Monday, March 29, 2010

Two Names in for Election 2010

There are now two official names in the race for a seat on GP's council in the October 18th 2010 municipal election.

The first to announce was Kevin McLean and then yesterday Erin Steidel launched her campaign. Kevin has run for council a number of times and just missed the cut in the 2007 election. Erin is a newcomer but she has a Facebook group and a blog up and running.

Welcome Kevin & Erin!

I've heard other names bounced around here and there but until someone chooses to make an announcement you can't be sure. As people do decide to officially throw their hat in the ring I'll mention them here and compile an on going list of candidates for Grande Prairie city council.

I'm sure there'll be lots of exciting announcements between now and nomination day!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Thoughts on Traffic Circles

It looks like traffic circles might be coming to Grande Prairie. Last week a reposrt was presented at the Public Works committee showing the plan for the east & west couplet projects.

The intent of the couplet is to move westbound traffic off off 100 Ave and up to 101 Ave. The idea is that this should create a better flow for traffic going through downtown to the west side f the city and at the same time allow 100 Ave to have two way traffic which would improve access to downtown stores. One of the challenges had been how to handle the transitions ... so the suggestion of traffic circles came up.

After the report was released there was of course some initial feedback including a letter to the editor which was dead set against traffic circles (you can read it here). But there have also started to be some positive coments like this email that was sent to council:

Dear City Aldermen

I read on Wednesday’s edition in the DHT that the city is considering adding traffic circles in the downtown area. Congratulation! That is a great step towards solving the traffic problems with in the city. I only hope that other parts of the city would also be considered for the traffic circles as well. For example, I think that the corner of Resources Road and 84th Avenue would work, and the corner of 68th Avenue and Poplar Drive would also be a great fit.

I recently spent 3 weeks in Great Britain and found that roundabouts were a perfect way of sorting traffic without the hassle of dealing with traffic lights. A true traffic circle doesn’t have lights and I hope that is the type that is being considered.

As well as freeing up the traffic they are friendlier on the environment, no stopping and starting, and no idling waiting for the lights to change. Not to mention the saving on the power and upkeep which goes to the traffic lights. You will also find that there will be no traffic running the lights before they change like they currently do, cutting down on the number of accidents in town thus cutting down on the number of responses by Police and Fire Departments, a further savings.

I lived in Peace River for 10 years and they had a five way intersection that no one liked, a couple of years ago Alberta Transportation changed the 5 way intersection to a traffic circle and friends of mine that still live there have said it has sped up traffic. I also phoned Town of Peace River and they told me they never received a single complaint about the change over.
I have lived here in Grande Prairie for over 50 years and this is the one thing that has me enthused enough to write to the council to voice my whole hearted approval.

Yours Truly
Randy Montgomery

Randy mentions Peace River and actually the experience there offers some tips on what to do as we move forward - things like "pamphlets explaining how to use the roundabout, a portable billboard on the subject and public meetings". Ultimately even after PR's circle was opened there was still some uneasiness from residents.

But, seeming to back up Randy's comments is this letter to the editor in the Peace River Record Gazette that says the traffic circle there is a great improvement over the old five-way intersection they used to have.

I wonder what the impression is from folks in PR is today - is the roundabout working? Have people become accustomed to it?

For more information on exactly what modern roundabouts are like check out the Province of Alberta information page on Roundabouts here

Let me know what you think of the plan.

Provincial Funding Cuts Hit GPRC

The impacts of the tight provincial budget haven't just hit funding for municipalities, it's also had an impact on post-secondary education in Alberta. I've mentioned before how reductions in provincial funding for municipalities have directly increased taxes in GP. The media release I received this morning notes how Grande Prairie Regional College is impacted. GPRC is an important part of our community both economically & socially and I think it's important that we lobby the province to provide a level of funding that will see the institution grow.

GPRC Media Release
March 25, 2010

Tight reins on spending at GPRC in New Budget Year

The core values of Grande Prairie Regional College have been the guiding principles during budget planning for the coming year, according to Board Chair Michael O’Connor. The quality of education for students, and the protection of the people employed by the institution were the factors at front of mind while the College adjusted its budget in response to the reduced operating grant from the Government of Alberta for the budget year 2010-2011, which begins July 1.

“The Administration of our College has presented a lean and efficient strategy which keeps the institution strong and growing – on both campuses,” says O’Connor.

In February, the Alberta Government budget announcement included a 6% reduction in the operating grants across the post-secondary system in Alberta. For GPRC, the impact is a 4.7% ($2.0 Million) reduction in its annual operating grant. The announcement had been anticipated by GPRC in the light of current economic realities, and a strategy was presented by Administration and reviewed by the GPRC Board of Governors today. A final budget will come forward for approval at the May meeting of the Board.

The reduction has been addressed through a number of measures. People across the institution were asked to identify cost reductions in their departments. “We have made reductions people felt they could live with in the short term,” explains Don Gnatiuk, President and CEO of the College. “The savings came equally from across the organization, and we are very proud of our people for stepping forward to help find this solution.” Some of the shortfall has been met by applying operation contingency funds.

“This budget is tight, no question,” says Gnatiuk. “We are running very lean in order to protect our people, and to continue to provide our students with top quality education. There is limited contingency funding in our strategy, but it is designed to keep our institution strong and growing – our future is exciting.”

Among the strategies suggested to institutions by Advanced Education and Technology is the review of low-enrolment programs, which the College is doing. Other implications of the reduction include a possible capping of classes and programs. The current practice has been to add sections as needed to meet demand, which adds cost. There may also be some impact on timetabling, according to Susan Bansgrove, Vice President Academic. “Class times may be less convenient in the short term as we conserve our resources and it is possible that not all courses will be offered every semester. Strategies for the coming year include close management of overtime and position vacancies. We are putting our energy and resources toward ensuring the best quality educational experience for our students – the dedication and commitment of our teaching faculty and support staff is unfaltering.”

An additional impact of the changing economy is in the Apprenticeship area. The demand for apprentices within industry in the Province has decreased dramatically over the past year, and the trades space commitments allocated by Alberta Industry Training has decreased accordingly. Some restructuring of trades program delivery will result from this decrease.

“This is a situation driven strictly by demand from industry,” explains Bansgrove. “Apprenticeship training is always cyclical, and change is expected whenever the economy shifts. At the moment, there are some 7,000 trades apprenticeship spaces unfilled across the system. The commitment levels for GPRC have been reduced in all trades but one, and we anticipate that a few trades positions will be affected as we rationalize these changes.”

The current tight budget has not deterred GPRC from its focus on the future. Capital projects have not been impacted by the reductions, and will continue as planned. “Our campuses are being steadily improved through the capital grants and funds which we have received,” explains Gnatiuk. “There are a number of exciting projects underway which not only strengthen post-secondary education in our region but which support and strengthen our local economy.”

The coming years are anticipated with optimism and enthusiasm by GPRC. “We are using this time to streamline our business, improve our processes and find new efficiencies,” says Gnatiuk. “We are preparing for the future, developing new programs, getting ready so that when the funding once again becomes available, we are ready to grow.”

For further comment please contact:
Don Gnatiuk, President and CEO
Grande Prairie Regional College

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Two New Directors at City Hall

News today of a reorganization of some departments at city hall. With the recent news that Felix Seiler will be leaving the city there was an opportunity to make some changes in the way the different city departments are laid out. The city manager has the authority to structure the organization as he sees fit to best address the priorities that council sets out. Previously there were 4 directors; Public Works, Protective Services, Community Services & Corporate Services.

In terms of personnel, I like the changes City Manager Scerbak has made, both Janette and Jane have had important leadership rolls with the city over the years and it's great to see that both will be taking on the added responsibility that these new director rolls will come with. I'm interested to see exactly what functions will now fall under the Intergovernmental Services director.

Congratulations Jane & Janette!

Media Release
March 24, 2010

City Appoints Two New Directors

The City of Grande Prairie has filled its Community Services Director role and a corporate reorganization will result in a new service area being created.

Arenas General Manager Jane Cada-Sharp was the successful candidate in the search to replace Felix Seiler as Community Services Director. Seiler becomes the PACRIM Hospitality Area Manager on April 19.

“I am very excited about taking on the Community Services Director position,” says Cada-Sharp. The staff in this department are certainly up to any and all challenges and I look forward to meeting those head on with them.”

Cada-Sharp became the Arenas General Manager seven years ago. She assumed the general manager position at the Crystal Centre in 1999 after joining the facility in 1994 as Events and Marketing Manager. Cada-Sharp signed on with the City in 1991 after previous positions in marketing and promotions at Grande Prairie Regional College and in the broadcasting industry.

Also effective mid-April, Legislative Services Manager Janette Ferguson will lead the newly created Intergovernmental Services area which evolved in a re-organization. “This new service area will take in Legislative Services and other departments to help us better serve Council and the organization as a whole bolstering our ability work with regional municipalities and other levels of government,” says City Manager Greg Scerbak. “I congratulate both Jane and Janette on their new responsibilities and look forward to working more closely with them. They have both devoted long service to this City.”

Ferguson has served the City for nearly 32 years, the last 21 as Legislative Services Manager. She was Assistant City Clerk for 10 years. She joined the City as Secretary to the City Manager.

.“It’s exciting to take on a new role and help the municipality move forward,” Ferguson says. “I look forward to the opportunities this position creates for our organization.”

Scerbak says details on the composition of Intergovernmental Services and other organizational changes will be announced next week.

Media enquiries may be directed to:
City Manager
Greg Scerbak

Incoming Community Services Director
Jane Cada-Sharp

Municipal and Intergovernmental Services Director
Janette Ferguson

Monday, March 15, 2010

Wrapping Up The Arctic Winter Games

I stil haven't had time to fully "decompress" from the exciting and head-spinning week that was the Arctic Winter Games.

My quick impressions from the games:

• The city was busy! I mean realllllly busy - I'd almost swear that there was an audible hum from all the activity going on.
• Merchants at the mall must have noticed a spike in sales.
• Each venue had it's own personality. Cross-country skiing had a different vibe than Arctic Sports at the college.
• The things that are usually issues at the games (transportation, food and showers) seemed to get the least complaints.
• The kids had a great time.
• The army of volunteers that made the games happen deserve a rest!

That's all I can come up with right now- all in all it was a stellar week for our community!

If you'd like to see the action first hand check out the official AWG Flickr feed HERE. Volunteer Will Vaverk shot tons of pictures that captured just about everything from arrivals to departures and all the fun in between. (That's Will's work to the left.)

To see some other great shots stop by the Montrose Cultural Centre where you can check out the stunning images captured by the high school students that worked with professional photographers as part of the Photo Mentorship program.

The final medal count is on the AWG 2010 blog HERE.

New Grande Prairie Blog

I had an email yesterday announcing a new Grande Prairie based blog:

"Hi Bill, I am a regular reader of your blog, I am the same Donna who has commented from time to time. I am also the person who expressed concern at last year's public town hall meeting at Maude Clifford school, about the littering problem in Grande Prairie. Well, it turns out that complaining about the litter to my husband and friends isn't really accomplishing anything, so I started a blog the other day. I already feel much better about the situation, like I'm actually doing something about it. So I wanted to let you in on it since you are someone who also blogs, and you may also have valuable input on the issues I choose to discuss, since some solutions will no-doubt involve working with the City. If you feel inclined, would you mind forwarding the link to anyone you know that might be interested? I am not on Facebook, but am planning to send the link to friends and people I am acquainted with around the community - but other than that, I'm not sure how to go about getting people on board. Grande Prairie: Project Clean & Green

Before I started my blog, I googled "grande prairie clean green" first, to see if anyone else had already started something like it, because why re-invent the wheel? Now that my blog is published, if you google the same words, my blog is the first hit that comes up - how cool is that?

Well I am on a mission and have no idea where it will take me, but I have high hopes and am pretty enthusiastic about it. Hope you like my site! Let me know if you have any suggestions or ideas."

Good for you Donna, it's great to see people taking action on the issues that are important to them! I've added Grande Prairie: Project Clean & Green to the Worthwhile Blogs section on the right hand side of the site - stop by and encourage Donna in her efforts to get the word out on how important it is that we all take a hand in keeping our city clean!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Arctic Winter Games - Dene Sports, Hand Games

Check out this great video from CBC's Dan Robson on the Dene Hand Games down at ATCO place:

Check out Dan's full post on his AWG 2010 blog for CBC HERE.

In the mean time - get your butt down to ATCO Place in Muskoseepi Park and check out some of the unique sports of the Arctic Winter Games!

If you're looking for sport times and locations go HERE. There's a handy menu that allows you to sort the events by date, venue or sport. If you're a basketball fan you can find out when all the games are. If you've got a free day you can select just the date and see all events for that day.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Library Update - March 8th, 2010

Support the Friends of The Library Silent Auction

The Grande Prairie Public Library Friends Society is hosting their 9th Annual Silent Auction in the Library from March 1 - 21, 2010.

The auction showcases local talent from the community, with funds raised going towards a shelving unit that will hold the Library’s ongoing in-house book sale.

Items included in this year’s auction are artwork from Tannis Trydal, Kim Dettling, Marian Jacoba Shilka, Janice Lutsenko and Joan Taylor. There are photo cards, jewellery, crafts, and giftware, as well as an office chair provided by Corporate Express and a marble sculpture donated by the Downtown Association.

To see a full list of items, with pictures, check out the Grande Prairie Public Library Friends Society Facebook page. For more information please contact Judy at (780) 357-7478.

Just a few of the many Programs & Events going on at the library

Celebrate Food from Field to Table
March is Nutrition Month! Come and discuss how Canadians can celebrate food – right from where it is grown and harvested to a healthy and delicious meal on your table. Learn how to plan, purchase, prepare and plant healthy foods for you and your family.

Date: Thursday, March 11
Time: 7:00 pm
Location: Rotary Community Room

Get Growing
Monday, March 15 at 6:30 pm – Vegetable Gardening
First, learn the benefits of growing your own vegetables with Nutritionist Danielle Wohlgemuth. Then, Lorna McIlroy will present how to get the most and best out of your vegetable garden, large or small.
Monday, March 29 at 6:30 pm – Flower and Container Gardening
Do you live in an apartment or condo? Don’t have time for a large garden but you love flowers or you want to try container gardening? This session will give you a great start to a fragrant and fabulous yard, large or small.

Programs for the Family

Easter Colouring Contest
Children up to and including age 8 are welcome to enter the Grande Prairie Public Library’s Easter colouring contest. Pick up an entry form at the Children’s Library Information Desk or print one from our website at on the Children’s Page under Contests. The grand prize is a Library book bag full of books and toys.

Aluk Visits the Library!
Come and meet Aluk the official mascot of the 2010
Arctic Winter Games. Join Aluk and library staff for lots of fun activities in the Preschool Play Zone. A drop in program for sports enthusiasts of all ages.

Date: Tuesday, March 9
Time: 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Location: Preschool Play Zone

2010 Arctic Winter Games - Opening Night

Just a quick post this morning....

Although the volunteers & staff have been working behind the scenes for more than three years, the 2010 Arctic Winter Games officially got under way last night with the opening ceremonies. It's going to be a week full of fun, sport, art and, most importantly getting to know new people!

Through the week I'll try to post games info when I can but they'll probably be short - it's going to be a busy time and there's only going to be so much time I can spend at the computer.

Today's quick notes:

- Last night's opening ceremonies were excellent! The crowd in attendance was treated to a really diverse line-up of acts that showcased the broad spectrum of cultures represented in the north - and the sight of over 2000 athletes and 260 officials parading in was especially moving.

Athletes Seated For Opening Ceremonies

- At this morning's Chef De Mission meeting (at 7am!) the Yamal representative had high praise for the ceremonies. They were so happy to hear their national anthem in their native language and surprised to hear a well known local song for their entrance music that it "brought tears" to their eyes!

- There was a hardy crowd gathered at ATCO Place in Muskoseepi Park to greet the Games torch as it came in to light the cauldron. ATCO were great hosts and kept everyone entertained even through the opening ceremonies were a little over time and delayed the torch's arrival.

Lighting The Cauldron At ATCO Place

Keep up to date with the latest 2010 Arctic Winter Games news via the links below...
General Info for the week:

Arctic Winter Games Sport Schedules can be found HERE

Arctic Winter Games Results Information can be found HERE

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Muskoseepi Park Pond Closed

The warm weather has made the pond at Muskoseepi Park unsafe to skate on for the time being.

"Media Release
March 2, 2010

Muskoseepi Park Pond Closed

Skaters are asked to avoid using the Muskoseepi Park pond during the current mild conditions.

The warm weather the City has had over the past week has caused the ice surface to become slushy and possibly dangerous. Park staff hope to maintain the ice enough so that it can be used again if the weather gets cold.

“There are safety concerns if we get any amount people out on the skating pond right now,” says Muskoseepi Park Customer Services Manager Chad Cronk. “It is not an immediate threat but the warm weather has definitely comprised the thickness and strength of the ice. The forecast indicates continued warm weather.”

Media enquiries may be directed to:
Chad Cronk
Muskoseepi Park Customer Services Manager


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