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Olds council has lots of budget survey comments to sift through

Contradictory views expressed by 155 respondents on firefighting, policing, public art and flowers in Olds
MVT Maintain Olds sculpture
Maintain, by Nguyen Tan Cuong of Vietnam, is part of the Town of Olds' sculpture pathway along Highway 27. Many respondents to a recent survey expressed annoyance with taxpayer dollars being spent on public art, such as the sculptures. File photo/MVP Staff

OLDS — Councillors received a bewildering array of comments and views about the municipality's services in a budget survey conducted by town staff. 

The survey, conducted online from Aug. 31, 2021 to Oct. 11, 2021, generated 155 responses – or roughly 1.7 per cent of the town's population of about 9,200.

Councillors say information generated from the questionnaire will be weighed as they frame this year’s town budget this spring. 

Perhaps surprisingly, one respondent said the town should increase taxes every year in line with inflation. 

“Costs of every aspect of life go up. Trying to keep a zero tax increase every year leads to a big jump in the future, just to maintain the status quo. Taxes need to increase at least as much as inflation, every year,” the respondent wrote. 

Some respondents called for more clothing stores, grocery stores and coffee shops as well as better access to health-care services. 

Many expressed annoyance with taxpayer dollars being spent on public art; for example, the sculptures along the Highway 27 median. 

One comment described the sculptures as “borderline sexualized, mediocre art.” 

However, others supported spending on public art. 

Some respondents questioned the need for the municipality to spend money on planters in the median or elsewhere in the community while again, others liked the decorative seasonal arrangements of flowers. 

“I think we spend too much on flowers and art,” one said.  

Some said bylaw enforcement officers need to be more proactive regarding unsightly premises in some parts of town. 

Another suggested an idea to ease traffic congestion as well as facilitate snow-clearing efforts. 

“Please implement no street parking from first to last snowfalls (October to April),” the respondent wrote. “Require permits for street parking and fines for non-permitted vehicles. That way smaller, more affordable snow removal vehicles will be able to access side streets, and income will be generated from fines and permits to offset costs.” 

Several said snow clearing needs to be “better” and faster. 

One respondent asked for “hard numbers” on what is spent in various departments. 

A few urged the municipality not to hire any more full-time fire staff. 

“I do not support funding more full-time paid chiefs or deputy chiefs at the fire department. Throwing money at a mismanaged problem,” a respondent wrote. 

However, another wrote, “You need another full-time guy or three.” 

A couple of respondents called for more nighttime police patrols in the community, including Uptowne, in order to prevent thefts and curb drunk driving. 

One said the community peace officer — also often referred to as a bylaw officer — budget should be reduced.  

Another respondent called for more mental health services in the community. 

One respondent called on the town to “bring back the fair.” 

Another said teens and young adults need more things to do. 

“(The) Town caters WAY too much to seniors,” that respondent wrote. 

However, another said more planning needs to be done to provide busing for seniors who might not have access to vehicles. 

“Perhaps less money going to support special events,” that comment added. 

One respondent said the prices at the town-owned Nu2U thrift store are too high. 

A few respondents criticized recreational facilities provided by the municipality and called for others.  

“We need a field house so people can participate in soccer, lacrosse, etc. It can’t be just about hockey.” 

“We need a public football field that isn't run and controlled by the CLC (Community Learning Campus).” 

“Where are the new tennis and pickleball courts that could have easily been built along with the new ball diamonds?”