“There is always going to be a need for Hanna,” said Mayor Chris Warwick at the Coal Transition Community Update meeting held Thurs. Nov. 29 at the Hanna Community Centre.
Mayor Warwick started by summarizing what has been done with respect to government help since Hanna learned of the Alberta Government’s Climate Leadership Plan back on Nov. 22, 2015.
The Town of Hanna and Special Areas performed two studies under what was initially labelled “Hanna’s Climate Change Task Force.”
The Opportunity Assessment study was released to the public but the Impact Study was not.
The Mayor stated that there would be an estimated $20 million in direct and indirect impacts to Hanna (assuming the closure of both the mine and generating plant).
The Town obtained $455,000 in funding from the Alberta Government for “Community Action to CreateDiversification”.
Urban Systems, a consulting firm, was hired through a bidding process to better understand the needs of the business community, identify the existing business programs and services and identify the gaps and areas for innovation.
A summary of what has happened to date can be found by looking at a ‘map/ timeline’ produced by Urban Systems. In Hanna, this has resulted in the creation of Community Action Teams (CATs).
These teams are now being coordinated by the Hanna Learning Centre.
A poster banner was created to chronicle ideas – from the community at a February 2018 meeting – which would respond to the transition from coal.
That was the idea stage.
The result has been that some of those ideas have been expanded upon by at least five CATs.
Doray Veno, Executive Director of the Hanna Learning Centre, explained that a CAT was really just a group of solution-oriented individuals or organizations acting to strengthen the community.
Anybody with an idea can still start a CAT and the process is now ongoing. CATs are formed to achieve the following results: build or strengthen local capacity to move through transition efforts; limit the potential impacts of the mine and generating station closure; and, capitalize on future opportunities to help diversify the local economy.
The following five CATs presented their ideas to those in attendance by summarizing their proposal and looking for help to proceed further.
The ‘Retire to Hanna’ CAT has a mapped out plan of action that goes into the new year.
The ‘Livestock Hub’ and ‘Eden Alternative’ CATs are attempting to fund feasibility studies.
The ‘Community Resiliency Strategy’ has created a framework for action and ‘Support Local’ has started acting on its plan.
To find out more about these Community Action Teams, contact the Hanna Learning Centre at 403-854-2099.
Special Areas project
Special Areas also received $420,000 in funding from the Alberta Government to look into the feasibility of a renewable energy project.
Jordon Christianson, Chair of Special Areas Board, explained that the result of this funding was a plan to build one of the biggest solar energy projects in Canada, possibly producing 120 megawatts.
They partnered with a firm called Greengate Power and ATCO. The plan would include at least $30 million in funding and investment from the Alberta Government.
Unfortunately, the resulting decision, so far, has been “no” after many meetings with provincial ministers. Christianson said that the project still exists and that “There is a dim light at the end of the tunnel.”
Shane Pospisil with New West Opportunities spoke about Youngstown and their plan for the coal transition.
They identified the following industries and sectors as having moderate-to-strong potential for future growth and attraction in residential development, tourism and recreation, oil and gas field servicing/contracting, machinery/equipment servicing and maintenance, artisan, home-based small business development, regional trucking reload and transportation logistics.
The final recommendation by Youngstown’s consultants is that residential development is feasible in the form of The Snowbird Land Development Project, as well as an integrated residential, commercial and business development strategy.
The evening ended with members of the five Hanna CATs speaking one-on-one with interested audience members.