Blackfalds Mayor Richard Poole said that, despite provincial economic challenges, the Town of Blackfalds had another great year.
“Our Town didn’t grow quite as much as it has in the past but we reached the 10,000 person threshold, which means Blackfalds continues to be a community of choice for new residents and businesses new and old,” he said, adding that the conversion to City status does not appear to have any advantages at this time.
Poole feels the Town has responded to the challenges of 2018 well.
Despite the majority of legislative duty being put onto municipalities, Poole fees Blackfalds was able to meet the challenge presented by the federal legalization of recreational cannabis use. The majority of the work was informed by three Town committees which focused on the legal, land use and social aspects of legalization.
”We came together and put together some good legislation. By the time legislation came in, we were ready for it. We don’t have any businesses in town selling it but we have about 10 applications,” he said.
Poole believes strongly that Blackfalds continues to be a leader in recreational facilities — with the opening of the Town’s Bike Skills Park being the latest addition to Town recreational infrastructure.
“We have the Bike Skills park, right beside that is the Optimist All Wheels park and of course we have our Abbey Centre across the street from that which continues to be a success each and every year,” he said.
The opening of the Bike Skills Park is just the latest in an ongoing infrastructure boom coinciding with the population growth of Blackfalds. To accommodate this unprecedented growth — the Town is looking to develop a concrete plan that outlines how the community will adapt.
“We are excited about the steps we are taking to evaluate the priorities of how to grow our facilities,” he said. “We have a new Facilities Master Plan, which will guide decisions regarding structures in our town using thresholds that trigger reviews on when new projects will happen.
“This year, we are looking at architectural designs for the new multiplex and our citizens will have the opportunity to provide input on what they feel should be built and when.”
One of the challenges the Town of Blackfalds faced in 2018 was the future of the North Stormwater Management plan.
The current plan, which is under review by Alberta Environment, saw some public concern — particularly from Lacombe County residents around Lacombe Lake, which is an included part of the proposed plan.
“That is a continuing process at this time,” Poole said. “Everything has been put together and sent to Alberta Environment.”
The proposal includes answers provided to residents concerned about the plan.
“We feel we have answered all the questions and now we are waiting for Alberta Environment to provide us with approval,” Poole said.
“After that happens, we will be working with Lacombe County. Their stance has been, naturally, to sit back and wait until they hear all of the approvals before they become involved. That is a perfectly understandable approach.
“We expect an answer very quickly and from there we will be moving forward.”
Lower speed limit
In an effort to create a safer community, the Town is proposing lowering the Town speed limit to 40 km per hour.
The legislation, which has yet to receive first reading, is a measure backed by research — according to Poole — but the Town is still hoping for public feedback on the legislation and intends to hold a public hearing early in 2019.
“We aren’t looking for the emotional, ‘I don’t want to go that slow’. We want facts, because we looked at facts on why it would be safer to lower it to 40 km per hour and we are wondering if there are facts out there that repeat that finding,” he said.
Part of the new Municipal Government Act looks to strengthen and expand collaboration between municipalities on essential infrastructure.
Central Alberta, earlier this year, saw the City of Red Deer, the City of Lacombe, the Town of Blackfalds and Lacombe County complete the North Red Deer River Regional Wastewater line — which Poole said was an example of an excellent working relationship.
“For the the City of Lacombe and the Town of Blackfalds, it was an essential step to allow for continued growth within our communities.
“Lacombe County has been working with us both on water and wastewater and they have tie-ins that they will utilize as they see necessary. It was a really good working relationship,” he said.
Going forward, Poole said the Town is working with Lacombe County on further collaboration projects.
“We have started looking at that with Lacombe County working on our Intermunicipal Development Plan. We have taken the first steps and we are looking forward to a really positive process throughout the next couple months.”
Business in Blackfalds continue to grow alongside the town’s population — with several developments currently under construction.
“With new business, more and more of our community will understand that staying in town to do our shopping will lead to greater business,” he said, adding he expects new business announcements on the new Blackfalds Common along Highway 2A to come in the spring.
“We also have several new stores located in mini-malls throughout the community, as well as the potential for many more,” he said.
“Our biggest and most enjoyable feature of our town continues to be our citizens. They continue to support and volunteer for the many activities offered in our community. They shine year-round.”
Poole wanted to send his and the Town’s best regards for the holiday season.
“I would like to take this opportunity from the Blackfalds Town Council to give hopes that everyone had a really Merry Christmas and more importantly that we all have a wonderful New Year.”