Last year was a year of starting projects and many successes for Lacombe County.
Lacombe County Reeve Paula Law took some time to reflect on the successes and challenges the municipality faced in 2015. Many of the projects started in 2015 have laid a solid foundation and will continue on into this year.
“It was a very successful year,” she said of 2015. “The weather played really well in the spring and summer for completing a lot of projects that we had planned in operations and it made the road programs easier.”
The County completed the 2015 Capital Plan, which included many road repairs and upgrades.
“We had a good start in the spring,” said Law. “The weather was great and we were able to get some things finished that didn’t quite get finished the year before.”
One of the biggest successes of 2015 was the replacement of five bridges under the County’s Bridge Replacement Program.
“We replaced five bridges including the pink bridge near Bentley,” said Law.
County staff, councillors and community members gathered on Nov. 5th for the grand opening of the bridge (Bridge 00627) located along RR 1-2 spanning across the Blindman River. Construction began on the bridge in early July and was completed in October.
The County has a total of 151 bridges and bridge sized culverts under its jurisdiction, which are maintained and regularly inspected through the Bridge Management Plan. Other bridges replaced in the year include two located along the Alix North Road.
Two remote shops for Public Works, located in the Sylvan Lake area and near Tees, were also designed, tendered and prepared for construction during the year.
“We got those ready to go for this season,” noted Law. “We are hoping that early in 2016 we will have those completed.”
The remote shops will allow Public Works crews to be more efficient especially during the winter season.
The County also contributed $1 million towards Red Deer College’s Centre for Health, Wellness and Sport. The centre is planned to be a state of the art teaching and learning facility along with a venue for athletics, recreation and community activities for Central Albertans.
In 2015, the County was gifted with 140 acres of land along Lacombe Lake, in between Blackfalds and Lacombe from the Kuhnen family. Law said the County is currently working on a development plan for public access to the park and improving the trail system.
For the second year, Lacombe County partnered with D&M Concrete for Project Plant – a program that engages students and the community to assist in restoring a gravel pit.
The municipality also entered into an agreement with the North Red Deer Regional Wastewater Services Commission, the Town of Blackfalds and City of Lacombe to work towards a regional wastewater line. The County is a partner in the project as locations like the Aspelund Industrial Park utilize the wastewater line.
“We financed up to $3 million for a detailed design and engineering for the wastewater pipeline,” said Law. “We are hoping we can get that underway. If we could get everything in place, ready to go and funding comes through, that would be great. It would be shovel ready.”
Over 2015, development in Lacombe County has remained consistent.
“It was quite steady,” noted Law. “What stood out this year, although the number of permits was pretty close to previous years, was that our industrial and commercial approvals were up by about 37 per cent. In the industrial parks there was quite a bit of interest. That was good news.”
As for challenges, one that the municipality faces each year is developing the budget. The County approved the 2016 interim budget in December.
“The budget is always a challenge and with the downturn in the economy, it becomes more difficult,” said Law. “Trying to weigh everything that you want to continue to do but you want to look forward towards the future to make sure everything is sustainable but still balance that with the times.”
The 2016 budget will be finalized sometime in March or April.
One project that began in 2015 and will filter into this year as a main project is the initiation of a review of the County’s Municipal Development Plan (MDP) and land use bylaw. The MDP is an important document which sets out guidelines for growth and development for the County over the coming years. The MDP was last adopted in 2007, which indicates the plan should be reviewed every five years.
Law said the County intends to engage the public and find out what residents would like to see in the document.
“What we are trying to do is get the word out there,” she said. “We have five public open houses already scheduled for late February, early March. We also have started going into the schools, in Grade 6 classes, to tie in with their curriculum. We’ve already been to some schools in Lacombe, Clive, Alix, Rimbey and soon Bentley.”
Also to be completed in 2016 is the Agricultural Plan, a document guiding agricultural practices and development in the County. Consultations will take place to complete the plan that will follow in line with the bridge plan and road plan.
Something to look forward to this year is the development of a public beach area at Sandy Point, along Gull Lake.
“It is a fairly large area for a beach, so hopefully it will take some of the pressure off the other beaches in the region,” said Law.
The County is working along side those at the Sandy Point development to have the public beach open by summer.