Tuesday, January 8, 2019

HIGHLIGHTS OF COUNTY COUNCIL MEETING , January 8, 2019

By Marianne Cole

Presentation by FCSS
 Andrea Vassallo, Manager of Clearwater Regional Family and Community Support Services outlined the numerous programs they coordinate for the benefit of residents of the town of Rocky, Clearwater County and the village of Caroline. Funding for these activities and the various community organizations they provide support for is provided on an 80-20% basis with 80% of the funding coming from the province. Three of the priorities they deal with are mental illness, poverty, and affordable housing. There are also several activities/programs for seniors, single newcomers to the area, and the youth. Councillor Laing, council’s representative on FCSS, noted that there are also more outreach programs for the outlying areas being recently organized as well.

Presentation by Wildrose School Division
 Several representatives from the Wildrose School Division came to give council an update on the plans for the Corridor Schools Capital Plan. Plans are to up-grade the Condor School to accommodate K to 6 classes. New information was provided that would see a replacement of the Leslieville School for Grades 7-12. The timeline was uncertain but hopes are to receive confirmation of the projects early this spring and have construction completed by September 2021. The funding “formula” provided for by the province was explained and it was noted that the province covers only the very basic funding for facilities based on per student populations. Extra gym size/features (room for bleaches, stage, etc.) must be covered by the local school division. Councillors brought up various concerns such as the Leslieville playground, skating rink, parking, water/sewer, and school track/field. It was also noted how the “extras” for the new school in Irma (Buffalo Trails School Division) was supported by both community funding and the Wainwright Municipality.

Presentation by Monica Ahlstrom and Kyle Wadden from Ahlstrom Air
Monica outlined the very distinct contributions Ahlstrom Air (stationed out of Nordegg) makes to the West Country and the significant concern over what may happen with the government’s proposal of establishing the Bighorn Wildland Park. Ahlstrom Air is a highly used “on demand” business and with the proposed new legislation, helicopters will be severely restricted in what they are allowed to do/where they may go. Permits will be required and this can take several days to get. An example was provided of the significantly greater cost of fighting the Nordegg area fire in 2013 where a permit was required and if immediate action could have taken place hundreds of thousands of dollars could have been saved. It was also noted that the government had announced in the Legislature that a supportive letter had been received from Clearwater County. Monica happened to be in the Legislature that day and heard that comment but, having seen the letter, knew it was an unbiased one asking for information. More discussion with Ahlstrom Air was going to take place in camera.

Presentation by Missing Link Internet
 Andrew Van Dirstein, Craig Bondy, and Phil Swanson with Missing Link Internet made a presentation which outlined the history of the organization and their efforts to provide improved broadband service. MLI is an amalgamation of Harewaves and Pure High Speed and all the partners have had significant experience with internet service provision. They mentioned their frustrations with trying to get both improved wireless service as well as fibre connectivity. Further discussion on how the county could become involved was going to take place in camera.

(Other items on the agenda included the Visitor Information Centre Agreement with the Town of Rocky and the Rocky Mtn. House Lagoon Summary Report, December 2018.)

Thursday, January 3, 2019

IN THE NEWS


Proposed Bighorn Wildland Park
As you may have heard, our NDP government is proposing major changes to our very important West Country. The area involved in this proposal stretches from Sundre to Drayton Valley along the eastern slopes of the Rockies. Included in the plan is the creation of one new Wildland Park, three new Provincial Parks, four new Provincial Recreation Areas, one new PLUZ (Public Land Use Zone) where there are currently six, and an amendment to the Kiska-Wilson PLUZ. These changes will severely impact all current users---hunters, trappers, grazing lease holders, equine users, guiders/outfitters, campers, snowmobilers, and off highway vehicle users. The changes have been fueled by input from such groups as the Alberta Hiking Association, Y2Y (Yellowstone to Yukon) and CPAWS (Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society). These organizations have largely urban oriented membership and directors, with the latter two (especially Y2Y) getting significant American input and funding.

“Public engagement” opportunity has been provided by the provincial government with public meetings held earlier in the year as well as currently. At these meetings significant opposition has been expressed but one is left to wonder if the voice of the people will actually be heard or if these “opportunities” are merely for show.
So, what can we do??? First of all you are encouraged to:

* A. Write to the following: Our MLA Jason Nixon; Shannon Phillips, Minister of Alberta Environment and Parks; and Todd Loewen, the Opposition Environment Critic. (You are welcome to phone Marianne for email addresses or mailing addresses for these people.

* B. Attend one of the following meetings if you can: Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, 6:00PM-9:00PM, McKenzie Conference Centre, 5745-45Ave. , Drayton Valley; Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, 6:00PM-9:00PM, German Canadian Club, 38167-RR 280, Red Deer; Monday, January 14, 2019, 4:00PM-9:00PM, Sundre Community Center, #3, 96-2 Ave., NW, Sundre; Tuesday, January 15, 2019, 4:00PM-9:00PM, Radisson Edmonton South, 4440 Gateway Boulevard, Edmonton.
(Note: The CCTA is looking into organizing a bus to go to the meeting in Edmonton so that our rural voice might be heard. Keep posted for further info.)

* C. Check out the information on the “Bighorn Wildland Park” website as well as information on Alberta Environment and Parks website



County Budget County
Council approved their 2019 budget at a special meeting on December 17th. According to a News Release on December 18th, “The 2019 operating budget includes revenues of $51, 275, 519 and expenses of $52, 020,916. The capital budget includes
revenues of $12, 994, 121 and expenses of $42, 411, 427.” Compared to the 2018 budget the predicted revenues are up 10.6% and expenses are up 28%. In order to create a balanced budget $15, 613, 701 will be transferred from reserves. Some of the main expenses include gravel road improvements/grading, bridge repairs, water & sewer upgrades, Clearwater Broadband, and the Condor Public Services Building. Tax rates will be established in the New Year.


CCTA AGM
The Clearwater County Taxpayers’ Association Annual General Meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 8, 2019 at Arbutus Community Hall at 7:30PM. This will include election of officers and we certainly welcome/encourage new members to join us as we work for the common good of taxpayers in our county. At this meeting we will also be discussing what we can do as an organization with the Bighorn Wilderness issue.



ROSES
Special roses are being sent this month to all those involved with our county operations, right from those “out in the field”, to those in the offices, and to our councillors. So often they are at the receiving end of people’s frustrations and only hear the negative. While we may not always agree, I really do think we have a lot to be thankful for in our area so we are sending Happy New Year wishes along with bouquets of roses to all those involved in making this county a great place to call home.



COMING EVENTS
Tuesday, January 8, 2019, 7:30PM, Annual General Meeting, Arbutus Community Hall;

Tuesday, February 12, 2019, 7:30PM, Regular Monthly Meeting, Arbutus Community Hall

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Clearwater County Press Release

Approved 2019 Operating and Capital Plans
(Rocky Mountain House, AB) – Following a three-day period of budget deliberations, Clearwater County Council approved the 2019-2021 Operating and 2019-2028 Capital Plans in a special meeting held December 17, 2018. These plans include approved operating and capital budgets for 2019.

The operating and capital plans maintain the core services that enhance Clearwater County residents’ quality of life, and addresses investments in infrastructure with a strong emphasis on economic development. The 2019 operating budget includes revenues of $51,275,519 and expenses of $52,050,916. The capital budget includes revenues of $12,994,121 and expenditures of $42,411,427. 

In the interest of greater financial transparency, amortization has been included in operating expenses within the 2019 budget. Amortization, or depreciation, represents the portion of the County’s capital assets expected to have been used up in delivering services over the course of the next fiscal year. As amortization does not involve an outflow of cash to the organization, the budgeted cost of amortization is added back later within the financial plan. These costs have always been included within the County’s financial plans but have not been as clearly identified. The approved 2018 budget has also been reformatted to provide consistency with the 2019 presentation.

"A balanced budget is essential to municipal governments’ fiscal responsibility,” said Reeve Jim Duncan. "Our job as Council is to ask questions and make tough decisions to ensure Clearwater County remains competitive and sustainable for long-term growth and development.”

Council debated a long list of capital projects, from roads to broadband and utilized reserves to fund priority projects and to balance the current years’ budget and future year projections. Some of the key initiatives include gravel road rehabilitation ($5.0M), grading projects ($1.5M), bridge repairs ($3.9M), water and sewer upgrades ($2.3M), Clearwater Broadband ($15.0M of which $8.0M is expected to come from provincial and federal grants), and the construction of the Condor Public Services Building to house the Condor Fire Hall ($3.8M) along with the Leslieville Fire Hall upgrades ($2.2M) expected to commence in 2020. 

Other notable adjustments to the County’s 2019 budget include the deferral of the Taimi Road paving project to 2020 to allow the material in the coulee to settle and the surfaced road infrastructure time to solidify.

Reeve Duncan continued by saying that, "paving projects and road network maintenance will continue to be a priority for this Council.” 

Council’s 2019 Budget had many adjustments from the organizational restructure in previous year, which was reflected in reallocation of funds from one cost centre to another.   

For more information on County budget or projects underway, please contact the Clearwater County office at 403-845-4444.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

NO MORE MR. NICE GUY

BY BARRY HOLLAND


You are invited to an informative evening presentation by Mr. Holland as he addresses issues related to rural and community crime.

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2018
7:00PM, LESLIEVILLE COMMUNITY HALL

Mr. Holland has long advocated for members of the public, as good citizens, to stand up against criminals and look out for each other. The author of the book, “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, Mr. Holland will address the legal, practical and tactical approach to keep your family and property safe from criminals.

The informative evening is organized by the Clearwater County Taxpayers’ Association in celebration of their 5th Anniversary. Come and enjoy an informative session on a very important current issue.

$10.00 cover charge.
Refreshments will be served

IN THE NEWS


New Reeve
Clearwater County Council held their annual reorganizational meeting on Tuesday, October 23rd. The first item on the agenda was the selection of reeve. Councillor Laing nominated John Vandermeer, citing his dedication and community efforts as commendable attributes. Councillor Swanson nominated Jim Duncan, citing the need for succession planning. In a secret ballot vote, Councillor Duncan was elected reeve. Subsequent to that, in nominations for deputy reeve, Councillor Laird and Councillor Vandermeer faced off with Councillor Vandermeer declared Deputy Reeve.

Condor Fire Hall
Questions and phone calls have recently been received regarding the cost of building the new fire hall in Condor. As reported in The Mountaineer and in the county newsletter, the cost for the new public services/fire hall building is estimated at $4.0 million. Well known and highly respected local businessman, Merv Pidherney has invited county administration to come and see his facility at Blackfalds for a comparison. It is similar in size but was constructed at a considerably less cost. We trust that the invitation might be accepted and new insight gained.

SDAB Hearing
A public hearing on the Appeal of the Development Permit for a Cannabis Production Facility was held on Tuesday, October 16. The decision was just made public on Tuesday, October 30th and the SDAB members consisting of Dick Wymenga, Chuck Shipley, and Murray Welch rejected the appeal, thereby allowing Element GP Inc. out of Calgary to proceed with their development plans for the James River area. Adjacent neighbors made a very strong presentation at the hearing, citing several contraventions of the Municipal Development Plan and the Land Use Bylaw, as well as the negative affects on the area. What really “muddied the waters”, however, was the recent Land Use Bylaw amendment brought forward by planning at the end of August and passed by council on October 9th. This action took place after Element had submitted their development permit in mid-August and MPC considered the application on September 12th. Following MPC’s approval the adjacent neighbors submitted their Notice of Appeal on October 3rd, noting, among other things the contravention of the Land Use Bylaw in effect at that time. The October 9th amendment by council, however, changed the wording in the original bylaw, making the set-back restrictions much more favorable for Element. Legal opinion varied as to which bylaw should be the guiding document in SDAB’s decision. Unfortunately, Planning’s over-zealous attempt to push the amendment through while the permit process was enroute has given the adjacent neighbors a “life sentence”.


Roses 
A bouquet of roses goes out this month to Councillor John Vandermeer for his most dedicated efforts as Reeve for the past year. His enthusiasm, knowledge, and experience were outstanding qualities that our county certainly benefitted from and we say a huge thank you for all you have done, not only as Reeve this past year, but also your years as councillor.


Coming Events:
Thursday, November 8, 2018, 7:00PM, Leslieville Community Hall. Guest speaker, Barry Holland

TUESDAY, JANUARY 8, 2019, 7:30pm, Arbutus Community Hall, AGM

Note: As of January, our regular monthly meetings will be switching to the second Tuesday of the month.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

IN THE NEWS


Community Peace Officer Program
At County Council meeting on Tuesday, September 25th, Council reviewed the CPO report and program including statistics and operation. Currently there are 3.5 CPO positions as council had voted in January not to hire for the 5th, vacant position. Instead they had directed Administration to review the impacts of the reduction in positions. The report was presented and council has now directed Administration to bring back the 5th position as part of the 2019 budget discussions.

Bylaw Amendment Hearing
Clearwater County Council will be addressing an amendment to their “Cannabis Retail Sales & Cannabis Production Facilities” Bylaw at a Public Hearing on Tuesday, October 9, 2018 at 9:00AM in Council Chambers. This hearing comes following a July 24th hearing that dealt with Element GP Inc.’s proposal to establish a cannabis production facility along Hwy. 22 about halfway between Caroline and Sundre. During that hearing it was noted that this development contravened the set-back restrictions written in the Cannabis Bylaw established by this council in March 2018.

Consequently, on August 28, the Planning Department brought forward proposed amendments to that Land Use Bylaw. Council then proceeded to pass First Reading of the amendments and scheduled a Public Hearing for October 9th, prior to passing 2nd and 3rd reading.

The contentious part of the original bylaw was the part where it stated, “All cannabis production facilities applying for a development permit on an industrial parcel not located within a business park must be located outside a 300m. radius from a property boundary that has any of the following attributes…” . The attributes include a residence, school, church, recreation facility, etc..

The new proposed amendment will remove the words, “a property boundary that has ”. This effectively permits a cannabis operation to be much closer to the above mentioned facilities, allowing it to go almost anywhere in the rural part of the county.

By comparison, neighboring counties with already established bylaws on this are much more restrictive. Red Deer and Mountain View Counties allow cannabis production facilities only in business or industrial parks. In Ponoka County any cannabis related development is under “Direct Control”---dealt with by council directly. Lacombe and Brazeau are in the process of developing their bylaws on this matter.

These cannabis production facilities are normally large (55,000 Sq. Ft. plus) facilities with accompanying traffic, noise, lighting, odor, and security concerns. We encourage everyone to express their opinion on where you feel they should be allowed. Call your councillor. Write a letter/e-mail regarding your opinion. ABOVE ALL, TRY TO COME TO THE PUBLIC HEARING ON OCTOBER 9TH.



RANT
It is particularly disturbing to me that a very pro-active, reasonable, justifiable Land Use Bylaw established by this council, is now being considered for amendment…all because the current wording would prevent a company out of Calgary from establishing a large marijuana “grow-op” in their chosen location, though it has been suggested they would be welcome in any of the industrial parks in the county. There has been significant opposition expressed by residents in the area and the current bylaw provided them with valid grounds for fighting the development.

However, in the proposed amendment the restrictive words would be deleted allowing this company, and potentially any others, to establish anywhere they wish in the county.

Throughout each of the development steps to date, the concerns of the adjoining neighbors as well as other residents of the county have gone unheeded…all in the face of “economic development”. The comments/concerns from long-standing, honorable taxpayers/supporters of this county have been completely ignored in favor of an unknown, unproven, upstart company heralding large financial benefit.

It reminds me of the age old saying, “The love of money is the root of all evil.”

Coming Events:
October 9, 2018, 9:00AM, Public Hearing, Council Chambers

October 11, 2018, 7:30PM, Regular CCTA Monthly Meeting, Arbutus Hall

November 8, 2018, 8:00PM, Leslieville Community Hall, Special Event Speaker on Rural Crime Issues

Thursday, September 13, 2018

IN THE NEWS

Element GP Inc Cannabis Production Facility 
 Clearwater County Council has taken the first step to allow Element GP Inc., out of Calgary, to establish a major cannabis production facility approximately ½ mile north of the junction of SH 587 (the Bowden Road) and Hwy. 22. On July 24, council passed a motion to allow approximately 40 acres to be re-designated from Agriculture to Light Industrial.
On August 17th Element submitted a development permit application for their proposed 58,600 SQ. FT cannabis cultivation and extraction facility to be erected on this re-designated land. That application will now be assessed/evaluated by the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC) at a meeting that must be held within 40 days of the application submission.
Interestingly, this development does not comply with the Land Use Bylaw passed by this council in March. The stumbling block is the 300m. setback restriction from a “property boundary” that has a residence and/or other noted facilities. To counter that, Council passed first reading, on August 28th, to revise the original LUB and remove the words “property boundary” so the setback would merely state “300m. from a residence”, etc..
A public hearing on this matter will be held on October 9, to be followed potentially by second and third reading. The questions remain for MPC, “Will/Can they allow the development permit in spite of the current LUB? Will they turn it down, as they should, given the current restrictions?? Or Will they postpone a decision until after the October 9th public hearing??
Approximately 50 people attended the public hearing in July to voice their unanimous opposition to the building of this facility.


Leslieville/Condor Fire Halls
 At their regular council meeting on August 28th, Council accepted information and directed administration to proceed with gathering more figures and specific information on the development of these two facilities. Current plans propose a new Public Services Building for Condor and a re-purposed Public Works building for an enlarged/improved facility in Leslieville. The total cost of the two facilities is approximately $6,000,000. Discussion took place on how costs might be trimmed, with administration to come back with answers to that. The Condor project is slated to commence in 2019 and the Leslieville one in 2020.


Broadband Improvements
 Council is proposing to submit a resolution to the fall convention of the Rural Municipalities Association requesting that organization urge the provincial and federal governments to support and fund improved internet service to rural areas. Council will be seeking support for their resolution from other rural municipalities.


ROSES
 Special bouquets of roses goes out to members of our Clearwater Regional Fire Rescue Services who have gone to help fight fires in B.C.. Not only do we appreciate all their efforts and dedicated service here but we applaud their willingness to share their energies with our neighbors in their significant struggles.


Coming Events
September 13, 2018, 7:30PM, Arbutus Community Hall, Regular monthly meeting 

October 9, 2018, Clearwater Council Chambers, Public Hearing re Land Use Bylaw on Cannabis 
Production AND Retail Facilities. (TIME TO BE ANNOUNCED)

October 11, 2019, 7:30 PM, Arbutus Community Hall, Regular monthly meeting