Thursday, April 29, 2010

Why Grande Prairie Is A Great Place To Invest

An important function of our Economic Development department is inform companies and individuals about Grande Prairie and why they should consider investing here.

To support this there is the website that has lots of practical info that corporate head offices and regular people alike will find useful. The website has been up for some time and is a great asset - but of course there's nothing like "face time" and we are sometimes called upon to do presentations about the region. To this end Brian Glavin, our Economic Development officer, has put together a slide show outlining the reasons that Grande Prairie is a great region to invest in. Brian presented this at a GGS committee a couple of weeks ago, just so council would be aware but I thought I'd take it a step further and get an electronic version to share with you.

Check out the slide show below and if you, or your company, is looking for a place to invest - consider the Grande Prairie region!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Green Jobs for Earth Day!

What better way to cap off Earth Day 2010 by attending this FREE event discussing the potential of green jobs and the new green economy right here in Western Canada- I'll be there tonight, hope to see you there too!

RePower Alberta: Putting Power Back into the Hands of Albertans, the kick-off event for Albert’s first annual green jobs tour!

Albertans face a choice: Do we want to build a future with clean, efficient, sustainable electricity sources or do we want to continue using old, polluting systems that are becoming increasingly scarce and obsolete? Do we want to increase resiliency in our communities, diversify our economy, and create good green jobs that provide for our families and take care of our land? Voters are demanding economic stability and recognizing the environmental and economic cost of over dependence on the oil and gas industry. Your region has great potential for green jobs and renewable energy development in the new green economy. These economic gains can be made as we enter the new economic frontier of renewable energy, efficiency retrofits, green technology research and development and manufacturing.

When: Thursday, April 22 (Earth Day), 2010, 7:00pm
Where: Room D308, Grande Prairie Regional College
Cost: FREE

Speakers will include:

- Valerie V. Gilson, Executive Director of Peace Energy Cooperative
will be sharing the success story of the Peace Energy Cooperative and the great initiatives happening in Dawson Creek.

- Randyn Seibold, Entrepreneur, Renewable Recruits
will present on a report on the clean energy 'industry hot-spots' around Canada, and what some of the most sought-after professionals are.

- Yvonne Peterson, Industry & Continuing Ed Green Building Program, Fairview Campus
will give an introduction to the GPRC Fairview Campus and its Green Building Summer course cluster

- Sheryle Carlson, Associate Director of Sierra Club Prairie Chapter
will present on the RePower Alberta Campaign and give an overview of the renewable energy potential in the province, how our energy demands can be met by clean energy and create good green jobs, and some of the great initiatives taking place across Canada and the world.

Event Sponsored by:
- SPOC (Start Protecting Our Communities - Grande Prairie)
- Green Peace Canada
- Sierra Club of Canada - Prairie Chapter
- Solar Eden Project

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Aquatera Report to Shareholders

At the General Government Services committee this morning Aquatera is tabling it's 2009 Annual Information to Shareholders Report. (Read the whole report for yourself HERE.)

The report contains some interesting points that caught my attention:

• The proposed 2009/10 Capital Budget totals more than $17 million and the projection for five years is $110 million.
That's more than the cost of the Aquatics Centre Multiplex! If the city and our partners had not formed Aquatera that $110 million in capital projects would be competing with other municipal priorities, particularly since we are limited on how much debt we can take on. I, for one, am happy that we aren't in a situation where road upgrades or a new fire hall have to compete with water infrastructure for funding.

• The Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) has reached capacity. Significantly increased chemical use is needed to meet quality standards. Construction of the initial phase of the Wastewater Treatment plant upgrade is complete. Further phases of upgrading will accommodate growth and more stringent effluent standards including disinfection and enhanced nutrient removal requirements currently set for June 2013. A Wastewater Treatment Facility Master Plan commenced in 2009 to set direction for future upgrades. The Master Plan will be completed in spring 2010.

• A Sludge Survey for the Storage Lagoon was completed in early July to establish the quantity and characteristics of the sludge in the storage lagoon at the WWTP. This was also needed to establish the cost for budgeting purposes. It is anticipated that this work may take place in 2010 – subject to available funding. Desludging will increase lagoon capacity and reduce the potential for off-site odours.

• The Aquatera water system is served from a single treated water line. A second feed for back-up and redundancy is planned beyond 2010.
This is probably one of the capital projects in that $110 million 5 year projection and I'd say it's a must. Although I'm sure the one line is well maintained and safe, not having a redundant back up is a risk that should be addressed.

• Aquatera has completed its second year of Aquatic Assessment and Water Conservation Programs as mandated by our interim diversion license. The projected cost for the Aquatic Assessment Program for 2010 is approximately $140,000.
This is just one example of how provincial regulations directly impact Aquatera's cost of doing business. I think it's good that they are looking after the environment but people need to know that these are costs that are forced on the company and end up being reflected in the rates.

• Three management / administrative positions were eliminated (in the Solid Waste division)
There's been quite a bit of talk about how the company runs the landfill operation. I had someone ask me "why doesn't Aquatera just cut staff when times are tough - like any other private company would". Turns out they have.

• Recycling depot collection and processing contracts were renewed for a 3 year term with Recycle Plus, effective June 1, 2009 to June 30, 2012.

• Development of a Community Energy System was halted and the related Steam Supply Agreement expired.
This is sad news, and an opportunity lost. We could have been heating buildings in the city using the waste heat from the operations at the Co-Gen plant at Canfor.

• The Bottle Donation Program gave $78,000 to community groups in 2009 - since the program began in 2004, almost $358,000 has been raised to support local groups.
This, on the other hand, is great news! It's good to see that the company has been able to put a program into place that helps the community give.

• (On getting services to new areas of the city...) The most challenging areas are the north and west portions of the City. Although we have developed interim strategies for some of these areas, they come with a hefty price tag and may require partnering amongst developers to lessen the financial burden.
Interestingly these are the main areas that the county was willing to give up for short term annexation in the Intermunicipal Development Plan negotiations. This suggests, to me, that the city is getting land that may not develop quickly due to the difficulty and expense of getting services out there.

That's some of the high points but read the report yourself and see what you think. Overall, when one looks at the data I think Aquatera has been doing an effective job under challenging conditions.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Look Back - "The Men Who Run This Town"

It's been a while since I posted the last episode of World Report with Clete Roberts and unfortunately this is the last clip I have.

In this episode Clete talks with "the MEN who run this town." That's my emphasis on "men" but if you listen Clete says it pretty much that way - which I think is a little bit of a throw-back, I can't help but think of it as a little bit of a sign of the times.

Anyhow, Clete mentions the population of Grande Prairie right upfront and then talks with Mayor Robert Wadell as well as J.C. Mackie who would become mayor just before GP became a City. There's a park named after J.C. on the west side of the city now, it was a legacy project of the 50th Anniversary committee I chaired in 2008.

So, without further adieu, here's your final helping of Clete Robert's World Report.....

Friday, April 9, 2010

Multiplex Photos at about 50% Complete

On Wednesday I had a chance to pop by The Multiplex construction site. The building is at about 50% complete and although there is a long way to go (really, a loooooong way to go) you can start to see it all coming together since the last time I posted pictures. Below are some highlights of Wednesday's visit:

There's the 25m program pool. Now that it's actually got a floor you can see the unique slope. Most pools are deeper at one "end" (the narrow side of the rectangle) this pool is deeper on one "side" (the long side of the rectangle.) This will be great for things like water aerobics classes. Check out this pic from last time where the 25m pool was just an empty space. In the non-public service area you can actually walk right under the 25m pool.

At the end of the big 50m pool you can see the dive tower starting to be constructed. The contractors Wright Construction area actually doing this as a sponsorship of the facility and building the dive tower at their cost, a savings of about $800,000 to the project if I remember correctly.

On my last visit the floor over to this area wasn't built yet so this is the first look inside the "weight room" area on the second floor. All together this area is about 16,000 sq ft - lots of room for all the bikes, treadmills & weights, ect. There's also a great program room for things like yoga or aerobics, it can be configured as one large room or two smaller ones.

This is a look down from the public viewing area on the second floor to the Flowrider. It's pretty exciting to see the unit starting to take shape! I can just imagine hanging out up here watching the actions as people pull off tricks (and face-plants) ... very cool! Straight behind the Flowrider is the 25m pool... our current pool is only a little bit bigger than that area you see there.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

GGS Committee Agenda for April 7th, 2010

The GGS committee meets today at 10am. The agenda looks to be fairly light - check it out below, with notes from me in italics.

General Government Services Agenda April 7, 2010

1. 2010 Orthophoto Project
K. McGriskin, GIS Manager
This is a project to update the aerial photos we have of the city. The photos are used by various city departments in their operations through the year. We partner with the County of GP on this to do the whole area at once and since the county area is larger than the city thy actually cover the majority of the cost but we manage the project. The total cost is $188,050 and the city's portion of that is $47,140.

2. 2010 Fiscal Plan
K. Anderson, Corporate Services Director
Given how the economy has been a little... unsettled, over the last while Council asked Ken to give us an update on how things were looking for the year and how administration was handling any challenges that might pop up. Report highlights:
• the short fall in MSI funding (which had even more cut from it than we expected -$653,000)
• loss of revenue when a long standing grant from the province disappeared in their latest budget (-$592,000)
• lowered revenue projections from development services due to slower than expected construction activity (-$500,000)
• lowered revenue projections from the Crystal Centre (-$300,000)
• loss of revenue when the province removed ambulance dispatch from our 911 call centre (-$300,000)
• better than expected revenue at the Leisure Centre & Coca-Cola Centre (+$100,000)
• savings by delaying borrowing for construction projects (+$200,000)
• higher than expected tax penalty revenue, also probably due to the economy (+$200,000)
• increased revenue due to climbing interest rates (+$250,000)
• savings due to wages not increasing as fast as predicted (+$942,000)

Many of the items above offset with the exception of the $653,000 loss from the further reduction (last year's reduction caused an increase in taxes) in MSI funding, to handle that admin is suggesting we use money from the Facility Depreciation reserve. I'm hoping that we'll be able to pay that reserve back because the province has said that we would eventually get all the MSI money, just over a longer period. So, if it's replaced down the road hopefully we can just pay ourselves back so that reserve is available for it's intended use.

All in all, those things balance out so that the budget increase will remain at the 2.8% council approved in the fall. I think it goes to show how big a task municipal budgeting is.

3. 2010 Assessment Report for Mill Rate Application
D. Swant, Assessment/Tax Manager
I've spoken about mill rates before. Interesting note in the report; the revenue producing assessment in the city is just over $7 billion. That means that if you added up the value of all the properties in the city it would be worth $7 billion.

4. Bylaw C-1247, 2010 Property Tax
D. Sauve, Financial Analyst
This is the bylaw that actually puts the tax rate in place and formalizes the 2.8% budget increase. Of note, due to a reduction in the education portion of the property tax we can collect an additional $578,000 which will go to reduce the borowing needed for the multiplex construction.

All told, An average house in GP (with an assessed value of $263,000) will see their tax bill increase by $80.00 this year.

5. Senior’s Property Tax Rebate
D. Swant, Assessment/Tax Manager
This rebate gives seniors a rebate of $100 on their property taxes. The administration of the program is done through the Alberta Seniors Benefit Program.

6. Cancellation of Regularly Scheduled Meetings
A. Cerny, Deputy Legislative Services Manager
Much of council will be away for the FCM conference so the May 31 Council meeting and the June 1st Public Works meetings will have to be cancelled. (I'll be staying in GP this year)

7.Bill 9, Local Authorities Election Statutes Amendment Act, 2010
A. Cerny, Deputy Legislative Services Manager

8. Correspondence
8.1. Alberta Municipal Affairs, re: Responses to Bill 9, formerly Bill 203, Local Authorities Election Amendment Act, 2009


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