Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Extravagant 6,000 sq. ft. Staff Space Approved

By Marianne Cole

With a motion that passed 5 – 2 at their June 9th meeting, Clearwater County Council approved plans for 6,000 sq. ft. of staff space for the proposed new fire hall in Leslieville. Voting for the motion, moved by Councillor Duncan, were Councillors Duncan, Laird, Lougheed, Swanson, and Reeve Hoven. Voting in opposition were Councillors Vandermeer and Laing.


The over-sized two story staff space includes meeting rooms, training room, laundry facilities, over-night accommodation, washrooms, showers, 2 saunas, 2 kitchens, and storage space. The “rationale” used to justify the build included the need to support the 11 volunteer fire fighters, preparation for a potential large emergency, and the provision of training space for a third party supposedly interested in operating a training facility. These very same excuses were used to justify the exact same amount of space contained in the recently built Condor Public Services building completed in the fall of 2019. Upon completion of the Leslieville facility there would be 12,000 sq. ft. of staff space within 11 km. of each other.


Aside from the unnecessary cost of building the facility there are concerns about the future cost of maintenance, regular cleaning, utility costs, and the absolute lack of concrete information about the phantom training provider. For over a year now it has been mentioned by county staff that a third party is interesting in developing a training operation but there has NEVER been any name mentioned, plans given about their intentions, or facts provided of potential income to be realized from the extra space built, now in two places, to accommodate these ideas. It is noteworthy to mention that at Council’s January Strategic Planning Meeting Councillor Swanson made a motion that Council postpone RFP’s until, among other things, the receipt of a report on the estimated training revenues. No information has been received to date but the motion to proceed with RFP’s was still passed yesterday.


Prior to the motion on staff spacing, a motion by Councillor Swanson passed 6 – 1 that Council approve plans for a 3 bay apparatus area. There had been significant discussion re a 5 bay facility vs. a 3 bay one. In the discussion, staff, and certain council members, continued to promote the larger facility, noting the economy of building for the future. In contrast, after questioning the size of equipment to be stored and the size of the bays, Councillor Laing pointed out that in reality only 2 bays are actually needed.


There has been significant concern expressed by county taxpayers over the unnecessary over-build and extra costs, especially in light of the current economic situations. In support of their concerns, the Clearwater County Taxpayers’ Association promoted a public engagement meeting in March, made a presentation to Council at their March 24th meeting, and most recently wrote a letter that was sent to Council just prior to this last council meeting. Unfortunately it seems their concerns were largely ignored as indicated by the comments and decisions made yesterday.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Marianne Cole,

President Clearwater County Taxpayers’ Association 

RR #1 Rocky Mtn. House, AB T4T 2A1 June 7, 2020.


Clearwater County Council

Box 550 Rocky Mtn. House,

AB T4T 1A4 



Dear Councillors:

I am writing this letter on behalf of the Clearwater County Taxpayers’ Association, as well as other county residents, with continuing distinct concerns related to plans for, and cost of, the proposed Leslieville Public Service Building. 



First of all, we were certainly pleased to note in the Agenda Package that information was provided for both a 5 bay and a 3 bay facility. We trust that perhaps this is indicative that there may be consideration of a smaller building. There are, however, still some definite concerns.



1. At the top of page 3 of this agenda item (or page 18 of the agenda package) it refers to Ledcor’s figures and states, “Their proposal consists of a 16,000 sq. ft. pre-engineered steel building…” In addition, on page 1 of the agenda item report, county staff have written, “The scope of the building consists of 3 apparatus bays and 2 optional storage bays (10,000 square feet). The two story administrative area includes… 6,000 square feet.” Together this matches the 16,000 total building space on page 3.


In the chart provided, the revised estimate suggests that the building cost would be $2,900,000. For 16,000 square feet that would calculate to $181.25 per square foot. 


 2. Further down in the chart where it states, “Delete 2 bays” there is a deduction total of $351,750. There is a question about that amount.

5 bays of storage in 10,000 square feet would suggest an average of 2,000 sq. ft. per bay. At a cost of $181.25 per sq. ft., deleting 2 bays, or 4,000 sq. ft., would calculate a saving of $725,000 not $351, 750. One might wonder how that smaller total was calculated. 


3. Nowhere has there EVER been any suggestion of, or calculation provided, for reducing the staff/administration space. I draw your attention to the attached charts from a British Columbia government site and which I used to provide the information in our Beacon. Reviewing the starred figures, and then adding on space for a laundry room (120 sq.ft.), overnight accommodation (120 sq. ft.) and storage space (200 sq. ft.) the total amount of space for 20 staff would be 1,487sq. ft.. What is currently planned is FOUR TIMES THAT TOTAL…. For 11 volunteer fire fighters not 20. (Note: The research figures would also have been for full time staff, not periodic users.)


If the staff area were reduced by 4500 sq. ft. to the suggested 1500 sq. ft. there would be an additional savings of $815,625. (4500 x $181.25). Together, reducing to 3 bays and 1500sq. ft. of staff space would save $1,540,625 or 33% of the revised total of $4,671,250. Who would ignore a saving of 33% at any time, let alone in today’s economy???? Moreover, county taxpayers should not be paying for unnecessary, over-built, under-utilized space.


These figures deal just with the construction costs. It is noteworthy to anticipate that finishing, furnishing, and future maintenance costs could also be lower in a smaller facility…further justification for reconsidering current plans.


We can appreciate that pausing to re-evaluate the plans will delay construction, but feel the cost saving benefits out-weigh the delay concerns. One would hope that redoing the estimates could be accomplished within a month. Delaying construction for a short time now would certainly be advantageous in consideration of the financial gains. Who among you would not wait a month in order to save 33% on a purchase?? 


Furthermore, in light of the Covid19 situation and the very, very uncertain economic impact it may have on everyone, it is even more crucial that Council be extremely cautious with their decisions. Future financial burdens brought on by various unknown tax increases federally or provincially must not be augmented by unnecessary municipal spending. While we are aware that a certain amount of the funding for this project is coming from reserves, we are also aware that money may be moved from one reserve category if needed elsewhere. Who knows what the need may be in the future?? We need to use our reserves wisely.


Finally, on behalf of all Clearwater County taxpayers, we strongly urge Council to pause, re-evaluate, and proceed with the ultimate of fiscal responsibility.


Yours truly,

Marianne Cole


According to the Agenda Package released on the County website on Wednesday, County Council will make a decision on the scope & cost of the proposed new Leslieville Fire Hall on Tuesday, June 9.


Current plans suggest either a 5 bay (10,000 sq. ft.) or 3 bay (6,000 sq. ft.) apparatus storage area with an additional 6,000 sq. ft. staff area. Cost of building a 16,000 sq. ft. facility is $2,900,000 or $181.25 per sq. ft.


County staff has noted that a 3 bay facility is sufficient. This would provide a saving of $725,000.


Research indicates that only 1500 sq. ft. of staff space is needed for 11-20 full time employees. There are currently 11 on-call volunteer fire fighters at Leslieville. NO NEED FOR 6,000 SQ. FT. OF STAFF SPACE. Cutting the unnecessary 4500 sq. ft. would save an additional $815, 625. (Note: The new facility at Condor already has 6,000 sq. ft. of staff space and the two groups meet there regularly to train. There is no need for the additional space at Leslieville.)




Fiscal responsibility is even more important now. There is no justification for over-spending on unnecessary, over-built, under-used space.


It is urgent that your voice be heard. Call, text or email your councillor: Jim Duncan--- (403)846-8254); Cammie Laird---(403)846-3760); Daryl Lougheed---(403)846-5817; John Vandermeer--- (403) 844-9286; Theresa Laing--- (403)895-3215; Tim Hoven---(403)846-5197; Michelle Swanson---(403)846-5824


JOIN THE SOS PROTEST--- Stop Over Spending



Monday, June 1, 2020


By Marianne Cole


Land Use Bylaw Revisions 

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


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


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


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


Clearwater County Reserves 

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


Category                 2018                2019               2020               2021                 2022 

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

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


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


Leslieville Public Works Building 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TOTAL 1,487 sq. ft.

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


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


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



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

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


Coming Events: 

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