2015 was yet another busy year for the completion of projects, exciting events and issues within the Town of Blackfalds.
The following is a rundown of the most newsworthy items within the town over the past year.
Abbey Centre receives provincial award
The Town added another notch under its belt after receiving yet another award for the Abbey Master Builder Centre.
At the Central Alberta Economic Partnership (CAEP) fall general meeting on Nov. 27th, 2014, it was announced the town received the award.
The award recognizes a CAEP rural or urban municipal project that has received a high level of community involvement and has substantial community benefit.
The town was one of seven nominees, and as such, the award is a testament to the extent of support and involvement from community agencies, businesses, individuals and municipal partners in bringing the Abbey Centre to fruition.
While the Abbey Centre has also received recognition from other prestigious provincial municipal recreational organizations in 2014, the Collaborative Community Project award is significant in that it acknowledges the achievements of the entire community in making the dream of the Abbey Centre a reality, local officials said.
The award is displayed at the Abbey Centre, but it belongs to everyone who played a role during the past eight years in bringing the Abbey Centre to life, officials added.
Approval of the 2016 budget
Councillors passed the 2016 operating and capital budget. Councillors approved the balanced budget on Dec. 8th that included a 1% tax rate increase.
The total budget consists of an operating budget of $23,810,953 and a capital budget of $2,188,750. An average home accessed around $313,600 will see a $53 increase in property taxes for the year.
Mayor Melodie Stol said the budget is good news and holds no major surprises or challenges.
“It’s stable and continues the high level of service in the community,” she said.
Stol said council’s goal, as in previous years, is to keep the tax rate increase around or just below the cost of living, acknowledging that anything greater than that, could be difficult for families to meet.
“This year we came in at one per cent which is actually lower than the cost of living, but we’ve been able to do that mainly because we’ve had such tremendous growth in the community,” she said.
Stol noted this year the capital budget is a bit smaller than past years, but it still packs a large punch with many needed projects on the list.
“For the first time in Blackfalds, an off leash dog park will be constructed,” she said. ” We are working with the Optimist Club to construct a new skateboard park and we have money set aside for that project. We will be restoring a historic home called the Wadey House and that is going to become a visitor information centre as well as act as an operational office space for the Chamber of Commerce and the Historical Society.”
Also included is the completion of the amphitheatre stage in 2016, along with the construction of new ball diamond shelters, road upgrades, the purchase of equipment for winter trail maintenance and a new sign initiative in the community.
Other highlights include a boost to the school resource officer program of $20,000, to expand the contract past June, the creation of a new communications officer position and an increase of $1,400,000 in transfers to reserves.
Optimist Club of Blackfalds raises funds for skate park
Fundraising efforts continued towards building a skate park in Blackfalds.
Spearheading the project is the Optimist Club of Blackfalds. Former President Jensye Perry said the club has been working hard for over a year to raise money to build a new skateboard park in the community.
A section of land in between the ball diamonds and the junior high school has been provided by the Town for the new park. The Optimist Club organized several fundraisers over the year to support the project.
2015 census conducted
In order to keep up with population growth, The Town of Blackfalds conducted yet another census.
The results were released in August leading to several changes in government funding proportions as well as other applications.
According to the official data released by the Town, the population of Blackfalds is now sitting at 8,793 – a 12% increase in population from last year’s census. As well, the total residential dwelling count is now 3,917 units.
From 2013 to 2014, the Town experienced a growth of 531 people. At the time of the 2015 census assessment, results state that the population of Blackfalds had grown by 935 people.
Ground breaks on St. Gregory the Great School
Ground was broken for St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in Blackfalds on Oct. 20th.
The school will be the first Catholic school built in Blackfalds and will house students from Kindergarten to Grade 9.
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools (RDCRS) board trustees, several delegates, students, teachers and members of the community gathered at the new location on the east side of Blackfalds to kick off construction of the educational facility.
St. Gregory the Great Catholic School is being constructed at the end of Cottonwood Drive, in the east side of Blackfalds, right next to the Wolf Creek Public Schools new school. St. Gregory will house 350 students in the beginning with a capacity of 600.
Up until now, students from Blackfalds who wanted to participate in the Catholic school system have been bused into Red Deer.
The RDCRS facility is expected to be completed and opened by September 2017.
Construction continues on Iron Ridge Intermediate Campus
Soon the landscape of Blackfalds will be changing once again with the opening of a new school.
A local group aims to ensure the new Wolf Creek Public School (WCPS) facility currently being built along Cottonwood Drive on the eastside of Blackfalds will have a playground for students.
The Friends of the Iron Ridge Campus Society (FIRCS) began fundraising for playground equipment for the new facility.
WCPS announced the Grade 4 to Grade 6 school, named Iron Ridge Intermediate Campus, will house up to 400 students and will be open next September.
Hwy. 2A roundabout constructed
Construction began in May on the Hwy. 2A and Hwy. 597 intersection, just outside the Town of Blackfalds limits.
The road work was conducted from May straight through to the end of September.
Wadey House to be relocated
The iconic Eaton catalogue home in Blackfalds will be relocated and converted into the new visitor centre and home for the Blackfalds Historical Society thanks to a Canadian government grant.
Through the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program the Town received $175,275 to complete the project, including restoration. The Canada 150 Fund is being used across the country to complete projects in communities before the 150th birthday of the nation.
MP Blaine Calkins joined Blackfalds Mayor Melodie Stol, members of the Historical Society and various community members for the announcement on July 30th.
The home will be relocated somewhere between Iron Ridge Junior Campus and All-Star Park, in a corridor of available land. The building will be delicately restored and transformed into the new home of the Blackfalds Historical Society.
Businesses in Blackfalds recognized
Businesses in Blackfalds were recognized on a late October evening during the 2015 Business of the Year Awards.
Hosted by the Blackfalds and District Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Blackfalds Economic Development and Tourism Board, the annual event showcased the importance of small businesses in the growing community.
Business owners, delegates and community members gathered at the Blackfalds Community Hall for the celebration.
The 2015 Business for Service Excellence Award was given to Highway Angels Eats and Treats. The 2015 Exceptional Retail Product Award was given to Sik Session Board and Apparel. The 2015 Exceptional Community Involvement Award was given to Nurture Salon and Spa.
Special recognition was also given to local businesses that made contributions to community recreational groups and individual athletes in Central Alberta and beyond.
– With files from Kalisha Mendonsa