Friday, July 20, 2018

Letter to Mountaineer Editor

Dear Editor,

I would like to make some follow up comments on your editorial in the July 17 edition titled "No more land bets for Clearwater County". At the conclusion of the article you state: "Clearwater County needs to develop a clear eyed plan for its future facilities, then stick to it"

In a democratic world, very hard to implement and not necessarily desirable.

At the last election, four new councillors came on board, replacing the previous dominant four, including the Reeve and Deputy Reeve. Following the installation of the new council a number of senior staff members left their employment with the County, or were made redundant in organizational changes.

The incoming council set a new direction for the county by scrapping the  $30 million development plan for new facilities north of Rocky and redirecting its attention towards improved internet service for county residents. More money was also made available for paving of county roads.

From my perspective, these are positive developments and should be commended.

Another planning area which Council needs to revisit is the Nordegg development plan which is pretty well stalled at this time due to lack of public interest in buying land within the town site. Hopefully, county residents will be engaged in reviewing this plan in the near future.

Helge Nome

Thursday, July 19, 2018

PUBLIC HEARING NOTICE

By Marianne Cole

 A Public Hearing will be held on Tuesday, July 24, 2018 at 9:00AM in County Council Chambers. The key points for the hearing are:

  To hear the proposal to re-designate 40 acres of land from agricultural to light industrial. Element GP Inc. is proposing to construct a 55,000 sq. ft. cannabis (marijuana) production facility on the property. This property is located along Hwy. 22, just north of SH587 (the Bowden Road), on the west side of the road.

 CONCERNS 
  Earlier Clearwater County passed a Land Use Bylaw that stated, “Clearwater County should direct cannabis production facilities to locate in a business park.” The Bylaw, however, does allow for such operations as a “Discretionary Use” on land zoned, “ Light Industrial”, hence the proposal for rezoning.

  In that Land Use Bylaw it also states in Section 7 that “All cannabis production facilities applying for a development permit on an industrial parcel not located within a business park, must be located outside of a 300m. radius from a property boundary that has any of the following attributes: (a) an existing residence.” The rezoned land would create a property boundary between it and the remainder of the land (with 2 residences on it) that falls within the above 300m. radius. Furthermore, immediately to the east across Hwy. 22 there is a property boundary that falls within the 300m. radius.

  The county has, itself spent money on developing an industrial park in Caroline and it would seem fiscally responsible to encourage new businesses to establish there. The Caroline business park would also be seemingly more accessible, being located on a highway leading directly to the Hwy 2 corridor.

  There are also other available industrial lots in the Pidherney’s Industrial Park along Hwy. 11 as well as Metal Dog Industrial Park north of Rocky on Airport Road. (Note: Developing in a business park requires a set-back restriction of only 50m radius from a property with an existing residence.)
  The County’s Municipal Development Plan states, “Clearwater County shall consider agriculture as the primary land use within the County.” The MDP also states, “Public input during the preparation of this plan clearly indicated the conservation of agricultural land and water as especially important to the residents of the County.”

  To re-designate 40 acres of agricultural land to industrial goes against the values in the above statements.

  Allowing this re-designation opens the door to innumerable other applications and the possibility of cannabis production facilities all across the county, a serious issue the county was trying to avoid with the earlier passing of their Land Use Bylaw and its definitely positive restrictions.

 In conclusion, there is also concern over the integrity/honesty/credibility of Element GP Inc. Upon researching info on this company I found the following: “Element GP Inc. (ELEMENT Cannabis Group) is a new cannabis producer and supplier who is building a high technology, micro-climate controlled, vertical grow, cultivation and extraction facility locate approximately 15km. north of Sundre, Alberta” How can they be advertising, on social media, that they are building a facility when there hasn’t been either a re-designation of the property or an approved development permit???

 ENCOURAGEMENT 
  PLEASE, if you have time and opportunity, check out the county website (Council Agendas) for the complete agenda package/info for the hearing on Tuesday. Please call if you need help or want more info. (Marianne at (403)729-2493) You may also want to google Element GP Inc. for more info as well.

 If possible, COME to the hearing and/or send your comments/concerns to: Rick Emmons, Chief Administrative Officer, Clearwater County, Box 550, Rocky Mtn. House, T4T 1A4; OR email Rick at remmons@clearwatercounty.ca, OR drop off your letter at the county office prior to Tuesday. Anyone can make a presentation/read their concerns at the hearing.

  PASS this information on to any of your friends or those involved with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Voice Your Opinion Rocky.

 HAVE A GREAT REMAINING SUMMER AND THE CCTA WILL BE BACK ON TRACK IN SEPTEMBER

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”.