BRR Track expansion

Battle River Railway (BRR) is seeking funding to construct an additional track for their system.

Part of the construction would include installing a 4th track within the Village of Forestburg.

As BRR is controlled by Alberta Transportation our land use bylaw does not apply to this expansion.

BRR is seeking a letter of support for their funding application.

Mayor Young prepared a letter for Council’s review.

Administration is concerned how residents will react to a fourth line being constructed within the village limits as many residents are unhappy with the amount of rail traffic they are already experiencing as well as noise issues from the railroad.

Complaints of running engines have been rectified, same as blowing whistles within town.

Council asked about the delays and if this additional track would cause more as fill cars for the elevator ‘go on forever’.

Mayor Young said that grain cars are relatively small.

“It’s important to remember they are seeking support,” said CAO Moffat.

There is no authority to approve the project at this time.

Council carried a motion to move forward and support the BRR as drafted by Mayor Young.

Operating/Capital budgets

With the Provincial budget being announced and the receipt of the 2020 allocations for grants and school requisitions, the 2020 operating budget was made available for Council’s review.

This is the third draft of the 2020 operating budget which was accepted at the regular meeting.

The total 2020 operating budget is $3,301,080 which is anticipated to result in no change to the residential and non-residential municipal tax rates, the residential school tax rate will increase by 4.56 per cent and the non-residential school tax rate will increase by 8.14 per cent, and a decrease in the seniors requisition tax rate of 16.2 per cent.

Administration is not anticipating that an increase in minimum tax will be required.

After discussion with the downloading of policing costs coming soon, council chose to increase taxes one per cent for a net increase of $7,000 this year.

CAO Moffat determines an approximate $15,200 for policing costs will be needed by 2021, the following year at $22,000, and finally $45,000 by 2023.

Village office closes

During the Committee of the Whole portion of the evening, council got down to business as to how the village has been preparing for the coronavirus.

After the meeting on Thurs. March 19, the office officially closed to the public although phone calls and emails can still be sent for payments and other questions or concerns.

Residents will not be penalized for late payments for the next three months.

Mayor Blaise Young noted they are still working on a business continuity plan.

“We know people are losing their jobs – that’s a certainty,” he said.

Coun. Dwayne Giroux gave an update on supernet coming to Forestburg.

The company has put in fibre optics in Delia, Veteran, Consort and Oyen as well.

“It cost Veteran zero and all their village owned facilities get free wifi,” he said.

Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Debra Moffat mentioned Telus approaching the village not too long ago asking about anything they are potentially interested in.

She noted fibre optics and a phone system to which they provided a preliminary quote.

All village properties that Forestburg is looking at but the community hall is not included as it is too far away. It would cost an extra $15,000 to $20,000.

In total, the village could pay $80,000 in installation costs and then $4,200 per month for the service after that.

“I want to get it so everybody including businesses south of [Hwy] 53 as that is very important,” said Coun. Giroux.

Council moved out of the Committee of the Whole portion of the meeting, after further discussion.

Industrial Park transformation

Mayor Young has requested a 22.77-acre parcel currently used as a ball diamond, be developed into an industrial park.

Administration provided some maps of the area to councillors, including a suggestion for development that would result in seven industrial lots.

Currently the village has an active inventory of three developed industrial lots, one of which has a first right of refusal agreement in place.

Three other industrial lots have been removed from inventory by council for a future interpretative park site.

Administration has not forwarded this request to engineering for a potential cost estimate but based on the cost of the residential subdivision, the cost is anticipated to be in excess of $800,000.

The costs do not include additional asphalt overlay for heavy traffic and does not include upgrades which may be required to the laneway running behind existing businesses at an estimated $250,000.

At the estimated cost of the project, the anticipated cost recovery for the lots would be in excess of $100,000 per lot.

The original industrial park along 47 Street S was developed in 2000 and to date three of the nine lots have sold and none have seen substantial development.

At this point, property tax revenue on the sold lots is minimal.

Council had a lengthy discussion surrounding the idea as there were plenty of questions and concerns including the community pushback for removing some ball diamonds.

Mayor Young stuck to his guns on the matter saying that after his economic development conference in Vegreville, he ‘made a nuisance of himself talking to people’ to gain insight on how to sustain a community.

The three things he learned as the keys to economic success was to have  railroad, industrial and commercial serviced lots with different sizes as well as highways – all things Forestburg still has to remain viable.

“If you have all three of those things then you can apply to have businesses and industry to come here to you,” said Young.

As for the ball diamonds, Young pointed out that they are hardly being used with no real teams left to use them and the village has four, whereas many communities in the surrounding area only have one or two at the most.

These are adjacent to commercial lots.

Giroux brainstormed if they could move the slow pitch diamond which is used the most often and then change the hard ball diamond to slow pitch as well as hard ball ‘is long gone’.

The Western Diversification fund allotted by the federal government for $105 million also made it clear that Forestburg was the first community at the top of the list for a portion of this large sum which Young felt could be used specifically for this project.

“I’m not going to waiver on this,” he said. “Because I’m going to tell you right now since I was elected and chosen to be mayor here, I said a lot of things in Forestburg don’t add up to anything unless we have children. 

“Putting in commercial lots would be one way that we can tell business we are ready here. Plain and simple.”

He added that Hardisty School had officially closed as of earlier that day and Forestburg could be the next one if things don’t turn around as their numbers have also dwindled substantially over the past few years.

“If we are not proactive in attracting business to Forestburg then it sits on our shoulders 10 years form now when we are facing possibly some drastic measures in Forestburg and don’t tell me it can’t happen because I taught back in Heisler and when I taught there it was the biggest school in all of Flagstaff County.”

The same thing happened in Galahad and Alliance and Hardisty – all schools now shut.

Dep. Mayor Bob Coutts asked about the already existing, fully-serviced lots across from the arena to the south.

CAO Moffat pointed out they are ‘quite a bit smaller’ at around 2 to 3 acres in size.

Mayor Young added the benefit of moving forward with a community greenhouse would add to the attraction of the potential subdivision at the ball diamonds as the greenhouse could be situated nearby.

“All of this is over in one place,” he said.

Council chose to table the item to the next meeting.

Fun in Flagstaff

Parents for Fun in Flagstaff Society has set Aug. 18, 2020 as the date to hold the annual Movie in the Park and have invited municipalities to send expressions of interest to host the event.

Forestburg last hosted the Movie in the Park in 2013.

The hosting of the event does require a significant amount of assistance from village staff as well as volunteers and administration but due to the 100th anniversary celebration last year the village opted to not pursue this opportunity in 2019.

Hosting the annual Movie in the Park will bring significant numbers of people to the village and will help to promote the village as a wonderful place to live.

A proposal to have committee spearhead this was brought forward

“It brings lots of people to town. We know you can turn it into a big day with a farmers market, the blow up bouncy house. You could have a whole day of it,” said Mayor Young.

“It’s August 18 so hopefully all of this [COVID-19 virus requirements] will be on a downward swing,” said Coun. Giroux.

A motion to have Forestburg host the annual movie in the park event was carried.

Thunderstars donation

A Thunderstars hockey team sent a letter to council asking if they would like their money back as their 2020 provincial tournament was cancelled.

The village provided $500 as a sponsorship towards it but council agreed it wouldn’t be right to take it back.

Instead, they chose to send a letter indicating the team could put the money towards next year’s programming however they see fit.

Greenhouse feasibility study motion

The mayor requested council approve a motion to pursue a commercial greenhouse project by applying to Battle River Economic Opportunity Commission (BREOC).

Since this project is considered community oriented, they can apply for up to $20,000 for a feasibility study which would tell the village if it is a worthy project to follow through with.

 

Terri Huxley

ECA Review

About the author

Terri Huxley

Terri Huxley

Terri grew up on a grain farm near Drumheller, Alberta with an eye for the beautiful and uncharted. Living in such a unique and diverse area has helped her become the photographer and reporter she is today.

Coming from the East Central region getting this newspaper on her dinner table growing up, it helped her understand the community she now serves.

In May 2019, Terri was awarded Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association (AWNA) Canada's Energy Citizens Photographic Awards Sports Action – First Place as well as first for the same sports action image nationally with the Canadian Community Newspaper Association (CCNA). Fast forward to 2020, she has won second in the same category for the AWNA.

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