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Big projects for year ahead, changes in rates explained

As mayor for the Town of Innisfail, I felt it was important to take some time to address the residents of our fine community and to try to bring everyone up to date on recent events and projects that have been taking place.

As mayor for the Town of Innisfail, I felt it was important to take some time to address the residents of our fine community and to try to bring everyone up to date on recent events and projects that have been taking place. There's no question that council has been very busy following up with ongoing projects ó many of which were initiated in 2011. These projects were essential to address the growing needs of our community and many actually complimented the relocation of the library.

We were very excited to be able to announce the opening of the new library and learning centre in January. There are still a few things required for full completion of this project but we are working hard at addressing those needs. I must say, it was wonderful to be able to showcase the common area of the new facility on March 1 during the Rick Hansen 25 Anniversary Relay End of Day celebrations.

What did we accomplish in 2011? Well, I think we can say that we had a pretty successful year what with initiating the construction of a new fire hall and a much needed public works facility, complete service replacement and resurfacing of 50 Avenue from 42 Street to 39 Street and the formation of a steering committee to assist staff and council with the planning of the replacement of deep services in 50 Street.

This particular project provides us with the unique opportunity to go a step further and give the downtown area a fresher more pleasing modern appearance which, as a result, should help revitalize the main core of the town. This in turn will hopefully encourage businesses to open or relocate there and enable them to grow and expand with improved market potential. I think it is important to note that over 80 per cent of the cost of this project is allocated for basic infrastructure replacement which is absolutely necessary and 20 per cent will go towards improving the streetscape concept of the area.

It has been a huge challenge for council to address the escalating costs and ongoing changes to the town's basic water, sewer and solid waste services. The last thing we want to do is raise the costs to our residents, however, we are unfortunately at the mercy of outside providers who area also required to cover their own escalating costs. When we look at comparables in other communities, we soon realize we are not alone in this regard.

With June rapidly approaching, I'm sure the topic of taxes are on the minds of many people at this time. Soon, you will be receiving your property assessments in the mail and we are proposing a three per cent increase on the municipal portion. This is to address cost of living increases in wages, salaries and expenses due to inflation. The other part of the formula, of course, is the seven per cent increase in the school requisition by the Province of Alberta ó the largest increase in more than 20 years. The municipalities, unfortunately, have no input or influence over that portion of your assessment, so we attempt to balance the overall effect on the taxpayers by doing some adjustments to the general assessment. As a result, your tax role will generally show and increase in the neighbourhood of three to four per cent.

Without question, over the past couple of weeks, council has been challenged to reach an acceptable solution to the solid waste service conference in the community. On Monday, March 12, council have three readings to pass an amendment to the waste bylaw which will provide garbage collection service to residential facilities up to and including fourplexes at standard residential rates. Multi-family units of five or more, as well as businesses, will be required to acquire their own garbage services. Contact numbers for Waste Management or BFI can be acquired through the town office. It has always been this council's view that services provided should pay their own way and not be subsidized by the tax payer.

My ultimate goal for this year is to see our community through this upcoming phase in the redevelopment of the main downtown core, minimizing negative impact. Hopefully, along with the community, we will be able to look back and admire the results, with the businesses and residents being the true benefactors of this great step forward.