BARB GLEN – GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR
Forty people who attended a May 8 economic development committee meeting had more questions than suggestions regarding Fort Macleod’s future directions but opportunities for input into the town’s first strategic plan remain available.
EDC chair Klaas Brobbel told the meeting that once completed by town council, the strategic plan would provide direction and a more stable environment for potential investors and new residents.
The EDC is gathering information through a questionnaire and will provide the results to council but it has no authority to implement policy, said Brobbel.
“That is why we have the questionnaire out there, because when you have input into what the strategic plan is going to be, where we’re going to build and what we’re going to build, then we can get everybody at the table and create strategic alliances.”
Opinions are sought on whether the town should have additional residential development, manufacturing, light industrial businesses, heavy industry, better retirement facilities and more low income housing, among other topics.
“I can’t repeat often enough, the more information we get the better it is,” Brobbel said. “When we have a strategic plan, we can start working on tactical initiatives.”
Initial questions focused on limitations in the town’s sewer system, which runs from the west side of town to Fifth Street and north to the river. Improvements will be required to support additional residential or business activity, the meeting was told.
Mayor Rene Gendre said the town has decided to upgrade its sewer system but priorities will be determined by input from residents. The main sewer line is at maximum capacity so the situation has to be addressed.
Areas of town east of Fifth Street and south of Extra Foods are not serviced via sewer lines and depending on the focus of development, a lift station may be needed to bring those areas of town and others into the system.
Gendre was the only member of council at the meeting. Councillors voted at a special meeting May 5 to postpone the May 8 event but the mayor enlisted the EDC to hold it anyway, noting it had already been advertised.
The mayor said later that he considered the meeting a success and found it unfortunate that council had voted to cancel it.
“You should always be ready to answer questions from your employer,” he said. “I campaigned on the promise that I would do your bidding.”
However, the absence of council and the EDC’s ability to make only recommendations caused some frustration at the gathering.
“This would really be a good meeting if we had our council here,” said one attendee.
Gendre later said he would like to have additional open forums to gather public input if council will agree to them.