Town of Strathmore Mayor, Pat Fule is looking forward to a productive year ahead as 2021 came to a close.
“It’s been a weird year, but there are really good signs that we can be optimistic about,” said Fule.
“The economy is improving – I know inflation has been a hard thing, we’ve seen a lot of increases in costs, like gas and groceries … but the economy is definitely improving, oil and gas prices have improved.”
Fule added he was particularly pleased to note that over the course of 2021, over 53 home starts had been completed in Strathmore, which nearly tripled the meager 18 which were seen in town over the previous year.
This, he said, boded well for many, as people may be opting more and more to work from home as opposed to going back into the office on a daily basis.
Fule also commended the Chamber of Commerce for their promotion and aid of local businesses in the town and surrounding community, as well as helping to stage events in the downtown area.
“I know that the economy is improving as far as people being able to spend money and do things a little more than the past, and that’s a testament that we’re coming through the virus,” he said.
Regarding major local developments, first on the list to mind was the construction of the solar farm, which the town was not required to invest in and will benefit from not only in energy, but also lease payments and property taxes.
“It’s been a really good thing for the town. I know some people worry about the long-term implications of the lifespan of these panels, but I look to the future and I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of innovative ways to deal with them on a much later basis,” said Fule. “It’s something where the Town of Strathmore never invested anything, all we did was provide the land to the business and then we’ll be receiving lease payments as well as property taxes.”
With respect to the ongoing topic of vaccinations amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Fule cautioned residents to be wary of the Omicron variant that is affecting the current wave but commended those residents who opted in for keeping up to date with their vaccinations.
“I think people realize that the way to stop (COVID-19) from mutating is literally to be vaccinated … and that’s (also) what I think frustrates people. They think the vaccines were supposed to be the be-all-and-end-all and they’d have 100 per cent efficacy,” said Fule. “They don’t work that way. They give you a lot of protection and they lessen your chances of getting hospitalized or having a really serious case of the virus, but it’s not 100 per cent effective.”
Unlike what was seen in 2021, the Town of Strathmore is implementing a mild tax increase this year, as the municipality must keep pace with continually rising costs to operate and maintain the town.
He specifically spoke to the rising costs of machinery, services, labour, asphalt for paving and other amenities that keep the town functioning.
“We kept (the property tax increase) at zero for 2021 because we knew that a lot of people were struggling with 2020’s COVID-19 situation. A lot of people had to stay home from work, or there were layoffs, or some businesses closed,” he said. “We thought in 2021, we had to do something to try to cushion the economic blow to our residents … unfortunately, a zero per cent tax situation is not a manageable one for any town to do.”
Among immediate council discussions, the topic of potentially seeing the town become the City of Strathmore was introduced shortly before council broke for the holiday.
For the time being, council has accepted the initial report for information and has yet to return with more details or further reports on the potential to adopt the municipal status update.
“Some people like the small town atmosphere and title of ‘Town of Strathmore,’ versus city. I know Okotoks has a much bigger population than Strathmore and they’ve chosen to stay with the title of Town of Okotoks because they want to try to keep that smaller town vibe and feeling and atmosphere,” said Fule. “I’m keeping an open mind myself. If it looks like it makes a lot of sense financially, if it would help our business and real estate community, I would definitely consider it.”
Overall, Fule is excited to get started in the new year and suggested the town has much in store to look forward to over the year ahead.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times