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 clearwatercounty.ca.  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??