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


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