SHAWN PATIENCE – GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR
As we head into a new year I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect back on the year past and look forward to what lies ahead for 2013.
Firstly, I’ll deal with the gorilla in the room. That being the police training centre. The year started with great promise with the signing of the land transfer and servicing contracts for the training centre site. After six years of waiting, a contract was finally awarded for construction of the facility and we immediately began the installation of the service lines to the site.
The elation turned to dismay when the province abruptly cancelled the project in late August. I can assure everyone that there was no one more disappointed or frustrated than I was. For seven years we had done everything possible to get the project to the construction phase. To watch it be taken away at that stage was easily one of the most challenging things I have ever had to deal with, in this or any other political forum.
This community had earned that victory and the effort put forward by our council, staff, community members and regional supporters was truly commendable, despite the cancellation.
When it became clear that the province would not, under any circumstances, reconsider the project, we had no choice but to turn our sites on negotiating with the provincial government to ensure that we would not be financially burdened by that decision. Prior to construction of the service lines we had put contracts in place to protect us financially and to ensure that the land is returned to us in the event the project was not completed, but there was more to it than that. Since October we have been working closely, and positively, with Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths and believe we are very close to a resolution that should account for our financial commitments to the project. It is my hope that we can put this chapter behind us very soon.
Despite that bitter disappointment, I truly believe that if we can agree on a suitable resolution with the provincial government we will have the opportunity to promote some new and exciting possibilities for this community. It would be easy to wallow in the cancellation but that would be defeatist. This is when we need to lead and forge new paths. The goal, even before the training centre bid, was to better our community, to bring growth and provide for a stronger economic future, and that hasn’t changed, and shouldn’t.
Of course it will take a continued commitment from our council, staff, committee members and volunteers. We need to have confidence in our future and we need to remain positive while working towards achieving our collective goals. We will have the advantage of a new waste water facility, over $6-million in new service lines, new highway commercial potential and 320 acres of land available to us for industrial development. It is up to us to ensure that we make the most of this opportunity and not let it slip away by allowing negativity or fear to prevail.
Even though the training centre effort did not end as it should have, we have seen what we can achieve when we dedicate ourselves to mutually embraced causes. Our strength lies in our citizens and in their determination to make our community a better place. To use the motto from F.P. Walshe, success lies in endeavour. We have proven our capacity to work together and this community has always been resilient. Those traits will serve us well moving forward, so, onward and upward.
2012 saw the official opening of a new RCMP detachment building and the new Scougall’s dealership, both positive signs. With the help of dedicated volunteers we saw the completion of a major renovation of the arena lobby and construction of a new playground in Centennial Park. We also set forth on the design and development of a new subdivision behind Extra Foods which will address needs set forth in our community housing needs study by providing options for senior, multi-residential and smaller lot residential housing and open up new and much needed opportunities for commercial expansion. This development is vital in my opinion. It will take marketing, support and confidence but this project, coupled with the east side subdivision, the industrial opportunities on the former college site and a solid inventory of light industrial property will allow us to take advantage of any growth options that may present themselves. Sound fiscal planning and strong land sales over the past decade should also allow us to support these new developments without any financial burden to our taxpayers.
We worked diligently on our 2012 budget and put forward an overall municipal tax increase of only 1.14 per cent. We completed a new municipal development strategy and continued planning for expansion of our cemetery as well as the development of a new recycling/waste transfer site and public works facility. We began working on major modifications to our water treatment system and embarked on the development of a new land use bylaw. We replaced our grader and street sweeper and our crew replaced and built numerous sidewalks around the community. Despite the inevitable hurdles, as we move forward into 2013 there are a great many reasons for optimism. There are many other forward thinking and exciting initiatives in the planning and completion stages, including a spray park and some overdue street work. As we work through the 2013 budget we will be conscious, as always, of our residential and business taxpayers and do our best to ensure a competitive tax regime while still providing the services needed and desired by our community.
We also lost a number of family and friends in 2012 and our thoughts go out to those who won’t be here to share this new year with us. Life is a gift and even though at times there can be challenges, we are blessed to live where we do and should be thankful for the quality of life we are afforded in this community and country.
October will bring a municipal election and for the first time the new council term will be four years instead of three. It will be important, as always, that we elect leaders who collectively have a positive vision for this community and who are prepared to roll up their sleeves to ensure our potential continues to be realized. It’s not too soon to start thinking about running for office. If you, or someone you know, may be interested in putting their name forward feel free to give me or the other members of our council a call to see what is entailed. There will also be information available at the town office.
Lastly I want to thank our council members, staff and volunteers for their support over the past year. Our community’s progress is dependent on those that dedicate their time, energy and resources to making Fort Macleod a better place. We have great people here and the power within us to continue to forge a bright future for this community.
With that, here’s wishing you all a safe, healthy and happy 2013, all the best.
(Shawn Patience is mayor of Fort Macleod.)