CREASEY: Reflections on a progressive year

City of Lacombe Mayor Grant Creasey. Photo supplied

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The start of a new year provides us with an opportunity to celebrate the successes of the past year, learn from its trials, and look forward to new opportunities with renewed enthusiasm.

One of council’s first significant accomplishments in 2018 included the development and implementation of a three-year Strategic Plan for the city. The 2018-2021 Strategic Plan is the premiere planning document for achieving council’s stated vision during our term in office.

We completed some large infrastructure projects last year. Together with our federal, provincial, and municipal partners, we celebrated the commissioning of the North Red Deer Regional Wastewater System. This project was the recipient of the AUMA’s award for Sustainability in Collaboration. It will ensure that the communities of Lacombe, Blackfalds and Lacombe County will have access to reliable and efficient services to safeguard the health and well-being of residents well into the future.

I am pleased to say that the city also began providing operational services for the Red Deer Regional Wastewater Services Commission. This delivers another revenue stream for the municipality.

We successfully wrapped up the Main Street project last summer, with the final asphalt and permanent road markings taking place in July.

I am pleased to report that this project has won recognition from the American Public Works Association Alberta Chapter’s 2018 Project of the Year Award: $5 to $10 Million Category, which recognizes excellence in the construction, management, and administration of public works projects in Alberta. It also received the Washington, D.C. based Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure’s 2018 Envision Silver Award for sustainable infrastructure.

Last year, the city began working with our partners to facilitate major commercial developments in the east and west areas of Lacombe, which will continue this year. These significant projects, along with a number of other developments, such as the construction of a new health centre in Lacombe, the groundbreaking of the Charis Village Senior’s Housing project, and the upcoming taxiway extension at the Lacombe Regional Airport demonstrate that Lacombe is well on its way to sustainable growth and prosperity.

I could go on and on as there are many more things to discuss, but for a more in-depth look at 2018 please watch for the annual Year in Review report, available soon on the city’s website.

Looking ahead, I believe that the city is well positioned to benefit from continuing on its current positive track, even though the current provincial economy seems troubling. Our sustainable growth model allows us to adapt to changes in service requirements while thoughtfully planning for the future.

The current council has a strong focus on fiscal responsibility, and this is reflected in our budgeting processes. Upon election, we identified the spending growth that occurred from 2006 to 2016 as a top concern.

We have since passed consecutive budgets that align with the Alberta Consumer Price Index (CPI). We have also adopted a Taxation Policy that includes this commitment.

For 2019, the city’s operating budget is balanced, with revenues and expenses totalling $44 million. It also reflects a 2.8 per cent property tax rate increase.

This year’s capital budget includes $6.5 million in new expenditures spread through 43 projects. Roads and underground infrastructure are the majority of capital costs for 2019, with building improvements, equipment, and vehicles accounting for the rest of the project costs.

I am pleased to say that our efforts were validated by the recent release of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business’ (CFIB) Alberta Municipal Spending Watch Report, which confirms that Lacombe is on the right track.

In 2016, municipalities in Alberta (with a population over 1,000) spent an average of $2,325 per capita. That same year, Albertan cities spent an average of $1,805, with a median of $1,886. The City of Lacombe spent $1,676 per capita – about seven per cent less than other cities, and 28 percent less than other Alberta municipalities.

This shows that Lacombe spends less per capita than other cities in Alberta, and nearly 30 percent less than the average municipality, while providing one of the top standards of living in the country. Perhaps it’s another reason why we are ranked the fifth best place to live in Canada, and the top spot in western Canada, by MoneySense Magazine.

As mayor, I do agree that municipal governments should limit spending to inflation and population growth. As we move forward, council will continue to capitalize on opportunities to deliver strong leadership to our residents.