Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Quick Note, BIG News

There is very big news that I'd like to share...

It's been a while since Dave Gourlay announced that he was going to retire. Since then city treasurer Ken Anderson has been very ably filling in as acting city manager.

After engaging consultants to help us with our search and then many meetings to conduct interviews, review references and to debate we've finally decided. Just as of this afternoon council wrapped up our search for a new city manager.

Greg Scerbak (formerly our Community Services Director) has accepted council's offer to come on board as our "only employee" and take over the title of City Manager.

Greg has been with the city since about 1996. He has a diverse background including both local government and private sector jobs and in my opinion he has a great sense of what is possible for our city. I think Greg will do an excellent job as city manager.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wireless Auction Nearing End?

Last time I reported on the Wireless spectrum auction was waaaaay back in round 70 on June 16th. Now, as of bidding round 123 it looks like the federal government will receive about $4 Billion dollars from the auction and most of the bidding companies have reached their spending limits.

The bidding on the Grande Prairie licences seems to have stopped in round 90. Since that time there have been no new bids on any of the four licences up for grabs and it stands like this in round 123:

Section A - Rogers, $3,620,000
(up by $1,660,000 since round 70)

Section D - Eastlink, $239,000
(up by $27,844 since round 70)

Section E - Eastlink, $1,590,000
(up by $871,000 since round 70)

Section F - Telus, $3,580,00
(up by $1,390,000 since round 70)

From the looks of it Eastlink might just be successful at gaining a toe-hold in the northern Alberta market by winning the two licences that were coveted by Shaw and Bell respectively. At the very least Eastlink has definitely not made it easy for the big three (Telus, Bell & Rogers) to maintain their dominance of our market.

In fact Eastlink have actually withdrawn bids on licences in their home turf of Atlantic Canada. Doing that probably enabled them to use that money to fund the bidding war here and, interestingly, in northern Ontario. It remains to be seen if one of the players still has a big push left in them but Eastlink seems pretty committed to holding on.

A CBC story suggests that " next summer consumers are going to have more choice and more choice tends to mean more flexible price plans." It will be interesting to see how it all ends and what sort of difference (if any) it makes for the service and rates available to us here.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Child Care Forum Set for Monday, June 23rd

With a very young population it's no surprise that childcare is big concern for many in Grande Prairie. It can be very difficult to find daycare spaces for the very young kids and for many working families after school care is just as big an issue. A couple of years ago staff presented council with a study looking at the issue and it's led to us supporting things like the expansion of Cool-aid to the south side of the city, the arrival of YMCA in our community and the beginnings of some unique partnerships with the two school boards.

At our spring retreat council decided really dig in a little deeper and to take the bull by the horns. So we directed administration to organize a forum to bring all the community stakeholders together. The idea is to get parents, teachers, caregivers, the school boards and the city n one room so we can start to come up with a plan on how to attack the issue in a coordinated manner.

Of course over the summer it can be difficult to get people together so the intent was to have some kind of community discussion happen sooner rather than later.

The meeting details are on the poster below:

If you are a parent or work in the childcare area this is an especially important meeting. There will be information on things that are happening now that might make things easier for you, and you can help us by identifying where the gaps are. Plan on attending.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Video From YouthFest 08

Well, that's two great (and free) community evens back to back; last night was the Municipal Government Day BBQ and tonight was YouthFest08.

I captured a little of the action in case you missed it and to wet your appetite for next year.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

MGD08 Photo Tour

Municipal Government Day has just wrapped up and it has to have been one of the best ones we've ever had! I had a few moments here and there where I could snap a few quick pics and I thought I'd share them with you. - just in case you didn't get a chance to be there.

As I said the turn out was great but the line up for the BBQ moved pretty smoothly thanks to the expert serving staff.

Maybe you thought I was exaggerating about how great a turnout we had?

Part of the day was the "Muni Olympics" that pitted local politicians against each other in 50's themed games. A first this year was an MLA taking part. Here you see GP Wapiti MLA Wayne Drysdale competing in the marble shootout as GP Alderman, Lourne Radbourne looks on.

Wembley Councillor Colleen Holler takes her shot.

Another of the MuniO events was a good old sack race. Here Gordon Frentz from Grande Cache and Debbie from Dawson Creek are neck and neck!

... and my favourite picture of the whole day. Alderman Elroy Deimert tears up the track! (Elroy chaired the MGD committee this year - he and his team did a great job)

Aside from the BBQ and the games there were lots of activities for the kids, including face painting....

... and train rides!

Back at the BBQ Alderman Blackmore protects the burgers...

... and Alderman Wong makes sure all the cardboard is folded away for recycling.

The day is also a chance for people to see city equipment up close... who would have thought the mowers would have been so popular?

Also popular was the fire department's ladder truck.

I'm not sure he'll convince them that climbing the 75 foot ladder is any fun.

Looking inside the cab was a little more my speed too.

Also on display were the city's two hybrid vehicles, this Ford Escape Hybrid is used by the parks department....

... and the development services department have this Honda Civic.

Inside the Crystal Centre many departments had displays set up - here Felix Seiler shows the plans for the new Aquatics Centre.

That's all I've got - if you did miss it you'll have to plan to be there next year!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Library Update - June 16th 2008

Adult Summer Reading Program
Discover the latest summer reads at your Library and win prizes. Keep track of the books you read or listen to between July 2 and August 31. Read 2 books or listen to 2 books (tape, CD or downloadable eAudiobook) and be eligible for prizes. After reading or listening to six books, complete your reading log and enter your name for the Booklover’s basket to be drawn in September. Reading logs will be available from the Circulation Desk at the end of June.

Teen Online Book Club
The TeenSRC website at offers booklists, a place to write book reviews, book club chat sessions, and a chance to win great weekly prizes. The online club will start July 2. Call 532-3580 ext 226 for more information.

TD Summer Reading Club 2008
Laugh Out Loud! LOL! Get ready to roll down the book aisles laughing because the theme for this summer’s reading program is Humour! Starting June 27 pick up your passport to the LOL at the Children’s Library. Join the TD Summer Reading Club 2008 and enjoy fun books, stories, poems and jokes that tickle the funny bone. The reading program is for ages 12 and under and runs from June 27 to August 29.

Library receives 50 new books from Literacy Alberta’s C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) program.
50 new children's books were presented to the library by representatives from Literacy Alberta. Mayor Dwight Logan was on hand to accept the donation.

Partners in Reading
Partners in Reading is once again looking for enthusiastic volunteers to read with children over the summer! This exciting opportunity is open to all individuals twelve years or older.

The program begins on July 2nd and concludes on August 14th with a party for all. The program pairs a student in grades 1-3 with a volunteer and they read together throughout the summer. The meetings are one hour long, twice a week and take place at the library.

This is an opportunity to meet new people, give back to the community, and gain an impressive reference for future endeavors. If you would like to volunteer, either download or pick up a volunteer registration form from the Children’s Library.

Parents of children between grades 1 to 3 are invited to contact the Library to enquire about a reading buddy for their child. Forms are available at the Library and registration begins June 2.

Travel with your Library Card
Take your TAL (The Alberta Library) card with you when you travel this summer! Get access to millions of books and other materials available from Alberta libraries. With one card you can visit most public, university and government libraries and borrow books from their shelves. Don’t forget that most Alberta libraries also offer free Internet access. Make your first stop the local library to check email or research your next stop. Ask at the Circulation Desk about your own TAL card!

Hot Action in Cell Auction Continues

You may want to get used the logo above...

Since my previous post on the topic the auction for wireless spectrum in the Grande Prairie area has accelerated. Last time I reported it looked like Bragg Communications (aka Eastlink ) was looking to make a serious play to become a service provider in the Grande Prairie area.

At 9:30am on June 11th (in Round 44 of the auction) the high bids stood at:
Section A - Eastlink, $744,000
Section D - 1380057 Alberta Ltd., $211,156
Section E - Eastlink, $297,000
Section F - Eastlink, $823,000

Through the next bunch of rounds the Big Three (Telus, Bell and Rogers) played leap frog with Eastlink, recapturing their spectrum just to be out bid again in the next round. Occasionally 1380057 AB Ltd. (Shaw Communications) would pop in and try to get in on the action. It looks like they weren't too serious about it though, as they haven't placed a new bid since round 53.

Now at 3pm on June 16th, after 26 more rounds of bidding, the standings are:
Section A - Eastlink, $1,960,000
Section D - 1380057 Alberta Ltd., $211,156
Section E - Bell, $719,000
Section F - Telus, $2,190,000

I understand (thanks to that round starts each hour, on the hour, so in a few minutes I expect to see Eastlink out bid Telus and Bell for the E & F slots and on the other side of the coin for Rogers to come back and out bid Eastlink for the A slot.

Very interesting. I expect that we'll read about this in the news paper soon but they may wait until the whole thing has been settled, so remember; if want to track the Grande Prairie bidding action yourself you can go here.
(choose licences 349a, 349d, 349f, 349e and select "All Bids" from the drop down menu)

OR, you can keep reading this blog. (did you know you can sign up to receive an email everytime I do a new post? It's right there on the right hand side of the blog, just below my contact info. It's easy, free and keeps you from having to check back randomly.)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Friday Afternoon - Agenda Day

Every Friday council members pop in to city hall to pick up their meeting agenda packages for the following week. The packages are usually ready by about noon so when there is a council meeting on the following Monday that give council members approximately 3 twenty-four hour days to read up on everything they'll see Monday at 7:00pm. The packages also include any mail or faxes that have been sent to council as well as agendas for committee meetings.

This week's stack of agendas was particularly thick as you can see below. The thickest of the documents is the agenda for Monday night's council meeting (agenda pdf). Most of it's heft is due to the public hearings on things like the South Avondale Area Redevelopment Plan, and West Gate Outline Plan.

So, aside from popping by the Lions Kid's Day in the Park and bringing greetings on behalf of the mayor to the Aboriginal Headstart Program wrap up today I also have a little reading ahead of me this weekend!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Guild of Artists Celebrates City's 50th Anniversary

I walked in to City Hall yesterday and - Wow!

There is a new art exhibition in the main foyer that will knock your socks off. As part of the 50th Anniversary celebrations the Grande Prairie Guild of Artists has put together a show entitled: Experiencing Grande Prairie.

From Nan Swanston of the Guild;
Experiencing Grande Prairie is a show of recent works by the Grande Prairie Guild of Artists celebrating both the 50th anniversary of the City as well as the 25th anniversary of the Guild. The show depicts snapshots in time of what we have seen and appreciate about Grande Prairie. Some of the paintings are historical viewpoints where others highlight different areas of Grande Prairie or reflect on the life we enjoy in the city.

Contributing artists;
Carol-Lee Eckhardt
Louise Lissoway
Corinne Cowan
Dale Syrota
Nan Swanston
Valerie Ditch
Louanne Hart
Yvonne Dickson
Emily Lozeron
Jean Kimble
Colleen Holler
Sylvia Hayes

(Check out Art of The Peace for more info on all the artists. Actually while you're at it check out the main Art of The Peace site for a survey of the arts scene in the Peace Country. The site includes electronic versions of the print articles from the magazine of the same name. )

Even though Grande Prairie has always had a vibrant arts scene most of the works produced depict the surrounding countryside. Think of folks like Jim Stokes, his best known works are gorgeous landscapes that capture all the colour of the Peace Country (one hangs above my couch) but they are definitely not urban settings. So it's great to see the Guild's exhibition feature the beauty that can be found within our city limits. From speaking to their members I hear it was a little bit of a challenge to look at the city through a different lens but the results are excellent!

There will be a closing reception and sale of the art in the City Hall foyer on September 11th at 7:00pm - but don't wait that long to visit!

YouthFest 2008 on the Way!

Who says there's nothing to do in Grande Prairie? How about a free BBQ to go along with Hip Hop & Rock acts - that sounds like something to do! Mark your calendars for June 19th!

I've also been invited to attend the event and say a few words as a young(ish) leader in the community. So, you know... if you needed another reason to attend there it is. ; )

For more info contact Cheryl Clarke at the City of GP ( 830-5028 or )

Monday, June 9, 2008

New Cell Service Providers Coming?

Ok, this is decidedly not municipal business, but it does have the potential to have an impact on the day to day lives of local residents.

If you haven't heard, the federal government is currently in the process of auctioning off wireless spectrum across the country. I won't pretend to be able to give a full explanation of the technical ins and outs of wireless spectrum but in the simplest of terms; this is what enables your cell phone sends & receive calls, text messages or surf the web. The government is opening up more space to send these types of signals.

The spectrum is sectioned off in to different parts and each service provider (for example, Telus, Rogers or Bell) owns a licence to send signals within a certain part of the spectrum. ( As I understand it any one of them would allow a company to run a cell phone network. )

But, to complicate matters more, the licences cover specific geographic areas across the country from coast to coast. So, for example Telus can't just buy one license to send signals all across Canada, they have to buy the licences in each area or city that they want to operate in.

So right now all kinds of companies are bidding to buy space across the country to set up (or expand) cell phone networks.

Clear as mud? For a much better (and more detailed explanation go here ) Ok, lets get to what this might mean locally...

The Grande Prairie area has four different sections of spectrum up for sale: A, D, E & F. Only new companies can bid on the D section - Telus, Rogers and Bell aren't allowed.

As of this afternoon the high bidders on each of the sections are:

Section A - Rogers, $688,000
Section D - 1380057 Alberta Ltd., $211,156
Section E - Bell, $285,000
Section F - Telus, $791,000

The three big guys are there so it doesn't look like much of a change but then there's the limited company. They are actually Shaw Communications out of Calgary and no one has bid against them for that section. the same pattern is also showing up in Dawson Creek:

Section A - Rogers, $270,000
Section D - 1380057 Alberta Ltd., $106,125
Section E - Bell, $117,00
Section F - Telus, $282,000

Even more interesting is who is bidding against the big guys for sections A, E & F in the Grande Prairie area .... it's Bragg Communications who are better known as EastLink from the Maritimes. They have the second high bid on each A, E & F in our city so it looks like they could be trying to expand their business across the country. Other reports say EastLink may just be trying to bid up the big guys in order to keep them from turning their attention to the Maritimes.

There is a long way to go in this process but in the end Grande Prairie residents may have a fourth or even fifth option when choosing a cell service provider. Stay tuned.....

** UPDATE **
As of 9:00am on Wednesday morning Bragg Communications (Eastlink) is beating out the big three in Grande Prairie. They have overtaken Telus, Rogers and Bell in sections A, E & F.

High bids at 9:30am June 11th
Section A - Eastlink, $744,000
Section D - 1380057 Alberta Ltd., $211,156
Section E - Eastlink, $297,000
Section F - Eastlink, $823,000

Track the Grande Prairie & Dawson Creek auctions here
(For GP select licences 349a, 349d, 349f & 349e. For Dawson select licences 358a, 358d, 358f, 358e.)

See the top bids for all sections across the country here

Friday, June 6, 2008

Plastic Bag Video

You know I've talked about plastic bags before, lots of times. Before oyu get the wrong idea - no, the topic is not the thing that consumes my every waking moment in life, but when you get good info I think you should share it.

So, in that vein; I had this emailed to me as a powerpoint presentation and I converted it and exported it to YouTube with some music I had created.

The presentation shows the sheer volume of resources it takes to produce the free plastics bags we've all been guilty of using at one time or another. It also show the disastrous effect they have on the environment and the creatures we share our planet with.

*if you are the original creator of the powerpoint please contact me so I can credit you.

Just more food for thought.

Municipal Government Day

It's Municipal Government Day (MGD) time again! In my first year on council (waaaaaay back in 2001) FCM sent out a notice encouraging municipalities to observe MGD in their communities. The idea was that it's a way to invite the public to see the inside of municipal operations at least once a year, hopefully giving them a better idea of all the things the city does.

It makes sense if you think about it - lots of the services cities provide are taken for granted if you don't have to use them. For example, it's easy to forget that your tax dollars go to pay for the fire department if you've never had a fire. Or in GP's case that the Airport is owned by the city.

Something we wanted to add to the day was a celebration of the work that our staff do. Municipal staff often work under the radar and council at the time decided that MGD was an opportunity to shine a little light on all the work they do. It's also used as a chance to meet with other local governments in an informal fashion. The MGD committee's terms of reference reflect this:

1.2 Activities must highlight the fundamental role the City of Grande Prairie plays in
sustaining and improving the quality of life in the community, including:

a) Awareness of City operations
b) Recognition of the efforts of Staff and City Council
c) Relationship with other levels of Government

So along those lines we set up the first MGD and have been doing them ever since. Kids come to city hall for tours and at the (always popular) community barbecue people can see everything from Street Sweepers to Fire Trucks to Transit Buses and Graders first hand (another kid favourite!) Plus council and staff get to serve the community as chef on the BBQ. It's always a great time.

Funny thing... I'm pretty sure we are the only municipality in Canada to do it. It doesn't have to cost much and it's a great chance to "open the doors to city hall" so I don't understand why others haven't taken the opportunity. If anyone out there would like to know more about GP's municipal government day I'd be happy to send along some info ... and, if you are celebrating MGD, prove me wrong and send me a note!

News Release
June 5, 2008

City Celebrates Municipal Government Day

Music … machines … munchies … municipal Olympics and much more!

The City of Grande Prairie’s seventh annual Municipal Government Day on June 18 at the Canada Games Arena west parking lot will have a 1950s flavour in honour of the City of Grande Prairie’s 50th anniversary as a city.

Regional municipal leaders will participate in games from that era as part of Municipal Olympics, a fire truck used at that time is part of the City and Aquatera equipment display and entertainer Stan Foster will perform songs from the late 1950s and 1960s.

In addition to the ever-popular community barbecue from 4-7 p.m., the event features an array of activities for the younger set, including themed inflatable bouncers, face painting, air brush tattooing, and balloon animals.

The Grande Prairie Marching Band will perform in its final tune up before touring China for pre-Olympic cultural events this summer. Residents can check out a variety of display set up by City departments and local organizations and enter free draws.

“We welcome everyone to join us at this celebration,” says Alderman Elroy Deimert, Chair of the Municipal Government Day Team. “We have much to be proud of in this community as we mark our 50th anniversary and this is a great occasion to meet neighbours, enjoy some local and provincial entertainment and learn more about our City.”

Prizes for children’s art contests will be awarded during the event.

Activities commence at 4 p.m. with the Municipal Olympics and the community barbecue. The event runs until 7 p.m., rain or shine. Activities will be moved inside if the weather is inclement.

Media enquires may be directed to:

Ald. Elroy Deimert
Municipal Government Day Team Chair


David Olinger
Manager, Marketing and Communications

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Ecolobus - Electric Transit Bus

The first day I was in Quebec City I saw the Ecolobus. It wasn't until the second last day of the conference that I was able to actually track one down for a ride!

Quebec City transit has recently started running these little guys around the downtown core. How recently? - the one I was in only had 648km on it! According to the city transit website ( french / english translation) they can run approximately 100km per charge so mine had only been in service for about a week.

The driver figured they cost the city about $400 000 by the time they were shipped to Canada and had heaters installed. I spoke to a Quebec City council member on Sunday and he confirmed that the price was about that. They have tested them in the winter and didn't see any problems.

After a little sleuthing on the web I found the Italian manufacturer's website . They suggest that the bus can handle up to 31 passengers at a time (some standing and some sitting).

During a conference break I had a chance to sit down with Jeremy and Ted from Medicine Hat. They were pretty interested in the ecolobus too so maybe there's an opportunity for GP and Med Hat (and others in the province) to get together and make a bulk purchase. I would like to see our transit department contact the other mid-sized cities in Alberta and see if we can get something going.

The smaller size even makes good sense for growing communities like GP. One of the challenges we face with Transit is that we have new neighbourhoods where the road network isn't fully built, making it tough to find a good route for a big bus. We also have areas where there isn't quite the density to demand a large bus, yet. Smaller buses (no matter what they run on) might be the answer.

So, what do you think; should GP invest in some, money saving, clean running buses?

A Complete Street

It's funny, ever since the Sustainable Transportation wrokshop I've been looking at streets differently - regular readers will have seen my posts (here & here) looking at some of the worst examples of "incomplete streets" in Grande Prairie. Well, even at a convention I couldn't stop looking at how the streets and sidewalks were laid out.

Throughout Quebec City the sidewalks are busy with tourists and locals walking everywhere. In the old section the streets are as narrow as they would be any historic European city, very charming but not a lot of room for bikes let alone say a wheelchair for example. But, on the walk from our hotel to the convention centre I realized I was on one of the best examples of a complete street I had ever seen! I snapped the picture below...

This was taken early on Sunday morning so the traffic is pretty light but as you can see the road is four or six lanes wide. Some of the things that makes this a very "complete" street:

• Very wide sidewalk
• Trees make a great separation from the road
• Crosswalks are wide, well marked and very obvious
• Countdown lights to let pedestrians know how much time there is to cross
• Bike lanes marked on the sidewalk

With great streets like this, it's no wonder there are so many people walking here!


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