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Olds council non-committal to $50,000 ask from Uptowne

Group looks to create a Business Improvement Area in Olds with a part-time coordinator
MVT April Jemieff
Uptowne Olds president April Jemieff makes her pitch for $50,000 from the municipal taxes of Uptowne businesses to support a Business Improvement Area with a 0.6 FTE coordinator. Doug Collie/MVP Staff

OLDS — Uptowne Olds president April Jemieff asked council to provide $50,000 from municipal taxes submitted by Uptowne businesses for a part-time co-ordinator. 

That job, which would work out to a 0.6 full-time equivalent position, would involve developing capital projects to make improvements in the Uptowne area, promote tourism, profile existing businesses, conserve heritage properties and generally encourage new and renew business in the area. 

It would be under the auspices of what Jemieff called a modified BIA Business Improvement Area, which is a group of businesses in a defined area that work together improve the area collectively.  

Jemieff said the idea would be to put $1,000 from each Uptowne member’s municipal taxes to foot that cost.  

“At this time of businesses struggling with COVID restrictions, we are not asking for an additional tax levy. Rather, the Uptowne Olds association would ask to receive a portion of the taxes already collected by the Town of Olds,” a letter in council’s agenda package said. 

Jemieff said the Uptowne Olds association would be “transparent” in its use of the funds by providing the town with an audited report and would present annual internal reports to an open council meeting. 

Uptowne was created in 2005. At that time, it was a committee under the auspices of the Olds Institute for Community & Regional Development and as such, it was able to access help from town staff.  

In 2020, as the Olds Institute for Community & Regional Development underwent some turmoil, Uptowne Olds created their own association.  

Jemieff said the hope is that via the BIA and the group’s coordinator, grants could once again be obtained. The hope is if they obtain grants, they may eventually not need money from the town.  

She said activities created and promoted by Uptowne to lure people to the area are actually good for the community as a whole, because they lure people from out of town who may end up spending money elsewhere in the community as well. 

Council didn’t make an immediate decision on that ask but only voted to receive Jemieff’s request for information. 

“We are short-staffed and we have a tight budget ourselves,” Coun. Heather Ryan said. “So trying to come up with a $50,000 ask is really difficult at this point. 

“But I think that there are some things we can do. I just don’t think that we can say yes or no at this point.” 

Coun. Darren Wilson noted the Town of Olds already has an economic development officer and an economic development secretariat. And there’s also a chamber of commerce in the community.

“I’m all for supporting the revitalization and re-energizing of Uptowne. We just need to make sure we’re doing that in the most efficient way,” Wilson said.