Blackfalds Mayor Richard Poole said 2019 was an exciting year for the Town of Blackfalds, with many initiatives moving forward in a “positive manner”.
The mayor outlined several successes, including the Canada Games Relay in February; the implementation of a 40 km per hour speed limit; the creation of new Public Works and Community Services building; the introduction of Tutty Pond; and continual growth on the twinning of the ice surfaces at the Blackfalds Multiplex.
“Our Multiplex expansion started in 2018 is a big highlight. We hired ACI Architects to move the project forward and they have produced renderings for both the public and council. They are really working hard to bring that to fruition and we are hoping to go out to our request for tender in the new year,” Poole said.
The twinning of the arena also will coincide with the introduction of a new AJHL team. The team will be soley owned and coached by long-time AAA Optimist Chief Coach Doug Quinn. Al Parada will assume the position of director of hockey operations, general manager and assistant coach. The new team is expected to drop the puck in 2021.
A ground breaking for the multiplex will come some time in the new year and the project will include a needed realignment of Womacks Road.
New high school
Poole said the Town continues to focus on the two key focuses of healthcare and education for residents of Blackfalds.
For health, the town continues to collaborate with the City of Red Deer and the City of Lacombe. For education, the Town is pleased to see Wolf Creek Public Schools progress towards a new high school in the region.
“It is going to be a big boom for Blackfalds and we are pretty much the only community that has 10,000 citizens or more that doesn’t have a high school. It is well needed and we are looking to make that a highlight of our town in the near future,” he said.
Poole also championed the many partnerships the Town has worked on, including: Working with the childrens’ charity Variety to build an inclusive playground in the town and working with the Town’s regional partners en route to winning an American Public Works Association award for the North Red Deer Regional Wastewater Service Commission.
The lone exception for Poole in terms of positive partnerships was the City of Lacombe’s choice to pull out of the BOLT Transportation System, which ferries communters to and from central Albertan communities.
“We haven’t had an opportunity to review that but we will be reviewing it totally because we realize the need for alternative types of transportation. We are going to see what we can do to help facilitate that,” he said.
The Town recently passed an operating budget which including a 1 per cent tax hike and no changes to current services.
The budget also includes a bridge fund for Blackfalds FCSS and Parentlink, which both were underfunded due to provincial cuts.
“We have such a young community and we built on to our facility right beside our community centre. That is active all day long — there is always families in there and they do a wonderful job. We chose to utilize bridge funding of $21,000 until the end of March. Hopefully we will be successful in getting funding to move it forward into the next stage,” Poole said.
Poole said it will continue to be a balancing act with the province, with MSI funding continuing to be cut for the next two years.
“Our community and all of Alberta will have to find ways to work within that. We are working with AUMA and they are really advocating to make sure the initiatives the government is putting forward and the funding is understandable and will not hurt our communities,” he said.
Poole said it is not fair for the province to download costs of programs like Parentlink on to municipalities.
“We have no provincial services in our community so our FCSS, which receives funding, is always being topped off by us and they are providing service that we would appreciate the province helping out with in a better way,” he said.
Poole said the town passing the population of 10,000 has opened the doors to business growth.
The introduction of Blackfalds Crossing and a new business mall by the Co-Op shows the town is ready for new business according to Poole.
“We are poised. We have the population and people will start realizing they want to move to Blackfalds because we have good housing prices and everything will move ahead,” he said.
The mayor outlined the Municipal Sustainability Plan, which is coming in 2020, as a key document for the town.
“That will be something we look forward too because all of our planning comes from good documentation. We don’t make documents to sit; we make them to move forward. This will show the pillars of our community and will allow people to see what and why we are doing things,” he said.
The town will also undertake a re-branding, which will be unveiled in the new year and include businesses and organizations throughout the town.
“That will be run from our Economic Development people and we know they will do a wonderful job with it,” Poole said.
The Town will also institute two agreements with Lacombe County which will outline collaboration and growth going forward.
“We also will have our Intermunicpal Development Plan and that is with our neighbour Lacombe County. We don’t see problems moving that ahead. We also have the Intercollaborative Initiative which is put down by the provincial government. We are working on that with the County and that will be a work-in-progress. What will come is a clear understanding of how the two communities can work positively together,” he said.
He added the Town will continue to monitor solid waste options, which will be a challenge for many central Albertan communities going forward.
“One of our neighbours (Sylvan Lake) is moving forward with an alternative solid waste plan. If that is a good one, we will look at that but we don’t want to be tied in to anything yet. We are monitoring everything,” he said.
Generally, Poole said it is has been a great year for Blackfalds.
“Council is very positive about the things that have happened over the last year,” he said. “We work well together as a council and I am really excited about the things our council works on. Moving forward in to the upcoming year, we will continue to be the most progressive town in Alberta and we will continue to be great.
“As one of my fellow councillors likes to say, ‘If it is happening, it is happening in Blackfalds’.”
-An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Doug Quinn and Al Parada’s positions on the new Blackfalds AJHL team. The also story incorrectly included a fact about the team going forward. The Lacombe Express apoligizes for the errors.