Thursday, December 2, 2010

Get your skates out - the pond at Muski is open!

Media Release
December 2, 2010

Pavilion Skating Pond Open for the Season

The skating pond at the Muskoseepi Park Pavilion is open for public use starting today.

“Conditions have been excellent for the creation of sufficient ice depth and a smooth skating surface,” says Chad Cronk, Customer Service Manager.

The public is reminded that this is a no-hockey equipment skating surface for the safety of all users of the park facilities.

“The ice pond is a popular venue and we know people will be excited to see it open for the season,” says Cronk. “Users are asked to be considerate of other skaters all skaters enjoy it. The pond is not supervised.”

The pavilion is now on winter hours Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and on the weekends, noon to 6 p.m.

Media enquires may be directed to:
Chad Cronk, Customer Service Manager
Muskoseepi Park

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Help Run The City - Looking for Volunteers

Have you ever wanted to get involved in helping run the city? Maybe you have but didn't know where to start, or you weren't quite ready to start that campaign for Mayor or Councillor yet. Well, I've got just the thing for you!

The City regularly has openings for people who would like to serve on various committees and boards. The public members are an important part of how the committees operate and ultimately how the city is run.

Right now we're looking for people to help out on the following committees:


If you're interested in getting involved and taking an active role in what happens in our community; please, please, please submit an application! Council will be appointing public members at it's meeting on December 13th so get your application in soon!

You can download the whole application package here. It has information on what the various committees are as well as the form you have to fill in and send back to the city. Read through the package, see which committee suits your interest and then get involved by applying!

You can also complete the form online by going to here and clicking on "Boards & Committees Application Form".

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

An Orientation on Aquatera

As the new council gets to work there is a lot to learn. Each Councillor will be working to gain their bearings as they head into committee meetings next week. On top of things specific to individual committees like Public Works or Community Development there are all the broad topics that that can be even more complex.

One great example is Aquatera. New council members probably come to the table with opinions about the corporation and I'm sure they'll have heard things from the public through the course of the campaign.

Obviously as they go forward it will be important that they develop an understanding of what the company is, what it does and the principles under which it operates.

To help kick off that process the following presentation was shared yesterday as a part of Council's orientation:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lane Closure – Wapiti Road at CN Tracks

News Release
October 26, 2010

Lane Closure – Wapiti Road at CN Tracks

Motorists are advised that Wapiti Road will be reduced to one lane traffic at the CN Tracks on Wednesday, October 27, for road maintenance and work on the medians. Construction is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. and is anticipated be completed by 12:00 p.m.

This lane closure will impact the flow of traffic for drivers travelling on Wapiti Road between 97 Avenue and 89 Avenue.

“This work is part of the continued maintenance of the CN Rail Crossing on Wapiti Road,” says Steve Kay, Project Engineer.

“We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and thank motorists for their patience as this work proceeds.”

Media enquiries may be directed to:
Steve Kay, P Eng
Project Engineer

First Post as Mayor

Last night was our organizational meeting where the new council was officially sworn-in.

The last few weeks have been quite a roller coaster; the suspense of the election, the euphoria after the win,  too many congratulations to count and then in to assuming my new position and getting ready for last night.

In between all that I've attended 2 events in support of United Way, 2 council orientations sessions, the GPRC President's Ball, my regular Rotary meeting and managed to find the coffee maker in city hall (with a little help).

Council is still in the middle of orientation with regular committee meetings starting next week and the 2011 budget review following hot on the heals of that with our first look at it on Nov 10th. Of note is that I've asked administration to move budget talks to City Hall where they can be webcast - it looks like this will be possible so we might have our first "first" of the new term.

Posts for the first while may be a little erratic but I do intend to find a way to work it into my regular schedule. ... right now though, I have to run downstairs for a review of council's Strategic Priorities chart.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Finally, a GREAT Question! I vent a little, be prepared.

I had a great question on Facebook and when I started a response it went from being a comment to a full-fledged note to finally this post. The issue is big enough that it deserves a full discussion and this is the kind of thing that hasn't happened in our election.

I've been bursting with a desire to address this but it's been difficult in the context of our campaign where candidates aren't really getting in to the issues in depth. Other candidates seem to be going for the "quick win" of calling for lower taxes or taking credit for things others have done but this is the kind of discussion that really needs to happen... so Derek, thank you for asking the question!

Derek Hall - Bill, what are your thoughts on next year's provincial review of the Municipal Government Act? Crucial for all cities in Alberta - what's GP's position and what should our strategy be?

Hey Derek, the MGA is important for cities and in fact all municipalities in the province. The province has not done a full review of it in some time - although they have announced a few times that they were going to. The problem is that the bill hasn't been updated much since it was introduced in the mid 90's.

The province has been "tinkering around the edges" in a number of ways and there have been a few private member's bills that have attempted to make changes. Most recently I traveled to the Leg to speak against one such bill - in the end our presentation was worthwhile and the committee is recommending the gov't scrap the bill. The point is that there needs to a full review of the bill to ensure it's setting a foundation for Alberta municipalities to be successful.

So, the first thing I think the new council should do is support a resolution from the City of Calgary that will be up for discussion at the AUMA convention after the election. The resolution basically calls on the provincial government to actually start that review process. (View the resolution here )From there the city needs to take an active roll in the review process, both through our provincial association (AUMA) and by doing our own lobbying with the minister and provincial staff.

One issue I'd like to see raised is municipal financial sustainability... the current reliance on property tax is out dated and no longer appropriate for funding the modern needs of communities. In the past property tax did make sense because the services municipalities provided were mostly related to public works and directly tied to property (think of things like roads, sidewalks ect.) Today's municipalities are being asked to provide a much broader range of service including recreation, affordable housing, social services and economic development - most of these don't have any clear connection to the actual property owned in the municipality.

On top of the increased demand for services Alberta's syatem has an underlying inequity that creates municipalities that are "more equal" than others before any home owner or commercial property receives a tax bill. Two specific issues that I'd like to address are:

- INEQUITABLE FUNDING Munis under 5000 population or who are rural (like counties) DON'T PAY FOR RCMP - the province pays it for them.... while cities like GP pay 98% of the cost for our cops. (More info on that from a 2007 post on my blog here ) This is a huge chunk of our budget and if we didn't have to pay for it we could lower property taxes.

- LINEAR TAXES help some municipalities keep residential/commercial property taxes ARTIFICIALLY LOW. This is a complex issue but the verrrrrry simple version is that some rural municipalities in the province have a GIGANTIC source of revenue that really doesn't require services - it's basically free money. Linear taxes are property taxes on things that may cross municipal boarders... think of things like gas pipelines and other utilities. In 2007 the City of GP collected just 2% ($1.3 Million) of it's tax revenue from Linear taxes... Meanwhile linear taxes made up 37% ($17 Million) of the County of GP's tax revenue. The County actually collected more from linear properties than they did from residential properties. Click through the presentation below for the details:

Add those two together (the county doesn't have to pay for police + they have the benefit of $17 million in linear taxes) and it's clear that the city cannot compete with the county on an even basis. To be clear, I'm not saying that the County of GP is at fault - they just have a tremendous advantage that most people don't know about.

These types of inequities are the things I think the City of GP has to lobby to change in any future revision of the MGA. The first step will be in getting the province to agree to actually do the review, the second will be to maintain a more active and involved lobbying schedule, which I've proposed.

It's a shame that the other candidates for mayor aren't ready or willing to really get into the issues like this. It's easy to campaign on simplistic 3 point platforms or by taking credit for projects started by others. I've tried to run on working towards a community vision and I've always been ready to really talk about the issues but there just hasn't seemed to be an opportunity for that - until now. Thanks Derek for asking and giving me a chance to start a very important discussion.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Prestigious $2.3 million research award to GPRC

Grande Prairie Regional College is among the eleven colleges which will receive Federal funding from Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) to work with their communities and local businesses to get new innovations from campuses into the marketplace.  The Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry, today announced a total of nearly $15 Million to develop a number of diverse, environmentally-friendly technologies, and strengthen industry, community and academic relationships.  Grande Prairie Regional College has been awarded $2,300,000 for an environmental research initiative led by instructor and researcher Dr. Weixing Tan, which will be conducted through the Centre for Research and Innovation (CRI) at the College.  

This initiative, entitled Pollutants to Products (P2P), is among those selected for funding following a nation-wide peer-reviewed competition.  The College, and its industry partners and stakeholders, have dedicated the last decade and $1.5 million developing sustainable local solutions to environmental issues. One project studies carbon and pollutants capture by microalgae; another investigates enhancement of reforestation and carbon sequestration; and the other diverts wastewater from waterways to a poplar industrial fibre production. Each project contributes to a reduction of the region's wastes and harnesses natural processes to turn atmospheric pollutants to useful products.

"Grande Prairie Regional College is very proud to be among the colleges selected for this funding," says Susan Bansgrove, Vice-President Academic.  "Dr. Tan has long been recognized for his applied research in areas related to sustainable forestry practices and the environment.  These projects have been very important for our region, and have also provided enormous opportunities for our students in recent years."

"I am very pleased and honoured to receive this highly-prestigious award," says Tan.  "It is the great support and contributions from the College, local industries and communities that makes it a reality. This award provides additional excellent opportunities to involve students and faculty in applied research, which we have been doing for many years. The involvement of students really enhances their learning and provides significant motivation in terms of their study at GPRC."

A news conference will be hosted at GPRC Grande Prairie on November 9th 2010, to provide more in-depth information about the research project and its partners, as well as to celebrate the announcement of the grant.

Chamber of Commerce Survey Responses

Around election time a number of different organizations want to hear candidates views on specific issues. I previously posted my responses to a survey from the CFIB and you can see my responses (and all the other candidates in GP) to the Canadian Cancer Society here.

This time around it's the Grande Prairie & District Chamber of Commerce. I haven't been able to find the responses posted to their website yet so I thought I'd post mine here.

1 – HEALTH CARE FACILITIES AND SERVICES The recent announcement of a $520-Million Dollar Health Care Facility has a potentially huge impact on our city and/or region. If elected, how would you advocate to ensure the needs of our community are met as detailed plans for the facility are determined.

The city must support the construction of the new hospital by ensuring the planning & development approval process is fast tracked, not just for the hospital site but for the whole of the college lands. In partnership with the province and GPRC we must also advocate to see the learning & education component of the project completed. Finally we need to work with community partners to ensure the provinces properly funds the operations & staffing of the facility

2 – REGIONAL COOPERATION The recently approved Intermunicipal Development Plan was touted as a big accomplishment of the current council. What are your thoughts on the plan? In your opinion what opportunities does it present for future development?

The plan is a step forward but we must recognize that actual annexation of county lands into the city is likely another 3 years way, and development on those lands could be even further off. Working through the annexation process must be a major focus of the city over the coming term. Council must; ensure landowners and businesses are engaged in the process; develop estimates of what additional costs will come with the lands, and begin to actively encourage servicing and development of the lands.

3 – TAXES & UTLITIES There is a perception by some in the business community that the City is not as ‘business-friendly’ as some of our surrounding communities - a stigma that could result in the potential loss of future city developments. What is your plan to retain existing businesses and attract new economic development to our community?

My goal is for the city to be recognized as the most customer orientated municipality in the province. The City of Grande Prairie can has already implemented the BizPal program which substantially reduces “red tape” by allowing businesses to get information from 3 levels of government at once. In the area of development we are working to revise our development permitting process to make it faster and more efficient for customers – I support this and will continue seek ways to streamline city processes. I also believe the city has a roll in advocating on behalf of businesses in our region when it comes to trying to address the costs of doing business in our region. In particular we need to work with the province to address the high cost of electricity which impacts homeowners and businesses alike.

4 – TRANSPORTATION What is the greatest transportation concern currently facing our city? What would you do, if elected, to address the issue?

On-going maintenance and repair of our city roads will always be the greatest transportation concern for our community. In addition to maintaining our current level of investment in road maintenance, I believe we need to improve the design standards for new roads and consider "front-ending" development of major arterials in strategic locations (such as 116th street south of 84th avenue and 84th Street on the east side). Outside of the automobile the city must work to see that all city streets are "Complete Streets" that are useful and accessible for cars, pedestrians and cyclists. We also need to continue to budget for the full implementation of the Transit Master Plan which will improve our public transportation system.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Eastlink Mayoral Interview

Eastlink is Grande Prairie's local cable television provider. I went in to the studio for a short Q & A last week. Here's the interview:

Check Eastlink's Youtube channel for interviews with the other candidates.

Monday, October 4, 2010

CFIB Survey Response

I just submitted my response to a survey sent out to mayoral candidates by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

I don't always agree with the CFIB. In particular I disagree with them on their position on franchise fees (Bill 203) and I said as much when I presented at the Legislature committee hearing a few weeks ago in Edmonton.

Having said that there are areas I can see common ground and I appreciate their efforts to advocate on behalf of their memberships.

Below are the questions CFIB asked and my responses. There are some areas where I've added information for this blog post - they are noted in italics.

If elected as mayor:

1.Will you implement a multi-year plan to reduce the difference between what businesses and residents pay in municipal property tax based on the same assessed value?


Comments: Urban municipalities in Alberta cannot afford to do this. I believe the focus should be on creating a regulatory environment that welcomes new business development. As new properties are built the tax burden will be diffused across more properties. An additional option would be see Linear Property Taxes pooled regionally and distributed on a per capita basis with in the regional catchment area. This would allow urban municipalities to reduce the tax burden on small business. In my opinion, this is a huge inequity that allows some municipalities to keep residential and commercial property taxes artificially low. I'll be doing a full post on it this week.

2.Will you work to limit future growth in operating spending by the municipal government to a sustainable benchmark such as inflation plus population growth?


Comments: I have committed to ensuring that the 2012-2014 budget cycle follows this formula.

3.How do you plan to reduce the amount of municipal red tape that small business owners in your community must deal with?

Explain: The City of Grande Prairie has already implemented the BizPal program which substantially reduces “red tape” by allowing businesses to get information from 3 levels of government at once. In the area of development we are working to revise our development permitting process to make it faster and more efficient for customers – I support this and will continue seek ways to streamline city processes.

4.Do you support new taxation powers for municipalities?


Comments: At this time the best solution to aid in municipal financial sustainability is to secure a legislated share of current tax revenues from other orders of government. Additionally, Linear Tax property revenues should be reexamined. My suggestion would be that they be pooled with in regional catchment areas and distributed within the region on a per capita basis.

5.Do you support the municipal government being subject to external, independent, value-for-money operational and financial audits?


Comments: The current Municipal Government Act already provides the minister with all the tools needed to require audits, of any kind, from every municipality.

6.Tell us about the other ways you plan to make your municipality more small business-friendly?

Comments: I believe our local government can add value for the business community by:
- Televising Budget meetings (and archiving on the web)
- Opening City Data to the public to allow businesses to make use of it
- Helping identify and address the cost barriers to doing business in the north, with particular focus on transportation infrastructure & electricity costs.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Developing an Airport Industrial Park

This morning, as the Grande Prairie Regional Airport cut the ribbon on it's recent expansion, candidate for Mayor Bill Given announced his intention to advocate for the development of an industrial park at the Grande Prairie airport.

“The Grande Prairie Regional Airport is a unique asset for our community and in terms of land development I believe it's currently under-utilized.” said Given, who has previously served as both a director and chair of the airport commission.

The $16.5 million dollars in recently completed renovations a the terminal building and parking facilities were a part of the airport's long-range development plan. The plan also envisions a commercial/industrial development on the west side of the property. This industrial park would offer close proximity to both highway 43 and the future provincial by-pass.

“On the airport lands we can offer businesses something not available anywhere else in the region; direct access to air transport service.” said Given. “I believe encouraging and supporting innovative development like this will add to the city's tax base and offer opportunities for new kinds of businesses.”

Given noted that such a development would be a longer term project that would require partnerships. “To be a success, developing these lands will take the airport commission, private industry and the city working together,” said Given “We need to start that process today.”

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Road Closure – Poplar Drive

News Release September 15, 2010

Road Closure – Poplar Drive at 68 Avenue 

Motorists are advised that Poplar Drive will be closed on Thursday, September 16 and Friday, September 17.

This closure will impact traffic flow for drivers travelling on Poplar Drive near 68 Avenue, and traffic access to Poplar Drive from 68 Avenue.

Transit bus routes 1 and 2 through this area, will also be affected. The changes are as follows:

Route 1 – 131, M15 & 141;
A temporary stop replacing 141 will be placed westbound on 65 Avenue off Poplar Drive.
When the bus is headed south on Patterson Drive, it will turn west on 72 Avenue (rather than east) and cover the Country Club loop backwards; then turn west onto 65 Avenue, down 96 Street back onto 63 Avenue and onto the route as normal.

Route 2 – 221, 225, M15, 231, 251, 253, 257 & 263;
When the bus is travelling south on Poplar Drive, it will turn east on 76 Avenue to Resources Road, east to Countryside South and then returning to Resources Road to 76 Avenue and resume the route on Poplar Drive North.

“This closure is part of the asphalt paving at the intersection of Poplar Drive at 68 Avenue,” says Steve Kay, Project Engineer.  “As a result of this project the entire road width of Poplar Drive must be closed on these 2 days.”

“We thank motorists for their patience during the inconvenience as this work proceeds.”


Media enquiries may be directed to:

Steve Kay, P Eng
Project Engineer

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Building Relationships with Provincial Government

At the Grande Prairie airport this morning candidate for Mayor Bill Given announced that building relationships with the province would be a major focus for the city under his leadership.

“I believe that council needs to take an active role in lobbying the provincial government on behalf of our residents.” said Given. He noted that provincial government decisions can be positive in such areas as grants or can add additional expense to municipal budgets through increased regulations.

“When the province makes a decision we need them to know the impact it will have on our community.” stated Given. “I'm confident that we can do a better job of bringing our message to the provincial legislature.”

Given outlined a focused effort on building relationships with government officials through regular missions to the provincial capital. Given proposed that council should travel to Edmonton as a group at least twice a year to meet with government representatives.

“I feel as though we've been waiting for the province to come to us,” said Given “ and I know a more proactive approach is required to ensure our community's voice is heard at the provincial level.”

At the conclusion of the media event Given boarded a flight for Edmonton to make a presentation on behalf of the City of Grande Prairie to the provincial government's Standing Committee on Community Services. The committee is conducting hearings on proposed changes to the Municipal Government Act. More information on the committee hearings can be found here, the list of scheduled presenters can be found here and audio of the presentations is here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Library Update - August 23rd, 2010

Automated Pick-Up Notification
If you currently receive a telephone call when your requested material is ready for pick-up you will now notice a difference as we have implemented our new automated telephone notification system! This new system will call you with a recorded message when your request has been processed and is ready for pick-up.

Staff at the Grande Prairie Public Library receive over 5000 items from other libraries each month for our patrons.

By switching to an automated service, we will be able to more quickly notify you that your item is available. Rather than wait to have a staff member call, your call will be generated as soon as the item is received at the Library.

For those that prefer, the option of receiving notifications by e-mail is still available.

Building Stories
Grande Prairie Public Library will be hosting the Prairie Art Gallery’s collection Building Stories for the entire month of September. This collection features Alberta artists’ works including local artists such as Euphemia McNaught and Peter von Tiesenhausen. The works will be displayed all over the Library as part of the Artwalk during Arts Days. Those who view the collection during the weekend of September 17-19 will be eligible to enter the Arts Days grand prize draw. Stop in and have a look!

Celebrate Alberta Arts Days
Prairie Tales 12 – Made in Alberta Movie Shorts
The Grande Prairie Public Library and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts are pleased to present Prairie Tales 12. Each year, Prairie Tales compiles a feature-length program of some of the best short films and videos made in Alberta during the last eighteen months.

Prairie Tales 12 features fourteen short works in all genres. Running time is 74 minutes.
Eric Becker, producer of Water Under the Bridges, one of the featured films, will introduce the Sunday screening.

Join us after the film as Eric shares his journey as a film maker in Alberta and the making of Water Under the Bridges.

Date: Friday, September 17
Time: 10:00 am and 3:00 pm

Date: Saturday, September 18
Time: 10:00 am

Date: Sunday, September 19
Time: 1:00 pm

Location: Rotary Community Room

Monday, July 26, 2010

Council Agenda for July 26th, 2010

A pretty short agenda for tonight's council meeting, but it does have at least two interesting items:

The first is item 9.2.1 from Public Works - awarding a tender for road repairs on 98th Street in front of City Hall at a cost of just over $1 million. This section of road is easily one of the worst in the city. this section of 98th hadn't been upgraded because (a) we knew that there would be changes needed to the intersection at the entrance to the Montrose Cultural Centre and (b) because we were waiting for the 101 Ave couplet to go ahead. Now that the Cultural Centre is up and the Wapiti Dorm is down it's time to do the upgrades... even tough the couplet may not go ahead for a year or two.

The second item of interest is from the General Government Services committee, item 9.3.2. This is a motion to change the title of "Alderman" to "Councillor". I support the change mostly because it brings us in to line with what is more common across the country. In fact, the term Alderman has been even dropped in the U.K. where our system of local government comes from. Although Alderman is an old term I don't believe there's any real historic attachment to it locally. On top of all those facts, the Municipal Government Act (the provincial law that governs how cities are run in Alberta) says this on the matter:

Titles of chief elected official and other councillors
155 A councillor is to have the title “councillor” and a chief elected official that of “chief elected official” unless the council directs that another title appropriate to the office be used.

So, even though we could choose to continue calling our council members "Aldermen" it seems more appropriate change to "Councillor".... unless we're going back to the days of The Men Who Run This Town







5.1 Mr. P. Dumelie, CEO, Covenant Health, re: Alberta Hospital Edmonton Geriatric Psychiatry Program and Villa Caritas

6.1 Bylaw C-1087-07, to Amend the Northeast Area Structure Plan (attached)




9.1 Council Committee of the Whole – July 12, 2010
Council receive the minutes of the Council Committee of the Whole meeting held July 12, 2010.

9.2 Public Works Committee – July 13, 2010
Council receive the minutes of the Public Works Committee meeting held July 13, 2010.
9.2.1 Tender T-32-552-10, 98 Street Upgrade (101 to 104 Avenue)
Council approve Tender T-32-552-10, for the 98 Street Upgrades Project be awarded to Wapiti Gravel Suppliers (Division of N.P.A. Ltd.), in the amount of $1,025,918.25 (excluding GST), as the lowest tender meeting specifications, and further, that funding be allocated from the 98 Street Upgrade (101 to 104 Avenue) Capital Program.

9.3 General Government Services Committee – July 14, 2010
Council receive the minutes of the General Government Services Committee meeting held July 14, 2010.

9.3.1 Strategic Priorities Chart
Council approve the Strategic Priorities Chart.

9.3.2 Change Alderman Title to Councillor
Council approve the City of Grande Prairie change title of its eight members elected to City Council from Aldermen to Councillor effective at the October 2010 Organizational meeting.

9.4 Community Development Committee – July 20, 2010
Council receive the minutes of the Community Development Committee meeting held July 20, 2010.

9.4.1Multiplex Community Advisory Committee Terms of Reference (attached)
Council approve the Multiplex Community Advisory Committee Terms of Reference.

10.1 Federation of Canadian Municipalities, re: 102 Street Revitalization Study Grande Prairie


Monday, July 12, 2010

York Hotel Update

One of the hot topics out there as we head in to the fall election is the city's purchase of the York Hotel. As it turns out the hotel is on the agenda for our regular General Government Services committee meeting this Wednesday. Staff are bringing forward a simple report to update council on what will be happening with the property over the next while. The highlights:

Building Tenants
Mar 4th, City takes ownership of the hotel
Apr 7th, Residential tenants were gone
Jun 17th, Commercial tenants were gone

Timelines for demolition (estimated)
July 9th, Receive hazardous material identification report.
July 23rd, Tender Hazardous material removal contract
Aug 23rd, Award Hazardous material removal contract & tender Demolition contract
Sept 20th, Award Demolition contract
Nov 12th, Demolition complete

Costs to Date
Building purchase $1.1 Million
Operational costs since purchase $52,497.53
(Operational costs are mostly related to security & utilities. Security costs are down significantly since the tenants moved out.)

I know a lot of people who have been concerned that the building would sit as a boarded up eyesore down town and with that in mind I've been pushing to have this all happen as quickly as is reasonably possible. If everything goes according to the plan above I think it's fair to say that we've had a pretty rapid process & that will be good for downtown.

As for next steps... I believe we need to come up with a plan that will see a new building built on the site sooner, rather than later. I also think we need to do that in a coordinated fashion, rather than dealing with just this property in isolation from the rest of downtown. I believe we should be to open up the downtown enhancement plan and take a big picture look at the west end of the city's core because there are a lot of changes coming to that area in the next few years.

In addition to the changes at the York Hotel/Germain Park property, eventually the old Park Hotel will come down and the city will build the 101 Ave couplet that will cross through the area of the old Coca-Cola bottling plant. When you add all this up we have a chance to remake the face of our downtown, if we have a good plan that looks at everything together, rather than dealing with individual sections.

I would like to see more mixed use development (commercial on the bottom and residential or office on upper floors) in the downtown. I believe having more people live in the heart of the city adds life to the streets and provides a housing option that is in short supply in GP.

So this Wednesday we're getting an update on the work that's been done so far and what's coming up shortly & that all looks well in hand. Now I want to see us get started on where we're going to go in the long term.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Montrose Cultural Centre Recognized with Award

The architects of the Montrose Cultural Centre have been recognized with an award for their design of the building.

From Canadian Architect:

"Toronto-based Teeple Architects (in association with Kasian Architecture) received the 2010 Prairie Design Award of Excellence for the Montrose Cultural Centre in Grande Prairie, Alberta in the Recent Work category. The award celebrates “new standards in creativity and skill” and is presented every two years by the Alberta Association of Architects (AAA), the Saskatchewan Association of Architects (SAA) and the Manitoba Association of Architects (MAA). The Awards were presented at the kick-off to the RAIC/SAA Festival of Architecture in Saskatoon at the end of June."

Read the full article HERE.

Of course the real point of the building is how it's used and what it means to the community. The increased number of people getting library memberships, making visits the gallery and enjoying the space show the true value of the building - but, it's also nice to know that the great things we have here in GP are also recognized outside of our city.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Big Changes to 68th Ave, between Poplar Dr. & Resources Rd.

The city is set to replace the set of "farmer lights" at the intersection of 68th Ave and Poplar Drive. The lights were a temporary measure while we got ready for the main event project described in the city media release below. I'm sure this will make things difficult in the short term but when completed the intersection will be safer, there will be sidewalks where there were none before and the road will finally be able to keep up with the volume of traffic it's sees day in and day out.

Roadwork Underway To Provide 68 Avenue Enhancements
News Release
June 30, 2010

The City of Grande Prairie advises motorists that a four-lane roadway improvement project may cause delays over the next two months on 68 Avenue, between Resources Road and Poplar Drive.

The initiatives will impact traffic flow for drivers travelling west of Resources Road and east of Poplar Drive.

Phase 1 sees removals of existing pavement, paving, gutter and curb work occurring on 68 Avenue between Poplar Drive and Resources Road. The focal point of the work will be installation of new traffic signals at the intersection at Poplar and 68 Avenue and, widening on both sides of the road. Traffic flow will continue using the two lanes designated during the construction period.

Phase 2 involves drainage work, berm placement and sidewalk down the south side of 68 Avenue, east of Poplar Drive.

Phase 3 will see construction to add a right turn lane, east of Resources Road, and an acceleration lane being completed off 68 Avenue east onto Resources Road south. Work will be performed to make slight changes to reshape the storm pond on the NE corner of Resources Road and 68 Avenue. The construction at the Resources Road/68 Avenue intersection will bring this intersection to the ultimate design stage for this arterial road.

“We thank motorists for their patience as this work proceeds,” says Steve Kay, Project Engineer. “These enhancements are part of the eventual widening of 68 Avenue, as it has become a major east-west route.”

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Commit One Simple Act Today!

The City of Grande Prairie has accepted the challenge to encourage as many residents as possible to commit to "One Simple Act". That act can be as simples as using a reusable bag, decreasing your shower time by five minutes, composting, turning the temperature in your fridge down, or reducing your idling time.


We need your help! We currently have 110 people who have registered their commitment to one act. We need more! Our challengers have 124 residents who have registered, and Camrose has 209 registered participants.


It is simple – will take about 5 minutes of your time. Please click on this link and sign up for the EcoAction calculator, join our team (City of Grande Prairie – EcoAction Challenge), and answer the ten questions. It is that simple! You will also learn how much money, water, and energy that you can save. Oh, and once you have completed your commitment – if you send me an email I will enter you in the draw for a prize package worth $200.00.


Please forward this to your friends and co-workers and encourage them to commit to One Simple Act. 

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Running For Mayor

City of Grande Prairie Alderman, Bill Given, is excited to officially confirm his plans to run for mayor in the upcoming municipal election.

( Click here to visit to see the full Bill Given for Mayor website )

"I am incredibly proud to be the first candidate to officially toss my hat into the ring for the upcoming election,” said Bill Given. “It's been called the worst kept secret in Grande Prairie, but the truth is that I've been one hundred per cent committed to this campaign for a very long time.” Given continues, "Over the last few months I've been meeting one-on-one with community members to discuss their vision for our community, and some clear themes are starting to emerge. During the summer, I'll use my campaign to expand that dialogue and open it up to residents and neighbourhoods across the city."

After serving three terms as alderman, Given brings a unique combination of experience, as well as a youthful perspective to the race.

"After nearly 10 years at the council table, I have a clear track record that people can count on and some very firm ideas about what it will take to move our city to the next level,” says Given. "At the same time I'm very familiar with the day-to-day challenges facing families in our city."

For the next few weeks, Given's focus will be on his own family.

"My fiancé, Susan, and I are busy getting ready for our wedding," says Given. "We're looking forward to finally making it through all the organizing and getting to share the celebration with family and friends."

Anyone interested in learning more about Given's work on council and his views on community issues can visit his blog at

"This summer we'll be launching a new website with complete campaign details, but right now residents have access to nearly 350 articles I've posted over the last three years," says Given.

To date, more than 22,000 visitors have viewed the website where Given's articles discuss issues ranging from affordable housing and environment to health care and youth.

About Bill Given
Elected for the first time in 2001 at the age of 24, Given is the youngest person to ever serve on Grande Prairie City Council. In his three terms with the City, Bill has been appointed to a wide range of committees and boards including all standing committees of council and a wide variety of community organizations. Recently, Bill completed the University of Alberta's National Advanced Certificate in Local Authority Administration (NACLAA) which is a nationally recognized credential for local government administrators.

Place Of Birth
• Grande Prairie, AB
• Resident of Grande Prairie since 1977

• Completed University of Alberta, National Advanced Certificate in Local Authority Administration
• Attended Medicine Hat College, Visual Communications Program
• Graduated Grande Prairie Composite High School

Current Occupation
• Self employed as a Marketing and Communications Consultant

Council History
• First Elected, 2001 - Alderman
• Elected Second Term, 2004 - Alderman
• Elected Third Term, 2007 - Alderman

Council Committees (Current Appointments)
• General Government Services Committee
• Environment Committee
• Multiplex Resource Committee
• Northern Alberta Elected Leaders
• Library Board
• Arctic Winter Games Host Society
• Grande Prairie Area Recreation Board

Current Community Involvement
• Member, Swan City Rotary Club
• Secretary, Grande Prairie Disabled Transportation Society
• Secretary/Treasurer, Tomahawks Basketball Booster Club

Past Community Involvement
• 1997-2001, Coach, Composite High Junior Boys Basketball
• Charter President, Grande Prairie Rotaract Club
• Chairman, Rotary District 5370 Rotaract Program
• 2002-2003, Honorary Chair, G.P. White Ribbon Campaign
• President, Clayton Shaw Men's Basketball Association
• Member, 2003 United Way Campaign Cabinet
• DRR, Rotary District 5370
• President, Peace Country Luge Association

Notable Accomplishments and Awards
• 1993-1994, Rotary Youth Exchange Student (Australia)
• Youngest person ever to be elected to Grande Prairie City Council, Age 24
• Ran in the 2006 federal election as an independent candidate for the Peace River constituency

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Instant Engagement on Crystal Centre Expansion

Expanding the Crystal Centre was on the CDC agenda this week. I'm not on the committee but the issue is important, and the money involved is huge so I wanted to be there to be a part of the discussion. I also wanted to solicit some feed back and see what residents thought about the idea and the cost so I made a simple posting to my Facebook status "Crystal Centre expansion: $38M to add 2100 seats, 24 luxury suites & more. I think:"nice to have but tough to do." Your thoughts?" ...the response was great!

The posting touched off a discussion that generated 55 comments with friends stating their point of view, asking questions and debating amongst themselves. A lot of this conversation was happening while I was in the committee meeting, and at the same time council members were debating.

This got me thinking of the cliche of "The Coffee Shop" as the place that discussion and debate on local issues happens. It makes me wonder if, maybe, our generation has a new coffee shop.

I followed up the discussion by posting a full length note (posted below) with my position and some of the details from the staff report so people could see for themselves what council members were basing the newspaper quotes on.

The lesson? Citizens, even younger ones, do care about their communities and are willing to engage... you just have to be smart enough to know how to find your way to the coffee shop.

My Facebook Note:

Hi all, thanks again for the great conversation - I appreciate your input!

All in all I don't think we should expand the Crystal Centre to try to compete for the big name concerts that require lots of seats. It's just too expensive and there are other things at play like the fact that the facility in Dawson is part of a group that can book multiple show dates - even if we had as many seats there's no saying we could over come that additional pull they have.

I think we do need to spend some time developing a new strategy on how we can ensure the facility continues to be a vibrant asset for our community. Maybe we have to rethink what we want that building to be used for. Maybe there are less expensive renovations that cam make the building even more attractive as a location for other types of events that would still bring people to GP and drive economic activity downtown. We need to talk about that and make a plan.

Unfortunately I don't have time to really put all my thoughts down so for now I'm just sharing some notes of interest from the staff report at yesterday's meeting:

The $38M estimate is from November 2009 and breaks down as:

East Expansion $12.2M
- To the east, a major expansion well beyond the face of the existing building. ...the development is on three levels and includes:
• on the lowest level and new entrance lobby specifically for the Canada Games arena, a new ticket lobby, sports shop and offices for the [Storm] sports team
• the concourse level is a combination of new and existing construction. One of the main features... is that it will provide the main means of access to both the existing north and south concourses.
• the upper level... has probably the greatest "enhanced" value... as it provides a number of leasable suites. ... 8 suites plus a party room.

North Expansion $9.9M
- To the north, expansion would be within the building resulting in some significant renovation but no additional building with the exception of private suites on the roof structure of the existing shared lobby. Other features of the north expansion:
• Conversion of the current administration area in to back of house storage, expansion of the existing concession and a reduction in the overall size of the shared lobby which effectively becomes part of the Bowes Family Crystal Gardens.
• on the concourse (2nd) level relocation of the concourse from inside the bowl to under the seating...
• at the upper level a major provision of suites and a lounge overlooking the Bowes Family Crystal Gardens

West Expansion $4.5M
- to the west and expansion to the property line and 101 Street. This expansion is primarily about providing additional back of house space to the event level. It's main benefit is the increase in additional flat floor seating for both end-stage and centre-stage concerts.

Contingency $2.6M
Design Fees Ect. $4.4M
Bowes Side Expansion $3.7M
- little detail given in the report but would likely include additional space for breakout rooms which are a frequent request for conferences and events as well as floor replacement.

Admin also had suggestions on possible sources revenue that would help pay for the expansion. Some we could do now and some would basically be new revenue coming from the new features of the expanded facility. All together they could total up to $730,000 per year. They were:

Leasing Luxury Suites
- 24 suites leased for 3, 5 or possibly 10 years. Prices could range from $17,500 to $22,000 per year. At the bottom end that would provide $420,000 per year in revenue and on the top end it would be $528,000.

Club Seats
- 100 large, padded seats, in prime positions. The would be leased out yearly for between $500 to $700 and the lease holder would have right of first refusal to purchase their seat for all events. Approx revenue per year; $60,000.

Naming Rights Sponsor
- a 5 to 10 year agreement for the naming rights of the building could generate $75,000 to $100,000 per year.

Facility Fee Increase
- we currently charge a small fee on the price of each ticket that goes towards capital improvements like the new sound system in the Bowes side, new theatre draping curtains. Currently the fee sits at 4% of the ticket price to a maximum $1 per ticket and is being saved to replace the digital sign along 99th Ave that has been out for years. This could be increased to 5% and a maximum of $2 per ticket, generating about $75,000 per year.
On a side note, I suggested that we should consider this whether or not we do the expansion.

Paid Parking
- charing for lots to the West, South & East of the building. Could generate $50,000 to $80,000 per year.

115th Street Closed for 2 Weeks

Starting Monday a major intersection to the Westpointe neighbourhood will be closed for two weeks while the city does work to facilitate the twinning of 84th Avenue. The section of road is 115th Street marked below in the yellow circle. The city media release below covers the details but residents in the area will have to use alternate points, like 113th street to the East, to get into and out of the neighbourhood.

Media Release
May 11, 2010

Notice of Road Closure

Motorists are advised that 115 St. between 83 and 84 Avenues will be closed for two weeks beginning on Monday, May 17.

Excavation work on 115 St. is required for the twinning project in the 84 Ave.-116-108 St. area.

Commuters are asked to use alternative routes.

“We appreciate motorists’ patience during this inconvenience,” says Traffic Engineer, Dan Zeggelaar. “This work will assist in the completion of an important project that is going to contribute to improved traffic flow in Grande Prairie.”

Enquiries may be directed to:
Dan Zeggelaar
Traffic Engineer

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Paying for Police

Many time over I've highlighted the fact that in Alberta, provincial legislation creates an uneven playing field that financially disadvantages some municipalities. Essentially, in many areas the province has funding programs that create artificially uneven playing fields. The funding formula for police in the province is probably the prime example of this. In fact I highlighted it in this post from 2007. With the provincial cabinet making a tour of the province I'll press them on the issue again as it has a big impact on city residents.

The government's current funding formula states that:

• Towns and cities with a population from 5,001 to 20,000 receive a $200,000 base payment plus an additional $8.00 per capita.

• Cities and urban service areas with a population from 20,001 to 50,000 receive a $100,000 base payment plus $14.00 per capita.

• Cities and urban service areas with a population over 50,000 receive grants of $16.00 per capita.

In the case of the City of Grande Prairie this means the province funds only $800,000 of the City's $12 million dollar annual policing budget – approximately 6%. I've spoken with communities who are (probably jokingly) considering what they can do to convince people to move out of town so they don't go over the 5000 population mark. (See all the per capita grants given to communities across Alberta here)

The grant to cover 6% of The City of GP's cost is in contrast to the surrounding county, towns and village who are under no obligation to pay anything for towards the cost of RCMP service as the province covers 100% of the cost. As I noted back in the 2007 post to it's credit the County of GP does choose to hire additional RCMP at their full cost (I think it might be a total of 5 members now) which, in very round numbers, costs approximately $600,000.

Of course the advantage is that we are largely in control of our destiny when it comes to how many police we have - council makes the decision on when and how many RCMP officers we need to hire. But on the other side of the equation taxes in the city have to be higher to pay for those police and this added burden decreases the City's ability to be financially competitive with surrounding municipalities like the county.

So those who would like to see city taxes as low as the county should support our efforts to lobby the province make police funding more equitable. If it were we would at least have a fighting change.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Library Update - May 3rd, 2010

As we move through spring there's lots going on at the Library - from author visits to classes on personal safety and a visit from The COW there's a lot to check out! It's all below in the latest Library Update courtesy Library Director, Laurie Harrison:

We’re pleased to announce that The Grande Prairie Public Library is now designated as a Safe Harbour location. What does this mean? As a Safe Harbour location, we demonstrate equitable treatment and respect for all cultures, religions, socioeconomic backgrounds, ages, abilities, genders and sexual orientations. For more information on Safe Harbour, please visit

Things are rolling along well at the library. With more staff resources assigned to programming, we are pleased to offer more and varied programs for the public. Some in May include:

Personal Safety
Constable Ellen Archibald will assist you in learning how to be safe and secure at home and away from home with this two-hour Personal Safety course. Bring your questions and go away feeling more able to handle personal safety issues in your life.
Thursday, May 13, 6:00 pm, Rotary Community Room

Let’s Discuss Family Violence
We are happy to be able to welcome you to this most informative and preventative discussion with Courtney Jones from Odyssey House. Topics include: types of abuse, the cycle of violence, warning signs, what you can do to help a friend or family member who is experiencing family abuse or violence. Wednesday, May 19, 6:30 pm, Rotary Community Room

Making Your Will & Understanding Estates
Do I need to have a will and can I write a will without a lawyer? Do I have an estate? What about divorce, marriage, children and other dependents? Does the Adult Interdependent Relationship Act have anything to do with me? Can I leave my wishes for my health care should I happen to be unable to make those decisions when the time comes? If I leave my wishes for health care, are they binding? Answers to these questions and many more will be provided by Sherry B. Heikel. Sherry is from Grande Prairie and has practiced law here for many years. Come and be informed. Date: Wednesday, May 12, 7:00 pm, Rotary Community Room

Other programs include:
Internet Basics for Job Seekers
Grande Knitters Club
Grande Readers Book Club
Songwriter’s Circle
Foreign Movie Night
Cygnet Writers
Computers for Seniors

And always lots for children:

COW BUS (parented)
Visit the COW (Classroom on Wheels) bus at the Library and learn with fun activities. For families with children age 6 and under. Drop-in. While at the COW bus, be sure to pick up your FREE ticket to special cow themed programs at the Library on Tuesday afternoon and evening!

Date: Tuesday, May 4
Time: 1:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Location: Grande Prairie School District parking
lot in front of the Montrose Cultural Centre

Made with Love (unparented)
Make a beautiful handcrafted gift for your mother, grandmother, aunt or another special person! Master Sculptor Chris Jammer will teach you how to sculpt. Registration limited to 12 crafty kids ages 8-12. If you register and cannot attend please telephone 780-357-7454 so another patron may attend.

Date: Saturday, May 8
Time: 1:30 pm - 2:30 pm
Location: Linda Smith Story Room

Author Visit
Presented by Encana
Visit with author Cheryl Schenk, one of the imaginations behind The Stibil Forest Adventures: Little Synni’s Moonlight Mischief. Registration required. Register online at

Dates: Tuesday, June 1 &
Wednesday, June 2
Times: 10:30 am (for preschoolers & early elementary)
1:30 pm (for homeschoolers)
4:00 pm (for families)
Location: Linda Smith Story Room

Bertie the Beaver Visits the Library
During Alberta Forestry Week Bertie the Beaver will be visiting lots of places including the library on May 14. Visit with Bertie and learn about forestry safety. For forest explorers of any age. Families welcome, Registration required, Maximum: 35 naturalists

Date: Friday, May 14
Time: 1:30 pm - 2:30 pm
Location: Linda Smith Story Room

Author Visit
GPPL is pleased to welcome Alberta author Shirlee Smith Matheson. Please join us as Shirlee shares her new book, Jailbird Kid. Check out her website For students 12 and up. Registration required.

Date: Thursday June 3
Time: 10:30 – 11:30 am
Location: Linda Smith Story Room

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

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


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