Pincher Creek council holds community information night

·6 min read

With municipal elections six months down the road, Pincher Creek town council took the opportunity during its March 25 community info night to update residents on what work has been accomplished so far and what the future might hold.

Mayor’s update

The virtual meeting began with Mayor Don Anderberg acknowledging that every facet of the town’s operations had been affected by Covid-19.

Battling a worldwide pandemic, however, hasn’t stopped council from tackling other issues.

“The No. 1 issue from my point of view was the rural physicians’ dispute with Alberta Health over their contract and remuneration,” Mayor Anderberg said.

He went on to compliment the advocacy of local doctors and residents that eventually led to Health Minister Tyler Shandro touring the Pincher Creek Health Centre with Livingstone-Macleod MLA Roger Reid on March 19.

The two provincial officials spoke with physicians and met with representatives from Windy Slopes Foundation and from the town and MD.

“I felt the dialogue was very positive, and many issues of mutual concern were discussed,” said Mayor Anderberg.

Other positive projects the mayor noted were the two Habitat for Humanity units, an 18-unit condo complex, replacing the raw-water intake on Castle River, sewer lagoon upgrades, and a number of repairs to sidewalks, water and sewer lines, and pavement.

Finances

Mayor Anderberg also discussed large-budget items that had been completed or started, such as Crestview Lodge, Axia Fibre Internet access, the two early-learning centres and the force main sewer project.

In total, the town has spent $4,551,634 on large projects that carry a combined price of $36,246,377. Through the efforts of administration to secure grant funding, the town’s total contribution was only 12.55 per cent.

“I think that’s pretty good value for our money,” the mayor said.

Mayor Anderberg noted the debt incurred for the early-learning centres and RCMP building renovations totals about $3.5 million. Half of the RCMP debt is covered by the force itself, and the MD of Pincher Creek has committed $1 million to the child-care centres, with $500,000 being provided in 2021 followed by $100,000 in each of the next five years.

The town’s actual debt, then, is around $2 million, which the mayor said is well below the $14,621,283 limit set by the provincial government.

“Further to that, provincial statistics show that we have very low debt when compared to other municipalities,” Mayor Anderberg said.

The town will be able to pay off its debt without raising taxes; in fact, the 2021 budget requires no increase to property taxes or provincial requisitions for things like the newly introduced police levy, education, Crestview Lodge and emergency services.

Strategic plan

Deputy mayor Brian McGillivray provided an update on the town’s strategic plan, which was established in 2018 to help direct council and administration during the elected term.

The plan outlines action areas and specific success markers to help council achieve its vision of making Pincher Creek a regional centre for southwestern Alberta.

Goals the plan helped council achieve include a CUPE collective agreement, the expansion of recreation facilities, attracting new businesses, securing a grant writer through the Southern Alberta Sustainable Community Initiative, and continuing to foster positive relationships with community organizations.

One significant element, Coun. McGillivray said, was the intermunicipal collaboration framework signed with the MD last summer.

“After two years of working together, a completed ICF agreement was signed by both councils. This ICF agreement represents a new desire on the part of both councils to work together to share resources which benefit the greater community,” he said.

“It should be noted that this ICF is in fact a rare achievement — very few communities in our province have completed this.”

Items the town fell short on were increasing the population by 500 and establishing a town transit system. Council is currently looking at other ways to best use the bus, and though Pincher Creek’s population did not grow, Coun. McGillivray pointed out it has remained constant while the general trend for rural communities is to have population decrease.

Future projects and economic growth

Upcoming work through the operation department was summarized by Coun. Lorne Jackson. Improving the stormwater flow from Main Street to Church Avenue was first on the list, improving drainage in a problematic area. The project is receiving $500,000 through the federal Gas Tax Fund.

Updates to other water infrastructure are also in the works, like upgrading the pumps at the treatment plant, twinning the forced water main and installing four new fire hydrants.

“With regard to our water distribution system, the town has made the decision to replace a water line which currently is sitting atop the creek bed,” Coun. Jackson said.

Over $760,000 is coming from the Alberta Resiliency Grant for the project, which will place the new line under the creek to protect it from the elements, like the line installed at the Hewetson Avenue bridge.

Coun. Scott Korbett then explained how the town revamped its plans for economic growth back in 2019 in order to diversify the economy to meet opportunities of the 21st century.

“We can’t win if we still think that the world will once again be as it was in 1970,” he said.

The plan emphasizes economic growth by building on four economic pillars: retaining and expanding businesses, attracting new investment and businesses, developing a regional workforce initiative, and leveraging assets like the hospital and airport to diversify the economy.

Focusing on each pillar, Coun. Korbett continued, would help the town address issues like housing shortages and capitalize on opportunities for tourism in the area.

Recycling

Coun. Korbett also provided an update on upcoming changes to the town’s recycling program.

A combined recycling and garbage drop-off site for residents of the MD and town, with supervision and pickup by employees from the Crowsnest/Pincher Creek Landfill Association, will be established by July 1.

The bottle depot at KJ Cameron Service Industries will continue.

Despite an announcement in February that cardboard, paper and plastic recycling would be shifted to another location, Coun. Korbett said initial plans for a site location have hit complications.

“We have not communicated this well with our citizens, but we did need to give notice to our local contractor that we were not going to renew their contract — so I do apologize for that,” Coun. Korbett said.

“There are also numerous moving parts that we have had to address moving forward that make it very difficult to actually put this plan together.”

If needed, a temporary location has been negotiated at Ranchland Mall to ensure residents and businesses within the town and MD still have access to recycling services. Should that location be used, oil and electrical recycling cannot be left at the site and will need to be taken directly to the landfill.

Additional topics

Several other items were discussed during the information session, including policing, the Pincher Creek Early Learning Centres, the recreation master plan, and operation details from Family and Community Support Services.

Keep an eye open for future Breeze articles on these topics. The complete information night can be viewed online on the town’s Facebook page at http://bit.ly/PC_infonite.

Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze