BY KALISHA MENDONSA
Mayor Steve Christie spoke proudly of the City of Lacombe yesterday during the annual State of the City address, hosted in partnership with the Lacombe & District Chamber of Commerce.
Christie acknowledged the many accomplishments of 2016, available to the public in full in both print and digital copy, available on the City’s web site. He said one of the greatest assets to the City however, is the people who have contributed to its growth, development and who continue to strive towards positive changes.
“One of our best successes is our people,” Christie said, adding he is proud to see the changes the people contribute and what is in store for the future.
“I think our City is in a changing part of our cycle. We have many long-time employees, long-time business owners and long-time families that are a big part of our City. When new people come into the picture, bringing new businesses and younger members of the family move up to take part in the City, that creates an excitement and a turnover in thinking.
“I think Lacombe is in that part of the cycle right now and it’s a great thing to be a part of. I’m looking forward to riding that wave into 2017.”
Christie said that as the mayor of Lacombe, he feels privileged to be a part of the City team and to work with the organizations and businesses that have had influence in the previous years and will continue to build up the City in years to come.
He said that even through tough economic times in the past few years, the City has continued to grow. One of the major highlights Christie mentioned included significant investments in community infrastructure and service industry maintenance, stating these pave the way for future growth and development within the City.
Noteworthy projects of 2016 included, but are not limited to, completing the planning of the Downtown Main Street Improvement Project, the completion of Bylaw 400, enhanced training for the City’s volunteer firefighters, the implementation of an eBilling service for utility customers, the launch of the Urban Hen Pilot Program and BOLT Transit coming to the end of their second year of service.
As well, the City held the first naming rights sponsorship campaign to re-name the former Sports and Leisure Complex to the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex. The renovations to the arena, including the sponsorship re-naming, addition of several public art pieces through the 1% for the Arts Program and structural upgrades to the arena. This project was completed through numerous partnerships and sponsorships to the tune of just under $600,000. This major project broke ground last April, and the doors to the facility are scheduled to re-open to the public on Jan. 23rd.
Christie also mentioned the completion of the new Lacombe Police Service (LPS) station and the benefits of completing that infrastructure project that will serve the community for years to come.
“That facility is a fantastic municipal resource, with the much needed space and technology to deliver quality service to our residents now and far into the future,” he said.
LPS members received over 4,000 calls to service in 2016 and Christie said there has already been improvements in response times and accessibility, thanks to the re-integration of dispatch into Lacombe. Lacombe Fire Department also responded to 263 calls to service.
Other exciting programs and achievements mentioned included the arrival of new businesses and an increase in total permit values from $45.5 million to $62.15 million, even though the total number of permits this year was down from 2015. As well, Christie called it a, “Banner year” for multi-family residential construction, with a total of 19 projects receiving permits and/or beginning construction, up from only four last year.
In addition to the multi-family housing permits, Christie recognized the accomplishments of partnerships to create the Down Payment Assistant Program as well as the work done through Habitat for Humanity in creating affordable housing options for Lacombe residents.
“Moving forward, we can expect 2017 to be a busy and productive year as we start implementing a number of capital projects and planned initiatives,” Christie said during his speech.
“The 2017 budget was approved last month, which allows the City to maintain our current service levels. Our property tax is currently set at a 3.26 per cent increase, but that is not formally adopted until April. I’m sure between now and then we can find some additional savings.”
He also praised the continued efforts to preserve our built heritage in 2016, with three municipal heritage designations and two grants presented to local historical designations this year at $5,000 each. There were also a number of recreational, parks and culture items given nod as well, both for 2016 and looking ahead to 2017.
“As your mayor, I am committed to working with council and staff to help benefit the lives of the residents. I chose to enter public service for a chance to contribute and make a difference in our community,” Christie said in his closing statements.
“As I look around this room, I see the many members of our community and their skills that give me confidence that we will continue to work together to all meet any and all challenges that lie ahead, and we will continue to meet our goal of a strong and prosperous Lacombe.
“Thank you to each and everyone who has been a part of our success.”