|| The Mayor's Chair
|Utility Changes - April 2, 2013
As you may have heard, at our February meeting, council changed the way we bill for some of the services that we, as a town, provide.
As a council, we try to balance whether the services we provide are paid for by user fees, taxes, or a combination of both. We try to make as many of the services as possible, paid for by the people that use them, whether it is fees to use the arena or pool; rent the community center; or for water or garbage pick up.
Some things (such as the pool) would be unaffordable, if we tried to recoup all of the costs through fees. However other things, such as utilities we provide (water, sewer and garbage pickup), we must try to recoup all of the cost by charging user fees to the people that use the service.
In January, the Henry Kroeger Regional Water Services Commission increased the rates they charge us as a town for the water they provide. Rather then just pass along the increased cost to people in town, we took the opportunity to review our rates and adjust the way we bill for water.
In the past, everyone paid a minimum $63 per bill for water and got up to 22 cubic meters for that cost, whether you used that amount of water or not. If you used more, you paid $2.30 per cubic meter over the 22 cubic meter limit. We felt, as a council, that this was unfair as some people that used less water were then subsidizing the people that used more.
So this year we changed the way we bill for water. Effective March 1st, everyone pays a minimum of $20 per bill whether you use any water or not (remember, we still have to cover the fixed costs of the pipes in the ground to get water to you) and $2.30 per cubic meter of water used.
So now, you pay for what you use. No longer will people that use very little water be subsidizing those people that use a lot. As a result some people may see their water bill actually go down, while others may see it go up. However it’s in your control; if you want to save money, don’t use as much water.
We have also adjusted some of the other fees we charge to reflect increased costs for providing services. Some of these fees will not affect the average person, such as bulk water costs or the fee to dump waste in the sewage lagoon.
I hope this clarifies the direction we are working towards in regards to fees and charges for services the town provides. We believe in being as fair as possible to everyone, and charging the people that use a service the amount the service costs, is about as fair as we can get.
|Looking Ahead to 2013
Hello from the Mayors chair, I thought this would be a good time to look ahead to what we have coming up this year.
For projects, we are keeping it simple again. There will be some paving around town, including the arena parking lot, as the ground in that area has had time to settle since construction of Centennial place. And we will continue to replace other necessary infrastructure and equipment, such as upgrading water meters and other underground repair jobs.
As for the rest of the budget for 2013, we are not anticipating a great deal of change from last year, as we continue to finish off projects and move forward in the areas of economic development and marketing the town.
As most of you know (but in case you didn’t) we hired a new CAO. Mr. Kim Neill will be taking over at the town office starting in April. He returns to Hanna with a great deal of experience and enthusiasm and we are looking forward to him working here and helping us move our town forward. Please pass on a big welcome back if you see him or his family out and about in the community!
And keeping with the theme of welcoming new people to town, the doctor recruitment committee has managed to secure the services of a new doctor. He will start working in Hanna in a few months, just as soon as the process of getting him here is finalized. We are quite excited that we have managed to secure a doctor, as the competition to get them to come to rural Alberta is quite fierce. Again, when he arrives in town, please be as welcoming as I know we can be; we’re lucky to have him here!
And a huge thank you to the recruitment committee, without their tireless volunteer efforts, we could be in a lot of trouble as a community is nothing without health care. I can tell you the committee has done, and continues to do, a lot of work in regards to the recruitment and retention of our local physicians. It’s easy to think that since we have a new doctor coming, there is no more work to do but that is wrong. Keeping health care viable in Hanna is going to be an ongoing process, as doctors continue to come and go.
Speaking of health care, although the committee that brought the new doctor here is a volunteer group, did you know that as a town, we are looking to budget $100,000 this year for our local health care needs? That includes not only recruitment but also ongoing efforts to retain the services we already have.
That may seem like a lot of money, considering health care is supposed to be a provincially budgeted item. However, it is nothing compared to the cost of not having local physicians available in our community.
Along those lines we have met with and written provincial ministers about the process of centralizing more and more of our services, including health care. When services of any kind are taken out of town, not only does it inconvenience people having to travel to get the service, it takes jobs and dollars with it (as people also shop when they travel for a medical appointment).
So we will continue to work with the various levels of government to bring services of all kinds, back to small towns.
Let’s have a great 2013 Hanna!
|Property Assessment and Taxes - March 12, 2013
I thought I would take this opportunity to touch on the letter many of us received recently, in regards to our property assessment for this year.
This is a different letter than the tax notice we normally send out; those ones will be coming out in the future as they usually do.
This assessment letter was sent out as a pre-cursor to the tax notice because of changes in Provincial legislation that no longer allow a combined assessment and tax notice. This letter shows the value of your property based on a market value as of July 2012. And as many of you may have noticed, the values of our property have risen, in some cases substantially.
If you have a question about the assessment or the value of your property, you can certainly contact the town office or our new assessor to discuss your property. If you don’t agree with the new valuation on your property, you can certainly appeal it. However, before you rush to do that, a question you could ask yourself would be, is this new value more or less than what I would sell the property for?
Because the assessment is based on market value, asking yourself if you would sell your property for that amount should answer whether it is a fair assessment or not. If you wouldn’t sell your property for less than the assessed value, then it’s probably a fair number.
As far as determining the amount of property taxes you will pay, take the tax rate, which we set as a council, multiply it by the assessed value and divide by 1,000. The tax rate for 2013 hasn’t been set yet as we are not done the budgeting process.
Now, as a council we have noted that the assessments for much of the property around town is on the rise and as such, we will be working hard with the administration to make sure that the overall taxes we are collecting remain at a fair level.
In our first two years as a council we have not increased the tax rate. This year, if the overall assessment of the property in town looks like it will result in a substantial increase in overall taxes, we will look at lowering the tax rate to compensate.
I think we can all agree that we pay enough taxes and we realize that we need to work hard to balance spending on services with the taxes we collect; after all, it’s our money and we deserve to get value for it.
|Happy Holidays - December 20, 2012
Merry Christmas Hanna, I hope you’ve had a good 2012!
It has been a busy and wildly interesting year from the Mayors chair, let me tell you. From the absolutely fantastic experience that was our centennial (I can’t stop saying enough about the job our committee did) to the three appearances on the t.v. news (three too many if you ask me), it has been a roller coaster of a year.
All in all we’ve accomplished a lot together.
We have started the process on a new residential sub-division. Once plans are complete we should have close to 15 new lots ready for houses.
We were approached by a t.v. show out of the U.S., Viewpoints with Terry Bradshaw. I got to spend a whole day touring around with the camera crew (if you can call the gentleman I spent the day with a ‘crew’). Watch for news of the airing of the show early in 2013.
To facilitate economic development, we formed a new corporation (Cactus Corridor Economic Development Corp) in partnership with Special Areas, Youngstown, and the Learning Center. The company has hired a new economic development officer who has hit the ground running. She has already attended a conference which included major companies from Texas all the way to Fort McMurray. We are looking forward to big things from Cactus Corridor.
We’ve started some great initiatives towards beautifying our town. We began the process of replacing the directional signage in town and Project Hanna spent a few days painting some buildings, just to touch on a couple of initiatives.
As many of you have heard, we also purchased the current Endeavor Accounting building across the street from ATB Financial. Mr. Ell approached us earlier in the year with the offer to buy his building. With the current town office getting older, needing some major repairs (including a leaking roof) and lacking on space, it seemed a good time to investigate our options. After doing some research we decided that it was in the best, long term interests of our town to take Mr. Ell up on his offer. We look forward to moving into the building in the next couple of years.
Yes Hanna, it’s been an interesting year but all in all, a good one. We accomplished a lot together and even when we were being hit the hardest by a wind storm, we showed our true colours and pulled together as a community to make sure everyone was ok.
My hats off to you Hanna, thanks for a great 2012 and here’s to an even better 2013.
|The Search Begins - October 1, 2012
In case you haven’t heard, or read the latest Town newsletter, I thought I would confirm that it is true, our CAO, Geraldine Gervais, has decided to retire.
Let me begin by saying that the Town will miss Geraldine and the office won’t be the same without her. Most of you wouldn’t know exactly what she brought to the Town and what a dedicated administrator she was. Having worked with her for the past two years, I can tell you first hand that we will miss that dedication, her experience and the knowledge she brought to the position.
She made my first two years as Mayor easy and was always there to help me learn the ropes, as I worked to move the Town in the direction I thought it needed to go. For that, I will always be grateful.
However, this, as all things, must come to an end and now the search for a new CAO begins.
The Council is taking this process very seriously, as the CAO position is probably the most important role in our Town. The Council may set the direction we believe the Town should go, but in many ways we are merely the public face of the Town. It is really the CAO that conducts the daily work of the staff and makes sure that the services we need as citizens are delivered to our satisfaction.
The search will not be a quick process, a position of this importance must be filled properly and with due care and attention.
Our first step has been to seek outside help. While it is our responsibility to hire the CAO, I believe, for myself anyway, that I do not have the time or the experience to do this task in the manner in which it needs to be done.
We have consulted with Alberta Municipal Affairs (Alberta Government) and the Alberta Urban and Municipalities Association (the association the Town belongs to). The result of these calls reinforced the thoughts I already had, that the proper way to conduct such a search was to hire a recruitment firm that specializes in this type of work.
So we have been in contact with three recruitment companies to see what type of service they can give us. When we are satisfied with one of them, we will move forward to the next step of contracting them to bring us candidates that we can interview and then hire.
Some people may say that hiring a firm to do the work for us is an unnecessary expense however I disagree. As I mentioned the council does not have the time necessary to do this job justice and it is an important one. There is more to a search for a CAO then merely putting an ad in the paper and hoping you get a favourable response. The person we hire must have all the qualities we are looking for to help us take the Town in the direction we want it to continue to go.
Whether that person ends up being a local candidate or someone from somewhere across Canada, we must find the right fit, as this decision will have more of an impact on the future of Hanna then any other decision our current council will make.
|Response to an Emergency - September 12, 2012
Now that the state of emergency is lifted from our Town, I’d like to take this opportunity to send out a personal thanks to all the hard working people, emergency responders, and of course volunteers that helped us through the storm that recently hit Hanna.
Starting with the Town staff, from the administration on, as soon as the storm hit they jumped to action. By responding quickly and getting our emergency plans activated, they made sure that people were safe. Then long into the night, they continued to work hard to get basic services up and running and now continue to work to clean up our town.
The next group of people I would like to thank is the Fire Department. Although they are volunteers and have families and homes of their own to worry about, they spent much of their time helping the town work to restore services and making sure we were all safe.
Another thank you goes out to ATCO Electric. Although some may question thanking a corporation that we pay for service, we must remember that there are local men and women working in our town for that company. They also spent long days and nights making sure they got power up and running as best they could and while some people were without power longer than others, as a whole the town was well served by the local people that work for them.
Finally, I would like to thank all the other volunteers around town that spent time helping out to get us past this time of need. It consistently reminds me of why Hanna is such a great place to live.
Starting shortly after the storm ended, people were out helping neighbours in need move trees and debris from their yards. People were selfless and thought of more then just themselves in pulling together to help us through. There were countless instances of people just driving around, picking up debris from the streets and their neighbours yards. Not to mention people working at places that stayed open late to make it possible for others to help out, such as the waste transfer site staying open late for drop off.
It is times like these that show our towns true colours, people helping each other in need.
There’s only one thing I would like to remind everyone. In the case of an emergency such as the storm we had, if at all possible, please stay at home and keep yourself and your family safe. In the early moments of an emergency, crews and emergency people have to get out and do their jobs and if we’re out in the streets looking at the situation, we get in the way. So if you don’t have to be out, its best to stay at home!
Thanks for all your hard work Hanna!
Summer Happenings - July 18
It’s been an interesting summer so far. It started wet, has turned hot, and the mosquito’s are out in full force. And Hanna is ready for change.
I was looking back at my last message to the town, which was too long ago to be sure, and see that I left off by talking about our plans and the budget. I mentioned money we put in the budget for growth and marketing and said that while we have to maintain what we have, we need to work on growing for the future.
Well it is nice to report that the future is here and we’re going to be ready for it.
I know there have been rumblings around town about projects and business. Frankly its nice to see and its been a long time coming. In my estimation Hanna is going to become a very busy place in the near future.
We have the obvious things that are going on such as the centennial celebration on the August long weekend. But the centennial is more then just one weekend. Beautification is all around whether it’s communities in bloom, project Hanna or just the average person renovating their house or business, the centennial has become a rallying cry to clean up the town.
The other obvious one is the ATCO camp which is starting to get busy. While this is a one time blip on the radar, it represents a shot in the arm for our local economy. Add to this other crews in town, the annual plant shutdown and other local business with people in town, and the economy is busy.
On top of these activities we have projects geared towards furthering the growth for our town.
The new regional economic development partnership we set money aside for is now up and running. The partnership with Special Areas, Youngstown, Hanna and the Learning Center has hired an economic development officer. It also has its first project on the go, which is a trade show in Medicine Hat. It will be attended by energy companies from Fort McMurray to Texas and will be a great place to showcase what our area has to offer.
Another place we put money aside for in the budget was marketing and there was no better timing, as we have been approached by a television show out of the U.S. to showcase our town as one of the best places in North America to live, work and play. This will be another huge opportunity to place Hanna on the international stage and we have been working very hard with the production company to make this a huge win.
Add to all of this, potential business that is looking to locate in our area, and Hanna has all the makings of being very busy in the near future. All we need to do now is be ready for it. And we will be.
We are currently finalizing plans to put in a new subdivision for lots that will help accommodate growth when its ready to come our way. We are also working on building on the momentum that new business, the ATCO camp, and the exposure from the television show will bring. We are working on a larger marketing package which will take what the town has to offer out to the people we are trying to attract.
Hanna and its residents know what we have, now its time to tell everyone else what they’re missing out on.
As always, the only thing that will prevent us from achieving our goals is ourselves, with the right attitude and everyone pulling in the same direction, we can achieve anything.
|Strategic Plans and the Budget - April 25, 2012
At the April 10th council meeting we finalized some important items that we have been working on since we first took office. The council, with the help of the administration, has been working on a new strategic plan for the Town which, when completed, would help guide our actions and decisions for the next few years.
|The Council has made economic development, land development and marketing our top priorities for the next year.
When we started as a council back in 2010 it was evident that we needed a process to focus our energy and help us work towards a common goal. A strategic plan can be a good way to work through that process. As one councillor reminded me, the last thing we need is another document or plan that will sit on a shelf and collect dust. And he was right.
Looking back I have found many plans for the Town that have great ideas but have never been much more then documents that sit on a shelf. In starting the process, we as a council, recognized that the last thing we needed to do is spend three years working on another plan that goes nowhere. As I was told, it is the process that is important, not the plan.
This process has led us to identify the important steps we need to take as a community if we are going to move forward. While none of this is ‘rocket science’ or something new, it is important for everyone to identify what we need to do, so we are all pulling in the same direction.
The council has made economic development, land development, and marketing our top priorities for the next year. Again, its not surprising, nor is it a revelation that hasn’t been brought up before. It is however, part of the process of moving everyone forward on the same path.
Of course there are our regular priorities such as fixing streets and sewers, maintaining facilities and parks, and running community programs, but those are the day to day operational items that are well taken care of by the ongoing efforts of the town administration. The council has taken the next step by saying, what else do we need to do to make Hanna grow and prosper? And what can we do to fulfil our Vision which is to be a safe, healthy and vibrant community.
We believe we need to develop our economy, be ready for growth, and first and foremost, let everyone know what we have to offer. And to back that up we have included money in our 2012 budget to make it happen.
Speaking of the budget, you will also note that we have not increased taxes for the second straight year. The portion of your municipal taxes that we control has remained the same. That doesn’t mean you won’t see a change in your taxes (either up or down) as your taxes are based on the assessed value of your property. So if the value of your home changed, so too will your taxes. But that is out of our control.
Also out of our control is the amount of tax we must collect and remit to the provincial government for education. That has increased, which means that your property taxes may also increase as a result.
So once again we have brought in a balanced budget with no increase to our mill rate.
Now you may have read in another paper that we have finalized plans on residential lot development and borrowed $1 million from the Alberta Capital Finance Authority to put towards it. That is false.
We have not finalized plans for the development of lots nor have we borrowed money to make it happen. That is mis-information. We have put an amount in the budget for lot development solely because we have to put a number in the budget to make it happen. However that amount and the plans still need to be finalized.
The council and administration of Hanna are moving forward on many plans to make the Town grow and prosper. We are working as a team and all that we ask is that the rest of the Town work with us to make Hanna truly worth the drive!
|Budgets, Elections and Responsible Government - Part Two - April 4, 2012
Last week I talked about budgets and education, and how decisions by our elected officials (like MLA Jack Hayden) affect our town.
In our town budget, an area that we have to concentrate on is infrastructure.
Infrastructure in Hanna, like the rest of Alberta, is getting older. Much of it (the streets and sewers) is very old and if you haven’t noticed, it’s falling apart. How many times do we see the town crews digging up the streets to fix something? This is going to be an area we will have to spend more money on in the future as the problems continue to get older.
It’s much like the utilities we enjoy, electricity, gas and water. There are two parts to each of these; the utility itself and the method of delivery. Like our town infrastructure, the power lines, gas lines and water mains are getting older and it’s going to be up to us to pay for them to be fixed or we will suffer the consequences.
We think nothing of buying a new car or truck every five years but we complain very loudly when we have to spend money to fix up infrastructure that is over 50 years old!
Which brings me full circle; to my trip to the legislature and the upcoming election.
While I was there, thinking of how we’re all connected, I was also thinking of how the election will affect all of these areas. I was thinking how governing is more then just one issue, it’s a whole host of issues and problems that need to be dealt with on a daily basis.
I’ve been following the debate on property rights and how the bills introduced by the provincial government may or may not affect us. And while it seems to be a hotly contested issue, I just can’t help wonder why it’s the only one people seem to be talking about when there is so much more to living in our province?
We are facing school closures, rising taxes, health care issues and sewers that seem to keep leaking and all we hear about is land owner rights. Why?
I know from first hand experience that there is more to government then one issue, so why is it all we’re talking about? Why do we see campaign ads and letters that chose to attack people rather then talk about how we should fix the problems facing our province?
We’ve all seen in our own town what happens when an election is centered on one issue. I myself campaigned to be mayor by saying don’t focus on one issue as there are many problems affecting our town. Focusing on one issue gets you what you ask for, a representative that only knows one thing. Personally, I want more out of my elected officials!
So for my own knowledge, I’m going to be asking the candidates some pretty basic questions that all have a direct effect on my town.
Questions like how will you better fund rural education so we don’t have to look at closing schools? How will you make it easier for local town councils to fix their infrastructure? How will you try to balance the need to keep taxes as low as possible, while still providing me with necessary services like local health care?
And be sure it’s the candidate that has answers to more then one issue that will get my vote because as mayor, I have more then one issue in my town to worry about.
|Budgets, Elections and Responsible Government - Part One - March 28, 2012
|This past weekend I took the family up to Edmonton to visit some friends and spend some time playing in the pool.
On Friday, we were fortunate enough to take in a tour of the Legislature building, courtesy of our MLA, Jack Haydens, office staff. A big thanks to Brent and the other staff at the legislature; Ryan will never forget sitting in the Premiers chair!
While I was there however, I couldn’t help notice a buzz in the air, the one you get before an election. So I started thinking about the issues of the day and how our provincial governments’ decisions affect our town, the same way council decisions do.
Right now in Hanna we are setting up our budget for 2012. Yes it’s March and we’re not done, but it’s an important process we want to get right, as the decisions we make today will affect the town for many years. Just like last year, we need to find that balance between spending tax payer’s money (we’re all tax payers) and making sure we have the necessary services to make Hanna a good place to live.
We are of course looking at the normal day to day operations of the town. They don’t change too much from year to year. Things like snow removal, keeping up our facilities, and providing social services like youth programming are very important.
However its infrastructure and development that we need to look closely at. What streets need paving, what equipment needs replacing, and how do we help develop land and the economy in town, that are very important to get right. Decisions we make in these areas will have a long lasting affect on town long after we are out of office.
Thinking of the way we deal with these budget areas also got me to thinking about how the interaction between different governing bodies, and the responsibility of these bodies, affects us all.
For example, look at education. We, as a town, collect property taxes for education. We don’t set the rates; we don’t get to use the money; we just collect the funds and send them to the province to give to the school divisions.
Now I’ve heard rumours that the town council has some say in the primary school debate; something along the lines that if we hadn’t spent money building a new community building, we wouldn’t be looking at closing the primary school.
This is false.
The town council has absolutely no power over the schools in town; everything that is decided about schools is done so by Prairie Land School Division and its board. We obviously have our concerns on the school closure but in the end we have absolutely no say in what happens to it.
To be continued next week...
|Think 100 Hanna! - February 8, 2012
Happy New Year everyone! Ok, so it’s February and I’m finally writing my first Mayors Message of the year; what can I say, it was a busy January.
Anyway, Happy 100th birthday Hanna! Yes Hanna is turning 100 this year, in August to be exact. Back in August 1912 the first piece of property in the area was purchased and that means 2012 marks our 100th year in existence. The August long weekend this year will be the focus of our celebration but that doesn’t mean we have to limit our pride to those days.
In fact we want you to be celebrating all year long. So in honour of the centennial, we want you to “Think 100”. All year we will be announcing ways to honour the town and to get everyone in the spirit leading up to the August celebration.
As far as the official party in August, there has been a centennial committee working on a whole host of plans for quite some time now. In fact they have their own website on the go, check it out at www.hanna2012.com and they can always use more volunteers.
So watch their website, the Herald, our town website and the town facebook space for updates on activities and ways you can get involved.
In a more official capacity, the council is asking everyone to take as much pride in town as you can. There are many ways you can do this. The most obvious is taking care of your own “homestead”. Take a bit of time to clean up the yard and the area around your house.
If you own a business, take the same pride and time in your business as you would in your home and tidy things up. Heck, even think about a coat of paint, you’d be surprised how much a simple coat of paint will spruce things up.
For our part, we will be putting the finishing touches on recent projects such as the new Community Services building and we have lots of plans to spruce up parks and other town properties.
I know communities in bloom will be busy this year doing their usual fantastic job. As well, Project Hanna has been meeting this winter coming up with plans for more painting, some new signs, and other projects we hope will give the town some new life.
We are also working on plans to ‘take care of’ as many derelict buildings as we can. We started with the old Loonie Store and part of the Roundhouse and we have our sites set on more.
So let’s use our 100th year as a way to take back our town; a reason to clean it up, make it attractive, and take pride in calling Hanna our home!
Happy Centennial Hanna, let’s get together and Think 100!
|Year in Review - Part II - December 21, 2011
Last week I looked back at what we started doing in the past year. Now let’s look ahead.
Over the next year we will see many initiatives start to take hold and other areas of town get cleaned up. We’ve been through a year long planning process, not just to write a new plan, but to make sure we are all on the same page going forward, and that we are concentrating on what we believe is most needed in town.
Most of our focus will be on maintaining what we already have and trying to develop and grow what we don’t. Maintaining things like infrastructure and parks are a key area we need to concentrate on, and growing our population and business sector are keys to helping us pay for the things we already have.
There will be bumps along the way, but we ask for patience and understanding as we concentrate on the big picture.
For example, we know there are issues with the site work being done to prep the ATCO camp. Issues such as blowing dirt and traffic headaches, which are a definite nuisance to people living in that area of town, but we hope are only short term problems.
For this we ask for patience, as they are, hopefully, only short term pains for the long term gains the camp will bring. On the site alone, the town will be left with a piece of land we can develop, at a fraction of the cost it would have been if we had to do it ourselves. While it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, we believe that this project will bring a benefit to the whole town, even though it will inconvenience some people.
The other thing we ask patience with is the new Community Services Building. I’ve had many questions and concerns over the scheduling and user fees associated with it. Two things I can say for certain are that the walking track is and will be free to use, during certain hours of the day, and that the rest of the building is a work in progress.
We have estimated what we can as far as costs go and we want it to get used as much as possible. However, the only thing that will help us figure it all out is time as we see who uses it, and when they use it. The best thing everyone can do to help is give feedback, in a positive way, about what they would like to see. If enough people all want the same thing, we’ll try to make it happen.
The only other thing I ask of the people of Hanna is that we continue to work together for the betterment of our town. Remember, together, with a positive attitude, we can accomplish anything and really move Hanna forward.
|Year in Review - Part I - December 14, 2011
I thought I would take a break, from the 13 Ways to Kill Your Community book, and do a year in review, since it has been just over a year since our council took office.
Before the election in 2010, I personally campaigned on three things I wanted to work on in town.
The first was better communication. At the time it seemed like a lot of the information out there, was based purely on rumor and nobody was taking the time to correct it. For whatever reason, it seems easier in Hanna to make things up and believe what you hear at the “coffee shop” then take the time to go to the source and get the right info.
While there is more to be done on communication, I believe we’ve taken the right steps to correct the problem. We’re very active on our website and facebook; we are putting information in the paper and out by newsletter; and we will take the time to listen to anyone with a question. All we ask is that if you have a question, come and get the right information from the source, before you believe rumors and the talk on the street.
Personally, my door is always open and although I may not have the answer or even the answer you want to hear, I’ll always give you the truth.
The second area I wanted to concentrate on is town beautification. There were a lot of things being done in this regard (such as communities in bloom) but I thought there could be more.
So we’ve started to concentrate on some of the bigger issues such as old, derelict buildings. We’ve slated the demolition of the old Loonie Store and we’re currently working on a few more. We’re also looking into possible stimulus options to make it easier for people to get rid of an old building. Last but not least we’ve started Project Hanna, a committee whose sole purpose is to improve the towns’ image. We had a good start, painting a few buildings last summer, but as the New Year comes, we hope to start work on even more initiatives.
The last area I wanted to focus on is development, both residential and commercial. While this is the most important area to work on, its also the hardest, as you can’t just waive a magic wand and get people and business to move to town.
We are seeing some progress in development, including the ATCO project that is coming. While we, as a newly elected council, weren’t responsible for this project coming to the area, I like to think that our open for business attitude has helped facilitate the result.
Other things we have worked on, or are still working on, include revamping the Economic Development Committee and in essence the entire way the town deals with economic development. Watch for more on this over the next few months.
Next week – part 2
|Ignore Your Youth
Chapter 3 in the book, 13 Ways to Kill Your Community by Doug Griffiths, is about ignoring your youth. Two of my favorite stories in the book, are in this chapter.
The first is about his experience growing up on the family farm. He says that for years his dad would go on and on about how hard farming was; long hours, no vacations, and bad crops. Then his dad was surprised years later when he didn’t want to come home after university and take over the farm!
The other story is about his time spent in programs such as work experience. Doug mentions it as a good program to get kids some practical experience in how to run a business. Unfortunately he says that his work experience program tended to put him on the end of a broom, which taught him very little about business.
So here are two great examples, as I’ve mentioned many times before, about how our attitude is affecting our town.
What message are we sending when we say there’s no hope in town and there’s nothing to do? When all we show them about business and life is how hard it is in a small town? Why are we surprised when our kids don’t stay in town after hearing that message for upwards of 18 years?
One of my favorite lines in the book is also in this chapter. “When it comes to youth, the future of your community is not about finding a way to keep them from leaving, it is dependent on you finding a reason for them to want to come home.”
On one hand we constantly lament the town and its shortcomings and on the other we rack our brains trying to find a way to keep the youth from leaving. I say let them leave and explore the world but let’s also make it a positive opportunity for them to want to come home.
As Doug states, “… if you are going to kill your community… ensure those youth do not become engaged and active participants in community life.” and “If you are really skillful, they will leave town, taking all that energy and all those ideas with them…”
We, as a small town with an aging population, can’t afford to ignore our youth and drive them out of town, never to return.
So let’s start listening to our youth. Let’s get them engaged in town and town activities. Let’s change the attitude we have towards the town and everything it does offer, including opportunities to be prosperous, and hopefully as a result give our youth a reason to come home and grow our town.
|Don't Attract Business and Shop Elsewhere
Getting back to MLA Griffiths book, 13 ways to kill your community, and chapter two and five are about business. According to the book we shouldn’t attract any new business if we want to kill our town. Especially one that will compete with existing business we have. And even better if we want to kill our local businesses, we should shop out of town.
Sure conventional thinking says, ‘if we have one bank in town they would get all the business so why would they want any others?’ This reasoning is wrong though; and for the record I welcome all the competition I can get.
If a business has a monopoly, what tends to happen is they get complacent. According to Doug “…competition is good for the economy because it advances the four desirable public attributes: price, quality, selection, and service”. When a business doesn’t have to compete they lose site of this.
Going back to the bank example, I wish all the banks were in Hanna. At least when someone was going to deal with another bank, instead of going to Calgary, they would stay in town. Right now, when someone goes out of town to shop, not only do they stop at the bank but they tend to hit other stores while they are there. So not only have we lost their banking, we’ve also lost their spending on groceries, hardware, car parts; the list goes on.
That’s why it bugs me when I hear people say we shouldn’t have some larger stores in town because it would kill local business. Really with some of the large stores located in Drumheller, people are shopping there already. They just happen to go out of town to do it and they take all their other business with them when they go.
Doug supports this theory in his book by using basic economic principles. “… a dollar spent in your community will be spent six more times before it leaves your community. However, a dollar spent outside your community is gone for good”. And he’s right. If I spend $1 at the hardware store here, it is probably spent at the grocery store and then the bank and so on. If I spend that same $1 in Calgary, its not coming back.
Now its not realistic that I won’t shop out of town; I do; everyone does. I think all the local businesses ask is that we give them a chance. It just makes sense. How much do the local grocery stores donate to our community and support out kids teams, etc? The answer is a LOT. How much does a business in Calgary support our town?
At the same time I also say that we, as businesses, need to give people a reason to shop in town. Whether we do it on price, service, quality, or selection, we have to make people want to shop here. We can’t expect them to do it just because we’re here. Many times it is hard to beat the larger stores on price and selection, but there’s no reason we can’t beat them on that small town service and quality.
Remember, attracting business and shopping locally is not only good for lcoal businesses, its good for our town. If we work together, everyone benefits; like all things, it’s a partnership.
|ATCO Camp Approved - Sept 20, 2011
Good day everyone. So now that it has been officially announced I thought I would pass along a few details of the ATCO camp that is coming to town.
For those of you that couldn’t make it to the open house on September 12th, ATCO will be setting up a camp in town later this year. The camp will be housing workers for one of the transmission projects they are working on over the next couple of years.
At its height, the camp could house upwards of 400 workers, which is a significant amount of people considering our population of less than 3000. The camp will be situated in town, just north of the new Acadia Seniors Lodge that is being built on the west end.
The location allows the workers easy access in and out of town which should help keep traffic issues to a minimum. It also offers a benefit to the town itself.
The agreement we have worked out allows ATCO to use the area and in turn they are going to install services on the land (such as sewer, water, power). When the camp is no longer required the services will remain. This will give the town a fully serviced piece of land that we can in turn develop into anything we like (such as residential lots or more seniors housing – the sky is the limit).
This agreement is truly a win-win for both parties with an added bonus for our town’s business community.
With an estimated 400 workers coming to town, our community will be a very busy place and the business spin-offs should prove to be a great boom. While the workers are here they will most certainly be looking for things to do while they’re not working. Recreation and other activities will be first and foremost in their minds so let’s be ready as a community to offer them things to participate in.
As a business community there will also be ways to directly benefit from this project. ATCO will be looking for local contractors and businesses to provide services to them while they are here. If anyone wants to bid on or be involved in parts of the project they can offer their services by phoning the local ATCO office at 854-2026.
Also, as a business community, we should keep in mind that this is a partnership and not an opportunity to be taken advantage of. We should look to benefit from this opportunity but not in a way that leaves a bad impression of our town. Keep in mind that after this project is done ATCO will still be a community partner, and an employer in town, and we want that relationship to last a long time.
If you have questions about the project don’t hesitate to ask me or talk to someone at the town office and watch the town website and Facebook site for ongoing information.
ATCO has been a good community supporter of ours for years. They have donated to our fundraising projects, supported our local charities, and they are a major employer in town so let’s treat them well.
|Don't Have Quality Water - Sept 13, 2011
The first chapter in the book, 13 Ways to Kill Your Community, is about water. Basically if you want to kill your community, have poor quality, or a small quantity, of water.
With poor quality water, people don’t want to move into town. Imagine you’re a family looking to move for a new job and you have the choice of a community where the water is clean and clear, or a community where the water is yellow and has a bad odour. Which town would you like to live in.
Similarly, with a lack of water, you can’t attract business, especially industry. And we’ve all seen what happens to agriculture when there’s no water. Not a problem the last couple of years in town but it wasn’t long ago we were screaming for some rain.
Now you may ask yourself why I would waste a whole article on water in Hanna? We have good water and as much of it as we like in the taps. You’re right, we do, but in many ways I don’t think we really appreciate what we truly have.
In Hanna we raised the cost for water this past year and while its not a decision we took lightly, we felt it was the correct decision. People should pay for what they use. Especially when its an essential part of life.
According to Doug “the poorest 20 per cent of the world’s population spends more than 10 per cent of their income on water.”
Stop and do the math.
If your family makes $40,000 a year, 10 per cent of your income is $4000. In Hanna our utility bills are around $150 every two months, of which around half is for water (the rest of the bill is garbage and sewer charges).
So we’re paying around $450 a year (about one per cent in this case) for the best quality and pretty much an unlimited amount of water (at least way more then we need to live – not just pour on our grass).
According to the book “fully one-sixth of the world’s people do not have access to clean drinking water. That’s well over one billion people who don’t have access to water as clean as what we flush down our toilets…”
I guess what I’m trying to say, is we need to stop and really appreciate what we have and seemingly take for granted. Yes the cost of water has gone up but really, is it anywhere near the cost of what it should be for what we get?
We don’t have to walk miles to get it. Its delivered right to our house on demand and when it does come its clean, clear and tastes great. In fact we could probably bottle our tap water and sell it on store shelves right next to the water we will easily pay a few bucks for when we’re filling up on gas.
So lets appreciate what we have and make sure we work hard to keep it.
|13 Ways to Kill Your Community - Sept. 6, 2011
No I haven’t lost my mind. 13 Ways to Kill Your Community is a book, written by Doug Griffiths, MLA for Battle River – Wainwright and current leadership hopeful for the PC party.
No, Doug isn’t out to kill small towns, quite the contrary, and if you read the book you get a good sense of what he’s trying to say. He’s using the title as a tongue in cheek way of saying what he believes is necessary to make a community grow and prosper.
I have heard Doug give his presentation on the book a couple of times, most recently this past month in Hanna. I asked him at the time if it was ok if I wrote some articles on his book in relation to our town. He said sure, so over the next while I will be writing Mayors Messages on ways we can improve, not kill, our town.
At the start, even before we get into the 13 ways listed in the book, I want to comment on what I feel is the most important way to improve our town. The “14th way” to me is Attitude.
In the prologue to the book, Doug states ‘the only way ever to ensure the success of any community is for the community itself to decide it wants to be successful”. That “regardless of the situation, a community’s future rests primarily within its own populace and their desire to achieve success”.
There is nothing in my mind more important than our own attitude and what we as a community can achieve. After living here for 15 years I have found the only thing holding Hanna back is its attitude towards itself. I don’t know how many times I have heard what we don’t have in town; why Hanna will never be this or that; or why Hanna isn’t going anywhere.
My biggest challenge in becoming Mayor isn’t fixing streets, balancing a budget, or bringing new business to town. It is changing attitudes and making Hanna a place that fosters positive thinking and that old ‘can do’ attitude.
Throughout his book Doug often refers back to pioneer days when settlers came out west and through adversity, thrived and prospered in a new world. Then he jumps into the present and looks at communities that lack imagination or a will to improve while they wait for the government to come and fix all that ails their town.
Doug says “communities have to make a conscious choice if they want to be successful or not” and he is absolutely correct. We are the only ones that control how successful Hanna will be and it is our attitude that will get us there.
Over the next few articles I will continue to go over many of the other ways we can not kill our community but hopefully make it grow and prosper.
|Setting the Record Straight - July 22, 2011
Good day everyone, I thought it about time I sent out another message from the Mayor as it has been a while (sorry about that). I really appreciate the response from everyone that they enjoy the messages; I like to write them, I just don’t always find the time. It’s been a good and busy summer so far, except for the mood swings in the weather!
Today’s message is about the article in the last edition of the Hanna Herald in regards to “Financial Woes Plague Construction”. Now judging by the headline it would appear that the new Community Services Building is in some kind of financial difficulty or that there is some kind of shell game going on with the money.
Let me “set the record straight” from the perspective of the Town of Hanna. There are no financial difficulties with the building and there is no problem between the Town and Scott Builders in regards to funding or payment of funds for the project.
As a person that has helped finance construction projects in my other job I can tell you that from the Town’s perspective, everything is happening exactly as it should. The problem lies (as it potentially can with any construction project) down the line when you get multiple companies and contractors working on the same project.
Allow me to sum up how this situation arose.
The Town contracted with Scott Builders to build the Community Services Building. Scott Builders, in turn, hired out some of the work to other companies. In this particular case they hired Berson Construction who in turn (without Scott’s knowledge) hired SGH Drywall. Who then in turn hired Ribbers General. Confused yet?
When the time for payment for construction came, Scott Builders sent an invoice to the Town. The Town gets a formal inspection done to show the work completed as required and then cuts a cheque to Scott Builders. After that the money is supposed to flow down to who does the work. In this case the money didn’t make it all the way down the chain.
While this is unfortunate for the guys doing the work, this ultimately has nothing to do with the Town. Town staff have been diligent in making sure work is done as agreed and have had the proper inspections done and gone through all the proper steps as is supposed to happen in a construction project.
Ultimately, as with any situation like this, legal steps will probably be taken to rectify the situation. However the Town, and more importantly the Community Services Building will move forward as it should. The Town has a contract with Scott Builders to finish the project and they will honor it.
As always, if anyone has questions please come to the source and ask for clarification and we will be happy to “set the record straight”.
Have a good summer!
| Let's Talk Taxes - May 20, 2011
At our last meeting, we passed the budget for 2011, after a lot of work and deliberation by the staff and council. While it doesn’t appear to be a lot of work on the surface, administration put in a lot of hours to get the budget to a point, where we as a group, felt it was acceptable.
As council, we gave administration the direction that we did not want taxes increased for this year. While it was a difficult task, given everything we need to do, we believed that right now the residents and businesses in town pay enough and we did not want to burden everyone even more.
Now that’s not to say you won’t see your own taxes change. All the town can control is the mill rate that we levy against a property. Let me explain how municipal taxes work.
There are three parts to your property taxes; the General Municipal portion, the Education portion, and the Acadia Foundation portion.
The education portion is collected for the province to go towards schools and the Acadia portion goes to the foundation for use in their lodges. We have no control over them and for 2011 they are increasing.
The only part we have control over is the General Municipal portion. It is calculated by taking the mill rate and multiplying it by your property assessment. We control the mill rate; your property assessment is dependent on many factors but is basically what your property is worth.
You may see a change in the General Municipal portion of your taxes due to an increase or decrease in your property value. We as a town decided to present a budget where the mill rate, the portion of the taxes we control, stays the same.
Now that’s not to say we have kept everything the same. We did decide to increase the utility charges for this year and while it’s not a tax increase, it’s still money out of your pocket.
The reason we decided to increase utility charges (water, sewer, garbage) was that the costs for those services has increased. Last year the town subsidized the utilities over $130,000 which means we spent more providing those services then we collected. While we could have made up the difference through taxes, we felt that people should pay for the services they use, as much as possible.
We know there is work to be done around town. Streets need paving, we have out dated machinery in use, and there is always something that needs fixing. In time we will work at doing what we can to improve Hanna however we have to keep in mind that everything costs money and as a small town, we can’t afford to do it all at once.
|April 11, 2011
Let’s Talk Buildings – Part 3
First off, let me say I believe the new Community Services Building is a necessary facility in our town. The existing buildings we have housing some community groups are past the point of usefulness. I also believe that once everyone experiences it, they will be impressed by it.
It is scheduled to be opened in the spring, having been delayed by the abnormal amount of rain and snow we received over the past year and old buildings that we have found underground.
As far as money is concerned there are two factors: construction costs and operating costs. The RCSC is going to cost about $4.6 million dollars to build. $1 million of that is coming from the Federal government. Special Areas is kicking in about $500,000. The Town is spending about $2.6 million; and the Community Initiatives Association is fundraising $500,000.
As you know there is a planned walking track for the building. While the costs are not yet finalized, the fundraising group has committed to finding the money if they can (and they’re doing a great job). They have put a target on themselves of $800,000; $500,000 for the building and $300,000 extra for the track.
The other costs are operating expenses. The hard part about this, is that it’s a new building, we don’t know specifically what the costs are going to be to run it. We are estimating what it should be based on similar buildings, however there are many variables we can’t predict, such as how many people are going to use it and how often.
We are working, as a town, on getting the most important users set up in the building first. Groups such as Hanna Dance and Kiddies Korner Playschool are just a couple groups that are going to use the building.
After that we are trying to figure out how to maximize the use of the building, as there is no point in putting it up and then not allowing people to use it. Personally I would like to use a fitness facility and track anytime I want but there’s always a concern about cost and security; we have to find a balance.
Now with those costs there is the question of who pays? Again a balance must be found between tax payers being on the hook and user fees; make the fees too high and nobody can afford it; make them too low and the tax payers have to pick up the cost.
Rest assured we will do everything we can to find those balances and remember, everything is a work in progress and can be changed. In the meantime I’m looking forward to the completion date as I foresee a new community facility we can be proud of.
|April 4, 2011
Let’s Talk Buildings – Part 2
The following is a breakdown of some of our facilities; the cost to operate them in 2010 and the amount we as a town subsidize them (or in other words how much it costs us as tax payers). The amounts are rounded off for ease:
The Soccer Fields cost $10,000 to run and we subsidized $8700 of it.
Ball Diamonds cost $13,500 and we subsidized $8400 of itT
The Airport cost $33,000 and we subsidized $23,000 of it.
Tourist Information Booth cost $35,500 and we subsidized $26,500 of it.
The Community Center cost $127,500 and we subsidized $80,000 of it.
The Curling Rink cost $86,500 and we subsidized $36,000 of it.
The Swimming Pool cost $166,000 and we subsidized $113,000 of it.
The Arena cost $293,000 and we subsidized $206,000 of it.
The first thing to keep in mind is that not all of them are open all year so the numbers can look a bit distorted if you’re comparing them.
I guess the point I’m trying to make, is that to a certain extent we subsidize every facility we operate. We do try to collect some user fees to help alleviate some of the costs. However if we tried to cover all of the costs to run some of the facilities, the fees would be very high and would probably make it impossible for anyone to enjoy them.
Let’s look at one of the facilities that we get questions about such as the pool. We lost over $100,000 on it last year. If we tried to cover that through increased fees almost nobody would be able to swim at it. Another comment I’ve heard a lot is, why don’t we have an indoor pool? Well if you look at it; our pool is open for about four months a year and it lost $100,000. Imagine if it was open for twelve months…
Next week I’m going to look at the newest facility we are in the process of building, the Regional Community Services Building.
| March 25, 2011
|Let’s Talk Buildings – Part 1
An important topic, that seems to cross my desk frequently, is that of town owned facilities; more so lately since we’re currently in the process of building a new one.
Now I’m not talking about the maintenance shops or the water treatment plant; places such as these are necessary to a functioning municipality, even though the public has very little to do with them. I’m talking about the public facilities that we use for recreation and other events.
Facilities like these are absolutely necessary to have in a town. They are places we go to get exercise, attend classes, and congregate for special occasions like weddings. They are for sports like curling and hockey, for the arts like plays and dance, and for our kids to have a place to go and just hang out after school.
Some of them are used by a broad range of people and are used all the time, like the community center. Some are used by a few people and not very much, like the airport. But all of them get used and pretty much all of them cost the town money.
As a town we finance all of our facilities to a certain extent but when you live in a town or city you expect that. We all expect that our taxes go to help support these community facilities, that we use to enhance our lives. Without places such as these we would have a lot less recreation and a lot less ‘community’ in our town.
As a community we expect and demand that these facilities not only exist but are functional and, to a certain extent, are well kept and impressive. For as much as they are there for our use they also portray who and what we are, not only to ourselves, but to people from outside of town. We take pride in them and we continually rely on them to showcase our town for events such as hockey provincials and curling championships.
So to answer a few questions I thought I would try to write about some of them.
Next week will be part two of this three part article and I will breakdown some of the costs of our current facilities.
| February 18, 2011
|I must send apologies to everyone for the lack of recent messages, unfortunately life keeps getting in the way! That being said I will try to write as often as I can, because I believe that communication about what we are up to, as a council, is very important in keeping everyone in town moving in the same direction.
While I’m on the topic, please permit me a moment to say a few things about how important communication is. As I have said it is imperative that we as a council, an administration, and you the public maintain effective and open lines of communication.
To be able to accomplish anything, it is vital that we are all working in the same direction and the only way that will happen is if we keep talking about what is important in our lives as a community. Now, as important as the content of a message is, the delivery of a message is equally if not more important; a point which I am learning, sometimes the hard way, more and more as I continue to live my life.
Communication tools such as email and Facebook are only that, tools, and should only be used to disseminate information. They are not meant to replace the more reliable face to face contact that is necessary if people are going to effectively learn from one another. You cannot tell what someone means when using these communication mediums, all you can do is infer meaning. This often leads to mis-understanding and confusion, which then leads further to problems and communication breakdown; a fact which I am guilty of on more then one occasion and I must apologize for that.
Enough about that topic, let’s move onto more important issues that are affecting our community. To clarify, when I say more important, I mean the big picture items that we need to work on as a community if we are going to move forward; there are always little issues that come up on a daily basis that seem to steal our attention.
Little issues such as cats and snow removal, which I was going to write about, but as time passes don’t seem like big enough issues to warrant that much press. Now don’t get me wrong, they are important topics and if they affect you they are the most important issues in your life. However from a big picture viewpoint they are the issues we can, hopefully quickly, deal with and move on.
Cats seem to be a big topic in the public eye, and have certainly garnered a lot of press attention, but does the issue really command that much effort? We, as a community, should be able to work quickly through a few options and come up with some solutions that help mitigate the problem; which we will do.
The same can be said about the topic of snow removal, which is only an issue oddly enough, when it snows. To clarify there is a priority to snowremoval and it goes like this: First are collector streets (Palliser Trail, Fox Lake Trail, Pioneer Trail, 2nd Ave, 3rd St, Centre St); then School Bus Routes; Airport; Residential streets; and lastly cul-de-sacs and crescents. And no, James crescent, where the Mayor lives, is not at the top of the list and hasn’t received more then its fair share of snow removal; trust me. If you are not at the top of the list I apologize but we only have so much equipment, manpower and budget to deal with snow; however rest assured the crews will get to your area as soon as they can.
No when I mean big picture items I mean vision, mission, and planning; a topic which the council and administration views as extremely important to which we recently invested a lot of time and effort on. We have started the very important process of setting a strategic plan for the town, which will help form the basis of everything we do for the next few years. In it we have come up with important goals; strategies; our mission; and our vision: To be a Safe, Healthy, and Vibrant Community.
Everything we do will work towards the big picture and towards fulfilling our vision. Over the next couple of months we will finalize the priorities of the plan and put in place action steps to achieve our goals. Most importantly we will bring the plan to you, the community, for input and feedback to make sure we share your goals and your vision as this document needs to be a combined project, which the whole town needs to embrace and work towards.
Look in the future for your opportunity to contribute to Hanna’s plan and to help make our town move in a positive and progressive direction.
|January 3, 2011
Welcome to 2011! I hope everyone had a good Holiday season and is looking forward to a great New Year. Personally I am looking forward to a year filled with ideas and progress as we work collectively to move Hanna forward.
Let’s look at some of the work I hope we can accomplish over the next year.
Strategic Planning. The council and administration are going to embark on a planning session in the first part of 2011 to help set a direction for the town for the next ten years. This is important as it outlines what we want to accomplish going forward so there are no surprises to what we’re doing and more importantly so everyone in town can work in the same direction. We will need input from all of you on that plan if we’re going to make it successful so look for your opportunity to let us know what you think are important goals for the town to work on.
Downtown Revitalization: A big part of our plan has to be fixing our downtown. It is one of the most important parts of our town, not only to us, but in the way that people from outside of town view us. It will not be a quick fix, as there is a lot of work to be done, but it needs to be addressed and we need to start working on it as soon as possible.
Derelict Buildings: Although many of them fall under the downtown area there are still others around town that need to be addressed. It’s not going to be as easy as saying lets tear them all down as soon as we can but there are many that need to be dealt with sooner then later.
Recycling: We are currently researching better ways of handling our recycling in town and I hope to have some answers this year as to what we can do to make it easier for people. Does this mean more drop off locations or curbside pick up? I’m not sure, but we need to look at ways of lessoning our burden on the landfill.
Development and Growth: Like planning, development and growth do not happen over night but also like planning it needs to be started as soon as possible. The biggest thing we need to do as a town is find a way to increase our population or even, in the short term, keep it from decreasing any more.
Sure I’ve always heard that Hanna has 3000 people, always has, always will, but let’s look at this realistically. As of the 2006 census we had 2847 people in town. As of 2001 we had 2986. That’s almost a 5% decrease; certainly not a trend we can maintain forever.
The easy answer is to attract new business to town but I’ve said it before, what have we got to offer a new business to locate in Hanna, what’s our advantage? In the immediate future I believe we need to work on three areas of development, residential lots, commercial lots and adult living or seniors living complexes such as condos or lodges. Two of the best advantages we have over most other areas of the province are land and lifestyle so let’s use them to our advantage to try and stabilize and hopefully start to boost our population.
Are there any easy answers or quick fixes? No. Can we all work together to improve the town? Yes. If you have ideas or things you would like us as a town to work towards please tell us. Talk to your councillors, the administration, post on the town Facebook page or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s have a great 2011!
|December 6, 2010
Fire and ice - let’s talk about the new fire hall and snow removal.
Although I haven’t seen the inside yet, the outside of the new fire hall is looking impressive and will be a great addition to our town. I have heard rumblings that the building maybe a bit extravagant for the needs of our small town and while that may seem true to a point, let’s throw out some facts and see what we think.
First the financing (all these numbers are rounded off):
$1.6 million – the total cost of the hall
$630,000 (39%) is from the Province
$510,000 (31%) is from Special Areas
$200,000 (13%) is from the Federal Government
$180,000 (11%) is from the Town of Hanna
$100,000 (6%) is donated from the Hanna Fire Fighters Association
So as a Town tax payer we contributed $180,000 to the hall. A pretty good return if you ask me considering we get a $1.6 million building out of it.
Also take note that Special Areas donated a substantial amount to the project. That is because Hanna is used as a resource for fire fighting for the entire area. When there are grass fires or other needs out of Town, our fire fighters are called upon which allows us to benefit from Special Areas funding for the hall and equipment. So again the hall may seem a bit much for our Town but in reality it serves a much larger area.
Let’s also look at the Fire Fighters contribution to the project. Remember, these are the men and women that come running to your house when you have a fire and go out to all the accidents on the highway to help out, no matter what they may face.
Besides the $100,000 contribution, they have also put in upwards of 470 man hours of volunteer time to the project. The workout room, which seems to raise a few eyebrows, is also stocked with equipment they have donated or fundraised for.
All in all I have to say I’m impressed with the project and I applaud the firefighters for all their hard work to a building that us, as Hanna’s citizens, can be proud of. And the next time I need a fire fighter at my house I’m glad they (as volunteers) will come running.
Now at the other end of the spectrum, let’s talk snow removal. I’ve got to say, while our streets aren’t perfect, they’re pretty good. Has anyone been to Edmonton or Strathmore lately? I have. I was in both last week and let me tell you, our streets are not that bad compared to some.
I understand the problem. There is snow piled up along the curbs and the streets are sometimes icy and it can be hard to walk around after it snows. I can sympathize, I try to walk everywhere I can and sometimes it is not easy.
The quick and easy solution is to say lets get the town staff out there immediately after a snow fall and have them keep working until all the snow is removed no matter what else is going on. The problem with this is that we are limited in how many staff we employ and the amount of equipment and time they have. We could always hire more staff and buy more equipment to get the snow off the streets when it hits the ground but again there’s a cost to us as taxpayers.
I prefer to be somewhere in the middle, lets take care of the snow as timely as we can, on the important streets as fast as we can, and then work away at the rest as resources (time and money) permit.
In the meantime why don’t we use a little common sense? If you own property its up to you to remove snow as soon as you can, in a manner that won’t interfere with others (such as leaving it piled up at the end of a sidewalk). Be courteous and think of others and what they will have to go through if you leave your snow behind. And better still, help your neighbors with their snow. Just because the stretch of sidewalk ends at your property line doesn’t mean you have to stop shoveling.
Go the distance, shovel a few extra feet and I bet the next time it snows you’ll find a few feet of your own sidewalk already cleared off. This is especially important if your neighbor has trouble getting out of the house in the first place.
|November 15, 2010
Hello Hanna, let’s talk meetings and plans.
Council, committee, hockey, work, dance, school meetings - I could continue, but let’s suffice it to say that the list for meetings is endless. I’m quickly realizing there is a meeting for every conceivable group known to mankind, but that’s ok. With a little planning it’s almost possible to fit them all in.
However, on a positive note, meetings allow us, as citizens of Hanna, to communicate with one another which is one of the most important things we, as a small town, can do. If you’ve heard me say it once you’ll hear me say it a thousand times, we need to communicate and be on the same page if we’re going to get anywhere.
We had our inaugural official council meeting last Tuesday, and all in all, I thought it went pretty good. At this meeting we touched on a number of subjects, including the Towns finances, the director’s reports, and of course the minutes from a number of meetings - go figure.
We made a few decisions of note, including a new four way stop by the new fire hall and set up time for a tour of all of our Town’s facilities. However, I think its the decisions we didn’t necessarily finalize at the meeting which will have the most impact on our town in the future.
During the course of the council meeting, we set in motion the bigger picture, the fact that we as a town need some strategic planning if we’re going to move forward. This planning will be a multi facetted approach, with ideas and input from a number of sources all having an impact on what we do in the future.
There will be time that we, as a council, will meet with the Town administration to see where we all believe we should go as a Town. There will be meetings when we bring in outside forces, such as Special Areas, and maybe even representatives from the province, as we are not alone in this process. What we do and what we want will have an impact and we need help from forces greater then ours.
But there will also be time set up to meet with you, the residents of Hanna to hear what you want to see and where you think we need to go as a Town to be successful.
This plan will include infrastructure and equipment maintenance. It will address land use and what we want to do to make our Town more attractive to outsiders - such as fixing our downtown core. It will have planning for future growth including residential lots and address industrial expansion. And as much as anything else, it will help us determine how we’re going to fund anything we want to do as we move forward.
This plan won’t be short-sighted. We can’t do it all in a year. It will have short (one year), medium (three to five years), and long (decade) components.
And most importantly it will have input from you, as this is your Town. What we do as a council affects you, the residents of Hanna.
So watch in the next few months for meetings and open houses for your chance to be heard and set the direction for Hanna.
|November 8, 2010
Hello again Hanna; let’s talk garbage.
You know I believe that for every problem there is a solution and it only takes a person or group of people working together to find that solution.
Let’s look at a discussion regarding the issue of waste disposal that is currently taking place on various Hanna Facebook sites. First, some background.
This past fall the town tendered out the residential waste disposal contract as the current one, held by Greenslades Disposal, was coming due. The old contract cost the town $74,250. Two tenders were received by the town, one from Greenslades and one from Ozzy’s Maintenance. The tender from Greenslades was for $202,500 while Ozzy came in at $93,600.
Now while we can all appreciate and recognize the excellent job that Greenslades did in handling our garbage I think we can all agree that it would be hard to justify a substantial increase to our utility bills for that tender.
This change has stirred a debate amongst people in relation to the amount of garbage we as households are allowed to put on the curb. For your information, this aspect of the towns’ garbage collection did not change. In the past we could put a maximum of three bags weighing no more then 50 pounds each out in a week. Changing from Greenslades to Ozzy’s has had no impact on that.
The problem that is being brought up centers around that amount, is three bags enough to handle a families garbage needs in a week? While I’m not going to debate what I think is sufficient garbage for a family, I think we need to look at how we as a community can limit the amount of garbage we produce. That’s the problem.
The solution may not always be easy to identify and may take time and effort to come up with. For example I think part of the solution can be increased recycling however that will, like any idea, have consequences not the least of which would be some cost.
It has been identified that there are not sufficient recycling facilities around town; that the dump is not always accessible for people and the bottle depot recycling spot is limited. So as mayor I’m going to take a positive perspective away from this discussion and use it to look into the issue of recycling in town.
Maybe the solution is complicated but maybe it’s as simple as adding a few more recycling locations around town. While there would be a cost for that, perhaps it would allow more people the option to recycle more thus reducing the amount of garbage hitting the curb. Less garbage in bags means less issue with only being allowed to put out three bags a week.
Are there other solutions? Probably. However at least through the discussion that has taken place we have identified an issue and hopefully it will lead to a solution.
Please keep the ideas coming, together we can move Hanna forward.
|November 1st, 2010
Mayor Mark Nikota: Greetings Hanna. I would like to take this opportunity to talk to you as the new mayor.
I have decided to write messages as part of my commitment to being as open and forthcoming with information about the town and my activities on council as I can be. The messages may not be often, they may not be long, but I hope they will always be informative.
This first note maybe a bit ‘fluffy’ as it has only been a few days since I officially took office, but I promise to fill future messages with as much information on what we’re up to and why things happen the way they do as I can.
First off, let me say thanks for all the support and good wishes, they truly are overwhelming. Secondly, let me take this opportunity to thank the previous council and especially Mary for all their hard work and dedication to the job they did. We may not always agree on the outcome - as you won’t with the new council - but we can respect them for taking on a difficult role and working hard to make Hanna a better place.
The council and I have had our first meeting and I think we have a great group of people full of energy, enthusiasm and eagerness and we truly want to make a difference around town. Some of our eagerness will undoubtedly be tempered as we learn about process and procedure and we will surely make mistakes along the way as we become comfortable with our new roles; we are only human. But make no mistake, we will not sit back and take the next three years to learn the ropes before moving ahead. We have been given a clear mandate by you the voters, to move Hanna forward and that is what we intend to do.
So my first order as mayor is to request that all the people of Hanna, including myself as mayor, the councilors, all the groups and other citizens that live here to come together and work as a team to move Hanna in a positive, forward direction.
Our town has a lot of potential but it is only going to be realized if we leave behind the negativity, bitterness and in-fighting that has been festering in the past. There is no one person or group to blame; we all play a part in what we do, how we act, and how the town is perceived. Issues we have with projects, administration, old councils, and each other must be put to rest if this town is going to accomplish anything. With a small town such as ours we must have all the people pulling in the same direction if we are going to prosper and be successful.
So my personal commitment to you is to remain positive, to listen to your concerns and to come up with a plan, with input from everyone, to move Hanna forward. My door is always open for visitors. You can phone me at work, you can contact me through the town office. You can email me at email@example.com and as much as I can I will try to respond to questions on Facebook or other such media. I only ask this, if you want my help to fix a problem, come with an idea or an option on how to fix it, I will need all your help to make Hanna better, I can not do this alone. Moving us forward will take an entire team effort including the council, the Town staff and you, the people of Hanna if we’re going to succeed.
In the future look for other ‘From the Mayors Chair’ messages. Coming soon I hope to post some information on upcoming planning sessions so you can add your voice to the ideas that the new council and the administration have to accomplish the job of bettering our town.