Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Catching Up with Fort St. John
I just got back from another council dinner meeting, pretty much the same as the one with Dawson Creek that I posted on before. This time it was with another council from the BC Peace; Fort St. John.
The last time we visited with the folks from 'The Fort' was way back in my first term. Both councils have been through elections since then so again, as with Dawson, it was good to meet the new folks. One of the new council members is Bruce Christensen who I've met many times through Rotaract, when he was District Governor Bruce.
I know it's kind of the wrong order to tell the story back to front, but when I left the meeting I have to admit that I had a little bit of a sinking feeling. It was another one of those meetings where I kind of get the sense that we are slipping behind. Let me tell you what's going on in Fort St. John, see if you get the same feeling.
They are building a new multipurpose recreation centre, the Enerplex . The Enerplex is a $36M twin ice arena with a olympic sized speed skating oval on the second level and a running/walking track on the third level.
This year they are putting $19M into roads and have just finished a major multi-year renovation to the city hall for about $3.5M. A couple of the things that passed by quickly in the conversation but were impressive none the less were the work that they'll be doing on a new RCMP detachment & a new Visitor Center.
They are even working on a walking trail system that will connect across the community.
Oh, and they are lowering residential property taxes!
Sounds great and it is, but the question is how are they doing it all?
Well, they are getting regular basic grants from the BC government, in fact they even got $1M to build the trail system. But the big difference is the Fair Share Program that I mentioned in the post on Dawson Creek.
It's a program that the B.C. government started up just for for communities in the North East. Basically the BC government gives a special grant to put some of the provincial revenue from oil and gas back in to the communities where the work is being done. That's a real simplification but you get the point.
I asked what Fort St. John's installment is this year - it's $10M. They figure that over the next ten or fifteen years they'll see over $200M.
To put that in perspective, with all the big announcements that the AB government has made recently about new money for municipalities Grande Prairie has received what? - an additional $4.5M this year.
It's great to hear that things are going well there and that they are growing. What's good for Fort St. John is good for Grande Prairie, I really believe that. I also believe that the Alberta advantage is still slipping.
I'm glad we got together with the folks from 'the Fort'.