It takes more than bricks and concrete to build a community.
Over the past several months, news stories have focused on the record-breaking growth in Blackfalds and the local investment in facilities like the new Abbey Master Builder Centre.
These stories primarily look at the positives of a thriving community and the challenges of meeting the expectations of the citizens as Blackfalds changes from a “Small bedroom community” into a regional hub and complete service community.
And while the new recreation facility, new trails and new roads are all needed, it really is the staff behind the scenes that are making it possible to meet the needs of the community.
In the Town of Blackfalds 2014 budget, another record will be broken.
This will be the single largest staff increase that the community has ever seen. Positions are being added in every department in order to better serve and support our town.
A new community peace officer is being added to increase enforcement and education of local bylaws.
An economic development officer is being added, to not only to attract business investment, but to develop communication strategies, so residents are better connected to the community.
A municipal clerk and an IT support person are being added to improve the operations at the town office.
Two positions in Public Works will help meet the growth demands and improve service delivery. Every new house built adds additional roadways which in turn require maintenance, such as snow removal.
Additional water and sewer lines are also required, which also need to be maintained.
Two part-time FCSS positions are being expanded to better meet the demands in our social services programming and an additional RCMP officer will be joining our detachment.
The Community Services Department is hard at work bringing the Abbey Center online and much anticipation is building within our community.
Guest services and children’s programming personnel are the focus for the March 17th soft opening with aquatic staff, lifeguards and instructors being the priority for the May 24th grand opening.
This facility is filled with new, modern amenities and equipment, but it will be the staff that will guide and transform this building into a regional hub of fitness, family activities and more.
Sometimes working as a civil servant is a bit of thankless job.
Budget limitations, local policy and regulations from the provincial and federal governments, can prevent staff from meeting all of the service demands of the public.
For example, snow removal is never judged by the quality of the first road done, but by the last road completed.
The Public Works staff has extreme pride in the work that they do, and want to deliver the service as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The variables that are outside of their control include snow volume and frequency, equipment break downs and availability of outside contractors to assist when major storms occur.
As front line service staff, they can sometimes take the brunt of drivers’ frustrations. We cannot build our community up while tearing the people who work for it down. Constructive criticism, concerns and suggestions are always welcome and used by council and management to learn from, to improve service and to develop action plans.
It is important to remember though, that the Town of Blackfalds, in its role as both an employer and a service provider, will operate in an atmosphere of mutual respect and consideration.
Even when the different stakeholders disagree, the debate and the process of finding solutions needs to remain civil.
This year is and will continue to be an exciting year for Blackfalds. On behalf of council, I welcome each and every new employee to our town with a smile and look forward to their contribution.
I thank each and every existing employee for the work they have done to move Blackfalds forward.
Melodie Stol is the mayor of Blackfalds.