Sunday, December 18, 2016

Clearwater County Council 2017 Budget Sessions Notes

by Helge Nome

I attended two full day 2017 Budget presentation sessions to Council held on December 14 and 16. The public was invited to attend but no printed or electronic information was made available, including a agenda. The only visual information observed were spreadsheets presented on projector screens. 
So, apart from listening to what was said by staff and councillors, rough notes could only be taken on the fly.

No motions of any kind were advanced or voted on during the two days, however, Councillor Maki in particular expressed concern over proposed increases in spending in most departments. Late on Friday afternoon, it was decided to call another meeting this Monday, December 19 in order to come to some kind of resolution. CAO Leaf suggested that Council might choose to run with an interim budget based on 2016 numbers, as important decisions over 2017 spending need to be made by Council in the first quarter of that year.

I will not quote any numbers in this article for the simple reason that no printed information was made available and any numbers in this article could easily be disputed without information to back them up.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Clearwater County Council Meeting Notes

by Helge Nome

Delegations make attendance at County Council meetings interesting for observers.
That was the case on December 13 when three people from the Cartier Creek subdivision along the Red Deer River south west of Sundre brought their concerns over encroachments by neighbours onto Municipal Reserve land adjacent to the subdivision to the attention of Council.
Jo and Glenn Allen and Stephen Kenny, using a photo and map presentation format showed how several river front lot owners have placed permanent structures between their properties and the river bank, effectively preventing the public from walking along the bank. The group appealed to Council to take decisive action on this issue.

Michelle Swanson and Bob Haagsma from the Clearwater Broadband Foundation, which is now a registered not for profit Society, presented a case for municipal support for their project which seeks to provide affordable broadband internet service to all residents in Clearwater County. Council was told that some 200 memberships at $20 each had been sold to local people in the last few days indicating a latent demand for this service.
Council decided to direct staff to work with the Clearwater Broadband Foundation to initiate a broadband project in 2017.

Clearwater County now has an interim Fire Chief who was presented to Council. He is Jesse Kurtz, a retired Deputy Fire Chief with many years of service from Southern Alberta, who has now taken on the duties of Cammie Laird who resigned from her post a short while ago.

Bob Winship, Pembina Timberlands Forest Resources Manager for Weyerhaeuser gave an update on company activities in the area. He noted that a new approach will be used in consulting with the general public, moving away from standing committees towards individuals.

Council accepted as information a closeout report on the planned new administration building and operations facility north of Rocky. Preliminary earth work has now been completed and further work will depend on Council approval for the next stage. Meanwhile, decisions in regards to the use, or otherwise, of services, like water and sewer, etc. from the Town of Rocky Mountain House, will have to be made.

A discussion on West Country Management took place where concerns were aired over the possibility of a Provincial Park being created, replacing the current PLUZ
(Public Land Use Zone) designations, potentially causing problems for people who make their living in the west country and so possibly limiting County revenues as well.

For a number of years, the Sundre Fire Dept. has been the first responder to calls from the James River area of Clearwater County. Based on a recommendation from Clearwater Fire and Rescue, this responsibility was transferred to the Caroline Fire Station

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Clearwater Coiunty Council Meeting Notes

by Helge Nome

Four delegations presented their cases at the regular meeting on November 22. County involvement in internet service to local residents was also discussed.

Members of an Agriculture Recreation Committee made a case for a recreational complex to be constructed on the newly acquired county lands near the Rocky airport. The total cost of the project is estimated at $22 million with approximately one half of the money potentially coming from municipal sources. Art Terpsma presented the case for a facility with a number of other people interested in the project in attendance. Reeve Alexander responded by advising the committee to broaden its base of community support for the complex before the County would become actively involved. Council did, however, carry a motion to make its airport  lands available as a potential site.

David Gummer, Wildlife Biologist with Parks Canada, made a presentation on the planned re-introduction of bison into the Banff National Park. 16 animals will be moved from Elk Island National Park into a controlled area on the eastern slopes of the Rockies in the Banff park for a trial period of 5 years.

Don Livingston and Ed Van Heeren made the case for County support for the Rocky Mountain House Search and Rescue group in its upcoming 2017 budget.
The group is a registered society and has entered into a cooperative relationship with the municipally controlled Clearwater Regional Emergency Management Agency. It has a broad volunteer base and is looking to replace capital equipment and upgrade skills and equipment to be able to participate in helicopter rescue operations.

The County is increasingly being asked to give financial support to local volunteer groups. This trend was affirmed by a delegation from the Prairie Creek Memorial Cemetery Association who asked for some $7,000 to $10,000 to replace a gate and fencing around the cemetery. Reeve Alexander said that the request would be considered during the 2017 budget deliberations. A related issue came up shortly afterwards in regards to the costs of demolishing the Taimi Hall which came in at $73,405; 33,405 over budget due to the need to dispose of asbestos in the debris.

The County’s electronic information system is in very poor health. This became evident during a presentation by Corporate Services Manager Rodney Boyko when he requested an amount of $50,000 over and above budgeted costs to deal with ongoing problems. The request was granted.

The broadband internet issue was back on the agenda with Community and Protective Services Manager Ted Hickey resubmitting a previously tabled item:
 “Broadband Request for Proposal - Focused Study Area”. After a good amount of discussion where previously held positions and beliefs were restated, it was resolved to release the full text of the TaylorWarwick Broadband Internet Study to the public. The agenda item under discussion was re-tabled until the next regular meeting.

Finally, on a positive note, Public Works Manager Marshall Morton reported that a tender for asphalt overlay of 22 km of the Prairie Creek Road  came in  $1 million below the estimated cost of $3.9 million. Good deal!

Friday, November 11, 2016


By Marianne Cole

The Annual General Meeting of the Clearwater County Taxpayers Association was held on Thursday, November 10 in Leslieville with 34 people in attendance.  Highlights of the meeting were as follows:
 Year in Review  Great response has been received from county residents with our efforts to gather their opinion and keep them informed of happenings in the county.  Highlights include:

Our taxpayer survey in February
The Wrap (four page cover) on the Western Star advertising the county building plans and the open house held at Dovercourt in May

Our latest information page in the Western Star where we presented information on the county survey taking place along with financial charts from the 2015 audited financial statement on taxes, expenses, and the CAO salary.

We certainly thank everyone who has attended our meetings, gave us verbal or written commendations, and above all, provided super financial support to allow us to publicize the information we have in our efforts to keep taxpayers informed.

 Elections  First we certainly thank our past executive and board members for their dedicated efforts as they now step down:  Helge Nome as Vice President, Sharon Rubeling as Treasurer, and Jack Leslie as Director.

We welcome, and thank, the following their interest by allowing their name to stand for office:
(new members are highlighted)
President--- Marianne Cole
Vice President--- Dan Warkentin
Secretary--- Susan Durand
Treasurer---Pat Butler
Board Members--- Ken Qually, Jim Foesier, Trish Bingham, Al Gaetz, and Larry Titford.
We look forward to continuing our efforts to keep county residents informed on county issues and work on their behalf.

Presentation by MLA Jason Nixon Our MLA, Jason Nixon, gave an excellent presentation on various provincial and local issues of importance to us.  These included: the Carbon Tax, Bill 6, the NDP proposal to Cap the Oil Sands, linear taxation pooling, the helipad-water tower fiasco in Rocky, and the need for a new hospital in Rocky.  He did a great job of providing information and addressing concerns.  With regards to the Carbon Tax he mentioned that he will have copies of the petition against the Carbon Tax in his office LIKELY NEXT WEEK. PLEASE COME IN TO SIGN IT.  His Rocky office is located on the east side of Main Street south of Henrys Western Wear or across from Sims Insurance.  We thank Mr. Nixon for attending our meeting and all his efforts to represent us in the Legislature.

We invite all county residents to attend our meetings held the second Thursday of the month at 7:00PM at the Leslieville Elks Hall.
County Survey  The County is currently conducting a survey to gather resident opinions on future financial considerations.  There are three questions on the survey:
  • What enhancements would you like to see in services over the next 3 years?
  • What reductions would you like to see in services over the next 3 years?
  • What additional capital priorities would you like addressed over the next 3 years?
We strongly encourage everyone to check our CCTA information page in the November 2 edition of the Western Star and then PLEASE COMPLETE THE SURVEY.  COPIES OF THE SURVEY ARE AVAILABLE AT THE COUNTY OFFICE OR ON THE COUNTY WEBSITE AT CLEARWATERCOUNTY.CA.

County Municipal Inspection  A preliminary review was held on October 18.  At that time a team of three interviewers from Municipal Affairs spoke with each of the councillors and the CAO, Ron Leaf, in an effort to gather information on county procedures and operation.  The interview team will then submit a report of their findings to the Minister of Municipal Affairs.  From there the Minister will determine if a full scale review is necessary.  That decision is expected in December.

Waste Authority Review   Results of the town of Rocky’s Municipal Inspection Report released on Tuesday, November 1 stated, “Documents were provided to the inspectors that give a strong indication of inefficiencies and operational concerns in this organization.”(referring to the Regional Waste Authority.)  The report went on to recommend “that a detailed independent review of the management and operations be conducted…”. That did take place and the results were printed in The Mountaineer on October 18.  This report stated that there had been a 365% increase in requisitions (request for money) in the last 5 years and that “the authority has been operated as an independent business with insufficient oversight from the elected board.” The Rocky Mountain Regional Solid Waste Authority is an independently operated service governed by a board made up of three county councillors, two town councillors, and one village of Caroline councillor.This is a very serious matter as county, town, and village taxpayer dollars are funding this inefficient operation and it must be addressed “head on” by the Board of Directors. 

Strike Three  This is the third (and final) chart in a series featuring information on county finances.  This month we focus on the CAO (Chief Administrative Officer) remuneration.

% Increase
$166, 431
$27, 709
$194, 140

$191, 310
$30, 847
$222, 157
$28, 017
$200, 431
$50, 302
$250, 733
$28, 576
$208, 257
$55, 261
$263, 519
$12, 786
$233, 190
$49, 708
$282, 898
$19, 379

Note:  Total compensation increase from 2011 to 2015 = $88, 758  
            Total compensation % increase, 2011 to 2015 = 45.7%


Total Payment
Yellowhead County
$258, 486
$40, 270
$298, 756
 Leduc County
$286, 056
$11, 884
$297, 940
Lacombe County
$249, 782
$44, 441
$294, 223
Sturgeon County
$237, 566
$49, 072
$286, 639
Red Deer County
$250, 504
$32, 932
$283, 436
Clearwater County 
$233, 190
$49, 708
$282, 898
Rocky View County
$235, 041
$43, 985
$279, 026
County of Gr. Prairie
$234, 705
$44, 050
$278, 755
Brazeau County
$199, 777
$49, 069
$248, 846
Wetaskiwin County 
$226, 806
$15, 825
$242, 631
Parkland County
$200, 395
$41, 842
$242, 237
MD of Bonneyville
$190, 833
$46, 274
$237, 107
Lethbridge County
$190, 350
$45, 250
$235, 600
Mountain View County
$175, 744
$37, 936
$213, 681
MD of Foothills
$201, 478
$7, 458
$208, 936
Ponoka County
$180, 250
$28, 164
$208, 414
County of Lac St. Anne
$165, 216
$32, 663
$197, 879

$218, 599
$36, 519
$255, 118

  1. The jurisdictions used all have populations over 10,000 according to Wikipedia figures except for Brazeau and Ponoka Counties.  They were included because they neighbor Clearwater County.  Clearwater County’s population is 12, 278.
  2. All salary and benefit figures were taken from the 2015 Audited Financial Statements of each jurisdiction.
  3. Clearwater County’s CAO has the highest benefit package of all jursidictions. 

ROSES   This month we send out a huge bouquet of roses to Dale Shippelt for his dedicated effort in spear-heading the petition that resulted in the Municipal Inspection of the town of Rocky.  Thanks to Dale’s efforts the significant operational concerns of the Waste Authority have come to light, an issue that has distinct implications on our tax dollars.  We recognize and appreciate your efforts, Dale, as they may, hopefully, lead to managerial improvements and from there to a potential cost saving for all taxpayers funding the Waste Authority.

RANT   This month’s Rant focusses on the rather damming inspection reports of the Rocky Mountain Regional Solid Waste Authority. Both the independent review and the Municipal Inspection indicated very serious concerns with the operation of this jointly governed service.  This brings to mind several questions:  Who is at fault?? Is it a managerial problem or a board problem??  Who is not doing the job properly?? Who is not accepting responsibility for the noted inadequacies??  Moving on, we trust that there will be a complete turn around in the operations of this organization with a goal of providing taxpayers with the cost effective, PRACTICAL service we deserve.

  • ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING--- Thursday, November 10, 2016, 7:00PM, Leslieville Elks’ Hall.  Guest speaker, our MLA Jason Nixon, speaking on the proposed Carbon Tax and other current Legislature issues.
  • Regular monthly meeting, January 12, 2017, 7:00PM, Leslieville Elks’ Hall

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Tuesday, November 8, 2016
By Marianne Cole
The following items were highlights discussed at the council meeting:
1.  Council representation on committees--- Councillor Greenwood brought forward a procedural concern regarding council representation on certain organizations.  This concern stemmed from the appointment of a council member to the newly formed Clearwater Broadband Society.  Following discussion on this, a motion was made to look at developing a procedural by-law in this regard.
2.  Request for Proposal on telecommunications matters--- A proposal was brought forward “that Administration proceed with the development of a Request for Proposal for the development of a conceptual design, budget and business viability model relating to the construction or installation of communication towers and fibre optic cable to enhance high speed internet access” (quote from the agenda package) within the county. This would involve a 4 step phased in procedure:
  • Phase 1—Business viability study on a focussed area (from the Ferrier area east to the county border, between Highways 11 and 12)
  • Phase 2---Business viability study on the remaining populated area of the county
  • Phase 3--- Define service area(s) and scope of project
  • Phase 4--- Final Engineering, Budget, Tender document, Contract Award
There was excellent discussion on this matter with Councillors Duncan and Vandermeer suggesting that council look at other studies and reports that have already been done and could really provide information for Phase 1.  Councillor Laing also suggested that administration could check out what information has also been gathered by the Clearwater Broadband Society.  It was also noted that the Society might make a presentation on this matter at the next council meeting.
The result of the discussion was a motion to table further action.
3.  Text with 911--- This matter was brought forward initially as an information item, noting that there is now a service through 911 which would allow for texting for hearing or speech impaired people to access emergency services.  This is not an “open” service and people who qualify must register their cellphone in order to be able to access the service when necessary.
Again, excellent discussion took place.  Councillor Graham began the discussion with concerns with cell phone service and dead areas. From there the discussion proceeded to action with motions being made to write letters expressing concerns with the very serious need for both improved cell phone and broadband service in the rural areas. 
Brief information was given about our Supernet.  When it was being put in, the province was going over budget.  Bell stepped in and bought it, and Axia is now managing this “service”.   (An “aside”:  The talk is  that service from Axia is highly priced and as a result is financially unfeasible to access.)  From this discussion a motion was made to send letters of concern to both Municipal Affairs and Service Alberta.
4.  Budget Preparation and Community Engagement Update---  Director of Corporate Services, Rodney Boyko presented council with an update on the budget preparation process, most notably the community engagement.  This focussed primarily on the survey that is underway and is available on the county’s website as well as in hard copy at the county office.
This subsequently brought forward the CCTA’s information page that was put in the November 2 issue of the Western Star.  As noted in the agenda package, “Staff believe the ad’s information is incomplete and may affect survey feedback/responses.”  To counteract that it further states that, “Staff will develop communications materials and utilize various communications tools in an effort to address areas such as the following: Financial information…Rocky Mountain Regional Solid Waste Authority…Facilities…County Peace Officer Program…”
Limited discussion took place but Councillor Duncan brought up a concern with people not wanting to put their names on the surveys and Mr. Boyko responded that the names would be used for subsequent contact in order to get more information.  Councillor Laing stated that she felt the Western Star information was good as it promoted an awareness of the survey and stimulated debate and dialogue.
5.  Presentation by a Delegation from the Caroline and District Athletic and Agriculture Society--- This group was represented by Dwight Oliver, Deb Northcott, and Mr. Schellenberg.  Deb gave an excellent presentation on the wide range of services provided at The Hub:  skating rink, curling rink, health center, playschool program, fitness center, and campground.  It was amazing to listen to the enthusiasm and the vision for expansion that this group has.  They are to be highly commended for the super, wide-ranging provision of services, not only to residents of the immediate area but to rental groups from as far away as Calgary.  
6.  AAMDC Resolutions--- The 30 resolutions being brought forward to the AAMDC convention were discussed and suggestions made for either supporting or not supporting the resolution.
7.  Councillor’s Verbal Report--- Councillor Vandermeer gave a report on two activities he had attended related to broadband service.  The first was from the Clearwater Broadband Society.  They have now received society status and would like to make a presentation to council.  They would also like to access the report from the Taylor-Warwick study done last year.  The second activity was a workshop he attended in Mountain View County. The main suggestion from this meeting was that individual jurisdictions need to act as the issues have been studied to death.  Forming a committee to bring the problems with broadband to the province was also mentioned.

Monday, November 7, 2016



Speaking on CARBON TAX and other current Legislature issues.

Come and hear:
  • How provincial issues might affect you.
  • How the Clearwater County Taxpayers’ Association has been working for you this past year.

For more info, kindly call Marianne Cole at (403)729-2493 or e-mail at

Clearwater County Taxpayers’ Association--- Working for the common good.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Clearwater County Council Meeting Notes

By Helge Nome

Today, October 25, Council held its annual organizational meeting where Reeve and Deputy Reeve for the upcoming year are elected from within the group of seven councillors by the councillors. Some fifty community boards are also populated by a mixture of community members and councillors.
Following the organizational meeting, a regular meeting was conducted where crime statistics were presented by members of the Rocky RCMP Detachment.

With all seven councillors present, CAO Ron Leaf opened the organizational meeting, asking for nominations for the position of Reeve.
Councillor John Vandermeer took the floor and expressed a lack of confidence in how Reeve Alexander had conducted himself over the past year. He nominated Councillor Graham who declined the nomination. He then nominated Councillor Maki for the position of Reeve. Maki declined the nomination. He went on to nominate Councillors Duncan and Laing in that order. Both declined the nomination.
The process ended up with Councillor Duncan nominating Councillor Vandermeer and Councillor Greenwood nominating Councillor Alexander for the position of Reeve. Both accepted the nomination and CAO Leaf collected the votes which were counted with the assistance of Staff person Christine Heggart. Alexander was elected for the upcoming year. The number of votes for each person was not disclosed.

There was a change in the Deputy Reeve chair: Councillor Maki replaces Councillor Graham.

For the upcoming year, the Municipal Planning Commission will have councillors Graham, Duncan and Maki serving, along with community members Cheryl Dezall and Kelly Spongberg.

Councillor Laing was not successful in getting on the Rocky Mountain Regional Waste Authority Board, where Councillors Alexander, Graham and Maki will continue to represent the County.

The newly formed Clearwater Broadband Foundation had requested a councillor appointment by letter. Councillor Vandermeer agreed to represent the county council on this board, with Councillor Duncan as the alternate.

Following the organizational meeting, Staff Sgt. Mark Groves and Sgt. Jason Penner from the Rocky RCMP Detachment made a presentation. Auto thefts were down in number compared to last time a presentation to council was made.
Property crimes in the area have increased in line with a province wide trend. Sgt. Groves noted that the detachment is now at full strength, and even a bit over, as he has been accepting junior RCMP members into his detachment with the idea of training them to perform at a high level in their work. He also noted that the newly appointed constable to Caroline School, Brian Bouchard, used to be a teacher and school principal before joining the RCMP.

A permanent Rocky RCMP satellite station at the Sunchild and O’Chiese reserves has considerably improved policing in that area. When asked by Reeve Alexander about an RCMP presence at Nordegg, Groves said that he could not justify keeping a member out there, based on population numbers. Sgt. Penner added: “It is a summertime deal” .

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Highlights of our Thursday meeting.

Letters written to council---June 17 and September 6. No replies yet, but there has been some action, perhaps because of our letters. First of all there was the article in the Mountaineer last week about the building plans on hold and we had asked to keep the taxpayers informed in our June 17th letter. Then they are also conducting a survey and that letter had also asked how they were going to assess public opinion. Several comments were made regarding the survey as it is very open ended and it will be difficult to tabulate the results. We really encouraged everyone to fill out the survey and I had 30 copies to hand out at the meeting. Our September 6 letter had addressed the lead time for the agenda packages and that has been adjusted a small amount (1 day).

2. FOIP request---no reply yet but they have until the 24th of October to reply.

3. Letter to Municipal Affairs re Municipal Review---received a reply saying that the public won’t be involved until/if a full scale review is held. I also received a phone call from a Faye Sheridan who will be doing the preliminary review on Tuesday. She called to address our concerns with the limited input to the preliminary review and she did ease my mind somewhat. As we know, they will be interviewing each of the councillors and Ron Leaf, BUT they will also review all phone calls from Clearwater County that have been made to Municipal Affairs in the last two years as well as newspaper articles and
letters to the editor. It certainly did ease my mind to know that they will be doing that extra research.

4. AGM--- Jason Nixon will be coming to be our guest speaker and will talk about current issues in the Legislature at that time and the carbon tax.

5. Follow up on financials---Dan Warkentin had brought up a concern with the audited financials last meeting as “amortization” was very large and he was concerned if that was for just long term debt. On doing more research that also includes depreciation so that’s why it is so large. However, he did find that we have a $3million plus long term debt due in 2025. Currently we are paying just over $115, 000 per year interest so it was decided that we include that in a letter to council as well, suggesting that we pay off the debt and save the interest.

6. Meeting with Nordegg residents--- Three of the community leaders in Nordegg had asked if I would meet with them so they could “clear the air” as they had this feeling that we were against them. I had an excellent meeting with them out at Nordegg on Wednesday and they are as frustrated as we are with the county. They have some very progressive ideas of how to get more publicity for Nordegg and involve industry, community, and outside organizations in holding courses, workshops, etc. out there but they are hindered by the county as they have been refused the use of the school and/or the new firehall. Because one of the ladies I met with is a fire fighter we were able to meet at the firehall. It has a great room that would be excellent for holding workshops/courses and there is a very adequate kitchen that could be used to cater meals for the workshops, BUT they aren’t allowed to use the facility that we all have paid for. These courses/workshops would bring money into both the community and the county. Then they are also frustrated that huge dollars have been put into that south lot development. They feel as we do that the lots will never sell. In the meantime they would like some infrastructure(water and sewer) so that a developer would put in a grocery store. Now apparently the county has OK’ed a development permit for a gas station/c-store up closer to the highway. This will be of neutral benefit as it will likely put the current gas station/store out of business.

7. Ken brought up concerns with the new bylaw passed by the county that will not allow the parking of commercial/large vehicles in rural subdivisions. We did address our concern on this in the letter that I sent out yesterday.

Hopefully that fills you guys in a little bit. Hope to see you at the AGM on November 10.
Have a warmer/sunnier day tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016



Total Operating Expenses

Per cent

Total wages/benefits

Per cent increase
Per cent of Total Operating Expenses
$35, 692, 861

$6, 172, 352

$37, 873, 408
$7, 123, 224
$43, 640, 599
$8, 309, 669
$46, 803, 802
$8, 970, 479
$50, 192, 114
$10, 247, 891

Clearwater County Council Meeting Notes

by Helge Nome

All councillors were present at the regular meeting on October 11 to hear submissions from four delegations and a request for approval of the 2017 budget of the Parkland Regional Library System, of which Clearwater County is a member. 

Library system manager Ron Sheppard made a case for a 2% increase in the budget which was grudgingly approved by a 4 to 3 vote by Council. Similar sentiments had reportedly been expressed by many of the other 63 municipalities that are members of the library system. They were generally in favor of no incease in the budget over 2016 figures.

ROAR Society President Kendra Reap made a presentation on the society’s current status to council. She noted that, thanks to a generous donation, the society now has its own premises in Rocky and the report presented indicated that most of the intake of animals consists of cats in a better than 10:1 ratio to dogs. However, as the County now pays between $300 and $400 for each dog apprehended by contracted animal services, the possibility of ROAR getting involved in providing this service was brought up in an interchange of ideas between Reeve Alexander and Reap.

FCSS Manager Andrea Vassallo made her presentation to Council, noting that she was pregnant with twins, and would be going on maternity leave over the winter.She gave a general report on the Clearwater Regional FCSS program, of which she is the manager, reporting to a board of representatives from Caroline, Rocky and Clearwater County. She gave an overview of the various organizations and programs in the area that are supported financially by a $400,000 - 500,000 annual budget that is 80% funded by the Province and 20% by the municipalities, in proportion to their populations.

Sundre RCMP Detachment Commander Sgt. Jim Lank and Rimbey Detachment Commander Sgt. Kurtis Pillipow gave reports on respective crime statistics for their portions of Clearwater County. The main trend is a major increase in property crime. Sgt. Lank gave a somewhat amusing report on a bust in the Prairie Creek area where a search warrant was executed based on GPS data from a notepad stolen from the Sundre area. A considerable amount of stolen stash was discovered on the farm from which the notepad reported its location. So, maybe the key to solving property crime lies in embedding GPS systems in our valuable possessions?

Clearwater County Highway Patrol Manager Terri Miller presented a report
on her department’s activities as per the agenda package. She also introduced a new member of her team, Chad, who used to be a Peace Officer in Rocky Mountain House. When asked by Councillor Laing about the delay in bringing the new team member into active service (he was apparently hired in May), Miller responded by saying that he needed to be trained on highway laws and regulations, before being able to work on his own.

A municipal procedures bylaw was scheduled to be revised after lunch after I had left the meeting, and I assume that the bylaw was adopted as indicated in the text below:

Agenda Delivery 10.2 The Chief Administrative Officer will distribute the Council Agenda to the regular designated address of members of Council on the Friday afternoon prior to the Council meeting. However, if a Friday or Monday prior to the Council meeting falls on a holiday, the Council Agenda will be distributed on the Thursday preceding the Council meeting. 

Post meeting note:

After an in-camera session, council reversed its decicion to increase the Parkland Regional Library budget.
  1. Building Plans   No new news on the construction plans for the new administration building at this time.  The salt/sand building is constructed and it is CLEARLY visible when driving south on Hwy. 22 from the Hwy. 12 intersection towards Rocky.  Look to the east to catch a glimpse.

  1. FOIP Request   Numerous concerns have been expressed about the purchase process and prices for the land at Caroline and north of Rocky.  In order to address some of the issues the CCTA submitted a FOIP (Freedom of Information and Privacy) Request to the County on September 21.  As of yet we have had no reply.

  1. County Review   Following a request by County Council for a municipal review, word has been received that a preliminary review will be held on October 18, 2016.  At that time staff from Municipal Affairs will interview councillors and the CAO to gather information on county operations in order to determine if a full scale review should proceed.   

  1. LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD    In preparation for the 2017 budget deliberations, the County is in the process of drafting a survey to gather resident opinion on their needs/wants, along with development directions. The survey will be available on the county’s web-site as well as at the county office, likely by mid-October.  The county’s web-site is  We encourage everyone to let your voice be heard…make sure your friends and neighbors are heard too.

  1. Annual Meeting    The CCTA’s annual meeting will be held Thursday, November 10, 2016 at 7:00PM at the Leslieville Elks’ Hall.  We have invited Jason Nixon, our MLA, to be the guest speaker and to address current provincial issues, most notably the carbon tax implications.  We encourage and whole-heartedly welcome newcomers to our organization as we work to represent taxpayer wishes and concerns.

  1. MD of Bonnyeville--- $5165.29
  2. Yellowhead County--- $4951.73
  3. Leduc County---           $4609.38
  4. Lacombe County---     $4353.64
  5. Clearwater County--- $4087.97
  6. Brazeau County---      $3996.48
  7. Cty. Of Gr. Prairie---   $3949.56
  8. Red Deer County---      $3749.29
  9. Mtn. View County---    $2722.63
  10. Sturgeon County---      $2548.69
  11. Lethbridge County---   $2500.19
  12. Rocky View County---  $2425.71
  13. Cty. Of Lac St. Anne--- $2317.36
  14. Foothills County---       $2290.23
  15. Parkland County ---     $2242.09
  16. Wetaskiwin County---$2175.04
  17. Ponoka County---        $1958.04
(Note:  Figures used in these calculations come from the 2015 Audited Financial Statements for each jurisdiction and the Wikipedia population numbers.) 

ROSES   With Thanksgiving come thoughts of wonderful food and feasts.  As such it is fitting that we send huge bouquets of roses to all those hands who work diligently to provide our food needs year round.  We are reminded that every facet of our diet comes from the land in one form or other.  We need to be especially thankful to these stewards of the land who care for this valuable resource and work tirelessly to gather from it so we can enjoy the fruits of their labor.

RANT     With budget deliberations looming I look at the ever increasing county operating expenses as well as the wages/benefits, and question their justification.  We have continually heard the “reasons”--- “Residents are requesting more services.”, and “The province is downloading more responsibilities.”;  however, I definitely question how a yearly increase in population of less than 1% warrants a 14-16% increase in wages/benefits.  What increase in services has there been??? One has only to recall that drive way snowplowing is no longer provided to note a decrease in services.  As for provincial downloading, one can look at the education system and see where schools and their staff have had to accept greater responsibilities with far fewer resources.  Can further insight be garnered from current industry finances and their re-vamped focus?  Maybe it is time for the county to take a hint from “down the street” or “across the road” where cost cutting and fiscal responsibility are dedicated efforts.  Or is it just too easy to grab an extra per cent or two in taxes from those that are continually forced to foot the bill?? 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Clearwater County Council Meeting Notes

by Helge Nome 

All councillors, except Councillor Graham, were present at the regular meeting on September 13. Several delegations made presentations at the meeting including local MLA Jason Nixon; Michelle Swanson and Bob Haagsma from the Clearwater Broadband Foundation and Alice Murray and Ryan d‘Abadie from Shell Canada.

Jason Nixon responded to various issues raised by council and noted that while the upgrading of the Rocky Hospital is on the top of his agenda, it is not even on the priority list of the Provincial Government.

Michelle Swanson and Bob Haagsma said that they represent a group of local people dedicated to the improvement of internet services in the local area and asked for county support in this. They invited someone from the County Council to join the group
which is currently in the process of formulating bylaws and registering itself as a society.
Reeve Alexander responded by saying that Council will conduct an organizational meeting in late October and the request would be considered at that time. He also intimated that there are other folks in the area working to improve internet service at this time.

As a sign of the times, Community Liason Officer Alice Murray from Shell Canada informed Council that the Shell Caroline Gas Plant is scheduled to shut down income producing operations in 2018. During the last 25 years or so Shell has used its privately constructed road (TWP Rd. 35-1A), running west from Highwy 22 through privately owned land for about 1600 meters. The company is now looking to turn this road over to someone for ownership and maintenance. It currently serves as the access road for 8 shareholders in the land it traverses and some of them were present at the meeting.
The question for Council to resolve is: Should this industrial road, which is currently the only access road for several county residents, be taken over and maintained by the County, or can some other resolution be found? Public Works staff will discuss this matter with Shell and residents before Council makes any decisions.

Councillor Laing raised the issue of needing more time to study the agenda package for upcoming council meetings, suggesting that the package be made available on Thursdays, rather than Fridays, prior to the Tuesday meeting the following week. There was a lot of discussion and little support for this idea from the other councillors and CAO Leaf. The matter was tabled untill the September 22 council meeting, at which time the Procedures Bylaw will be examined.

Another item of interest to taxpayers is a request from Wilderness Village to have changes made to their property taxes for 2016. Councillor Laing presented their case but had no luck in reducing the whopping tax increase of some $20,000 (if I heard it right)

Friday, September 9, 2016

Letter to Clearwater County Council

Clearwater County Taxpayers’ Association
c/o Marianne Cole
RR #1 
Rocky Mountain House, AB  T4T 2A1

September 6, 2016

Clearwater County Council
Box 550
Rocky Mountain House, AB  T4T 1A4

Dear _________________________:
At the July 14th meeting of the CCTA, a concern was brought forward regarding the short amount of time before council meetings that agenda packages are made available either to council or on the county’s website.
Discussion focussed on the following rationale for increasing the lead time:
  • Taxpayers need to know the items on the agenda in order to be able to express an opinion to either their individual councillor or council as a whole.
  • Councillors need to have adequate time to peruse the agenda, do research if necessary, and develop an opinion on matters to be discussed.
  • Councillors should have adequate time to confer with constituents.
The suggestion was then made that we contact neighboring jurisdictions as to the timeline upon which they operate regarding agendas and meetings.  After contacting Brazeau, Ponoka, Lacombe, and Red Deer counties we learned that the standard operating procedure for distributing agendas in advance of meetings is approximately one week.  If meetings are on Tuesday, agendas are out the previous Wednesday; if meetings are on Thursday, agendas are out the previous Friday. 
Some notable comments from discussion with the other jurisdictions were:
  • I would be offended if I didn’t get it in enough time; ratepayers and councillors both suffer.
  • After I get the agenda I try to get into the local coffee group to see what they have to say about the issues.
  • If you just go by what administration recommends without doing your own research and thinking, why do you need elected officials?

One of the recent goals noted by Clearwater County council was to improve citizen engagement, and increasing the agenda lead time would assist in addressing that goal.
In conclusion, we ask that council develop a policy which stipulates a greater amount of lead time in which agenda packages are made available prior to council meetings.  We suggest that this lead time be a minimum of one week and that this policy even extend to all committees of council.
We would be happy to discuss this matter with you and look forward to your reply.
Yours truly,

Marianne Cole

Thursday, September 1, 2016

  1. Highlights of July 27 Special Council Priorities Meeting
  • Development North of Rocky
--- More information is needed on the water and waste water servicing costs and funding.
---The Area Structure Plan and Joint Development Plan need to be worked on and mutually agreed upon by town and county before more concrete plans proceed.
---So far Council’s only commitment for 2016 is for the site grading, the salt/sand storage facility, and completing the design plans.
(Note:  Conversations with town residents suggest they are not in favor of spending any money on annexation/services to the north.)

  • Leslieville/Condor Fire Hall
--- Land has been offered, as a donation, for a site along Hwy. 11 between Condor and Leslieville.
---More work needs to be done to identify all potential sites and bring the information back to council and the community.

  • Nordegg
--- Discussion took place on how to proceed with further development in Nordegg.
--- Interest has been expressed by a developer for a commercial venture on Upper Center Street but services would need to be put up there first.  Cost for that may be $3million.

  • Ag. Rec Facility
---The committee working on this proposal hasn’t met lately.
--- Concern was expressed if there is a general “appetite” for this building.
--- The suggestion was made that in other areas this type of facility was “community” driven and the question was posed if this is council’s responsibility.

  • Internet/Telecommunications Development
---There was major discussion on this topic.
--- Pros.--- Provides significant economic development potential/influence;  would attract both new residents and businesses
--- Cons.--- Cost, and concerns with “up-take” by residents who would subscribe to the service.
--- More information is needed on costs and installation options (towers, towers and fibre, just fibre).
--- A pilot project was suggested.

  1. County’s Municipal Inspection
A letter from Municipal Affairs has been received by the County indicating that a preliminary review will take place on October 18.  Following that, Municipal Affairs will determine if a full scale review /inspection is necessary.  This is what took place in the town of Rocky earlier this spring/summer.

Several rainy days provided ideal time to do some research on issues that may be of interest to taxpayers.  The results will be published in succeeding newsletters and focussed on three areas:  net municipal taxes collected per person; municipal operating expenses per person; and CAO salaries.  Information was gathered from the 2015 audited financial statements for rural municipalities with populations over 10,000.  With our tax due date just around the corner, perhaps it is timely for you to see where Clearwater County ranks according to the amount of taxes collected per person.
Net Municipal Taxes Collected Per Person in 2015
  1. MD of Bonnyville         $6066.88
  2. Yellowhead County      $5447.16
  3. Brazeau County            $4076.00
  4. Gr. Prairie County        $3589.64
  5. Clearwater County      $3582.22
  6. Leduc County               $3301.88
  7. Lacombe County         $2563.14
  8. Red Deer County        $2401.12
  9. Mtn. View County      $2355.20
  10. Ponoka County           $2162.62
  11. Sturgeon County        $2038.92
  12. Wetaskiwin County   $1838.68
  13. Rocky View County   $1672.62
  14. Parkland County       $1656.60
  15. Lac St. Anne County $1601.62
  16. MD of Foothills          $1489.98
  17. Lethbridge County    $1462.70
Average amount of taxes collected per person:  $2782.76
(Note:  Brazeau County and Ponoka County have populations less than 10,000 but were included in the research because they are neighboring jurisdictions to us.  Population figures used to calculate the per person amounts for each area came from Wikipedia figures.)
ROSESA special bouquet of roses this month goes out to the County’s road side mowing crew for their great work.  The suggestion was brought forward by a resident in the Prairie Creek area who was particularly impressed by the work done there.  We agree that the rest of the County also looks great and that the whole crew needs to be commended, along with administration and council that makes the program possible.
RANTNo special rant this month---except for frustration with the uncooperative haying weather!!!
Quote of the Month:  Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that 
matter.  Martin Luther King Jr.
COMING EVENTS:  September 8, 2016, Regular Monthly Meeting, 7:30PM, Leslieville Elks’ Hall
      October 13, 2016, Regular Monthly Meeting, 7:30PM, Leslieville Elks’ Hall

    November 10, 2016 Annual Meeting, 7:00PM, Leslieville Elks’ Hall