The City of Lacombe had a very positive year in 2018 according to Mayor Grant Creasey.
The year was the first year for this Council and Creasey believes that they have managed to find an effective way to work together for the betterment of Lacombe.
“Everyone here is here for the same reason, which is the public good and the good of Lacombe overall,” Creasey said. “We do have differences of opinion — which is healthy, but overall we are all headed in a similar direction while being respectful of our differences.
“Overall it has been a tremendous year and that relates to senior management as well.”
One of the signature pieces of legislation for the City of Lacombe in 2018 was cannabis — which required the City to adjust several bylaws in order to accommodate cannabis retail sales from the Government of Canada.
“We responded in a very logical way to an issue I didn’t feel was handed out in a logical way,” Creasey said, adding the details of this issue were put onto municipalities by the federal government.
“We had to all kind of reinvent the wheel across the nation and I feel that Lacombe really did shine in that area,” he said. “I think we were a leader in the time-frame and also in the overall process of involving the public. We made some very positive decisions and ones that were appropriate for our community.
“It has led to half a dozen successful applicants in Lacombe, which is more than I anticipated. The free market will see that they are treated accordingly as they begin to open over the next year.”
Creasey added the only reason cannabis retailers have not opened yet in Lacombe is because of requirements from other levels of government.
One of the principle goals of this Council was to ensure that any additional taxation would reflect the Alberta Consumer Price Index (CPI = Inflation).
The City managed to keep its 2019 level of taxation at the 2.8 per cent CPI Index.
“Most people involved would prefer it is even less than that — but that was the direction set by Council to do everything in our powers to keep it to that inflation level,” Creasey said. “We were successful with some challenges and there were some adjustments in a few different areas.”
One of those challenges was ensuring that City employees were receiving a competitive wage in order to attract talented individuals. Creasey said he was pleased they were able to raise City salaries to the 50th percentile of neighbouring municipalities, while also maintaining their goal tax rate increase.
“Overall we struck a healthy balance that will serve our citizens well,” he said.
Lacombe Market Square
One of the most popular stories for the Lacombe Express was the ongoing development of the east-side Lacombe Market Square, where the City hopes to lure a large Canadian retailer.
To help facilitate development of the site, the City used a unique borrowing bylaw which saw the City using $750,000 to help facilitate the purchase of the land by a new developer.
“There is still ongoing negotiations,” Creasey said. “I would like to think I will have some positive news early in the next year, unfortunately I do not at this time.
“I think it sends a good message as far as investment in Lacombe and a willingness by Council to explore some unique methods to satisfy the need citizens of Lacombe have expressed to shop locally.”
Lacombe Administration in 2018 pioneered the opening of the North Red Deer Regional Wastewater Line — with City Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Matthew Goudy also serving as CAO for the project.
The over $70 million infrastructure project will help the City in the long-run save money on wastewater management.
“I think that is a good sign that our Council and certainly our Administration are open to exploring methods that result in additional revenues and also provide some unique opportunity for our employees to progress into different areas than specifically City-related services,” Creasey said.
2019 and beyond
Creasey said it can be difficult to predict the legislative issues of the future, but said Council is willing and prepared to take on whatever challenges may come.
Some of the predictable events of 2018 include the 2019 Canada Winter Games Torch Run, which will come through Lacombe in early February on the way to Red Deer.
“We are looking forward to the torch relay coming to the City and we know Red Deer will put on a tremendous event there,” Creasey said. “It would be very interesting to know the overall number of volunteers from Lacombe that are assisting with the Winter Games.”
Closer to home, Lacombe and the Lacombe Generals will be hosting the 2019 Allan Cup and the City also will be hosting a new professional bull riding event during Lacombe Days.
“With the Allan Cup, we are very excited to host that event. There are a lot of local individuals who are very dedicated and put a lot of time and effort into organizing that and seeing to the sponsorships. We are looking forward to a very fun week of top quality hockey,” Creasey said.
He added the bull riding event promises to fill a void in the community.
“It has been a number of years since the Lacombe Kinsmen hosted the rodeo, so I think that will be a fun event,” he said.
The future of waste management
Creasey has taken personal initiative to find long-term solutions for waste disposal in the City of Lacombe.
“Our current system that we have right now for waste management is not a particularly viable long-term solution. There are some areas we need to improve on drastically as we move forward,” he said.
Creasey is hoping to find answers with new technologies that are both financially and environmentally viable.
“We need to help ease a situation that will affect all of us for generations to come,” he said. “We have emerging technologies that do offer some solutions and offer hope to dealing with our waste in a positive way.
“It is always easy to throw more government funds at some of these problems, but I would prefer to do it in a logical way that is financially sustainable as well as environmentally-friendly.”
Sustainable infrastructure funding
Creasey is hoping 2019 brings a “drastic” change in the relationship between municipalities and the Province of Alberta.
Infrastructure projects have typically been funded through the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI), which is a year-to-year system which can make long-term predictable budgeting difficult. This issue is compounded by the fact that cities like Lacombe are required to provide five-year strategic plans to the Province.
“Municipalities as a whole need to be treated in a more mature way. Lacombe and every other municipality provides extremely valuable infrastructure to our citizens and the province as a whole. It is only reasonable for those funds to be allocated in a more sustainable method than a year-to-year way.
“I don’t even like the term MSI — I think we need to move away from that and have a legislated way to ensure infrastructure is being upgraded and kept up at a pace that is sustainable.”
Creasey is hoping that further advocating through the Mayor’s Caucus and Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) will lead to a better relationship in the future.
Creasey added, “I am hopeful everyone in Lacombe will open their hearts and wallets to help out those less fortunate. I hope they have a very Merry Christmas and I wish them a prosperous and Happy New Year.”