session on January 20 with video in regards to the proposed RFP for a new Leslievile fire hall:  
https://clearwatercounty.civicweb.net/document/8628?splitscreen=true&media=true

I would suggest that you watch it because it reveals the power of the new technology that you have introduced into council chambers.
Your body language can be examined in detail by any observer.
So, now you are like athletes on the world stage 🙂

Anyway, if you reflect on this footage, I think it is pretty obvious that things have moved sideways with two fire halls proposed with a price tag of some $10 million
virtually side by side serving about one third of the county population.

Need I say more?

Regards,
Helge