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Commentary: Sewage, RCMP costs challenges for Sundre in 2020

MVT sundre council Terry Leslie
Terry Leslie is the mayor of Sundre. File photo/MVP Staff

During 2020, I believe some of the issues and challenges we will encounter will be the following:

• Resolution of a future wastewater treatment option that will be “shovel-ready” with costs and timelines.

We have met with both provincial and federal representatives to outline an innovative and more affordable possible solution to our future sewage treatment needs.

We will be examining the cost benefits to our ratepayers for traditional improvements to our lagoon, possibly joining a regional wastewater system, and new, innovative solutions. As I have said: “Who knew there would ever be excitement about sewage?” There are many reasons to be optimistic that the next year will see great progress on this file.

• Focus on tourism opportunities, economic development, interest by homebuilders and industry-expansion building plans.

We have worked diligently to tell developers we are “open for business” and want our reputation to be that we “operate at the speed of business,” rather than expecting developers to “operate at the speed of government.”

We have a choice to be optimistic or pessimistic. We choose optimism. We will build our community capacity for growth and affordability for all current residents and businesses and for those who want to move here. You will hear a great deal from our new tourism committee this year.

• Our Grant Review Committee will be busy reviewing, and trying to support volunteer groups and organizations in our community.

We won’t be able to sustain any group, but our intent is to be able to help out any group occasionally.

Our history has seen council setting aside varying amounts of money year to year, ranging from $10,000 to $30,000. In the last year, close to $100,000 was distributed by the Grant Review Committee to deserving volunteer groups and organizations.

In 2020, our goal is to assist volunteer groups and organizations with between $50,000 and $100,000, recognizing the need to balance what ratepayers can afford, with what volunteers need to continue. As with any household, we want to do more, not less – a thoughtful balance is the goal.

• We will be challenged to hold the line on taxes with some new costs being levied by the province for the changing RCMP funding model that will see all municipalities pay, when we were exempt from paying for RCMP policing costs previously.

As a council, we are committed to hold “what we control”--  our operations budget increase -- at the cost of living increase of 1.6 per cent for 2020.

We don’t control what others who use us as their “collector” may do.   

We elected a provincial government to examine all their spending, cut where appropriate and necessary to get “back in the black.”

I don’t believe we can point fingers and blame our new provincial government, when they ask the tough questions and point out some changes they see as a path to “the black” for their operations.

I do believe we need to look at our own house, examine possible duplication of services and make some decisions about what we can afford, as changes and challenges come to us.

I think we all need to be part of the solution and respect how much comes out of the “one-taxpayer pocket” that supports three levels of government.

These budget realities are nothing new to any of us in our homes and we will be prudent.

• We will come to an agreement with the Aquaplex board and the agricultural society in 2020.

• We will have to have discussions with the curling club and the agricultural society about the future of our partnership together in the future.

• And, there will be unforseen emerging issues to deal with as 2020 unfolds.

As I look forward into 2020, I am optimistic and excited about both the challenges, and the opportunities that will be presented to us.

When we think about the pioneers that built this great community, they faced the future with resiliency, a positive attitude and pulling together as a community. We owe our pioneers the respect to do the same with all that comes our way.

Thank you to each and every one of you who are doing your part to make our community such a great place to live, to work and to play.

May 2020 be the best year ever for all of us.

Terry Leslie is the mayor of Sundre.