Tourism third largest driver of Stettler’s economy

The Town of Stettler accepted the Stettler Board of Trade’s estimated $495,587 Budget 2018 and will contribute $258,607.
Town council unanimously approved the motion during its regular meeting Dec. 5. This is a three per cent increase from the $251,168 the town contributed last year.
“There is a funding lift but it’s not anything out of the ordinary,” said Town of Stettler Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Greg Switenky.
Stettler Regional Board of Trade Executive Director Stacey Benjamin told council that the board had “another successful year.”
Benjamin said the board held several successful events including its Annual Trade Show, Taste of the Heartland/Open Farm Days, Heart of Alberta Dollars, Shop Stettler, Stettler Pheasant Festival and the Awards Gala.
Shop Stettler continues year-round with monthly give-aways from its 45 participants.
“It keeps growing in popularity with changes made and encouraging people to shop local.”
Benjamin said the biggest expenditure was $74,492 for the Stettler Pheasant Festival. The board works with Cabela’s out of Calgary as well with local organizations. The board sells hunts and holds a banquet.
Coun. Malcolm Fischer said this event helps put Stettler on the map and many who attend have not previously heard of Stettler.
“It’s a good driver for our tourism,” he said.
Tourism is the third largest economic driver in Stettler, said Benjamin. Last year 20,000 people rode Stettler’s Prairie Steam train and 8,000 participated in the Polar Express. They expect to reach 12,000 passengers by this December for the Polar Express.
The board built a Roaming Visitor Information Centre, which is expected to be completed this week.
Benjamin said the board continues to work with businesses, assisting them to be prosperous and sustainable.
“We focus on business retention and expansion and also try to connect with local entrepreneurs to bring ideas to fruition.”

Library
The Town of Stettler will fund the Stettler Public Library’s $237,243 2018 budget, which amounts to a 2.55 per cent over last year’s $231,333 budget.
During town council’s regular meeting Dec. 5 council unanimously approved the motion.
Matthew Barabash, Stettler Public Library Manager told council that usage of the library is increasing.
“In 2016 we had 461 members and in 2017 we have 712 members.”
This doesn’t include December’s numbers.
Barabash said the outreach work the library is doing with Red Willow, Erskine and the Colony schools is contributing to this increase.
Mayor Sean Noll asked Barabash if eliminating library fees for memberships last year contributed to the spike in numbers. Barabash said it “modestly” impacted the numbers, about 35 per cent.
“It took a long time for the word to get out. People are still surprised there’s free membership. It was slow. It steamrolled this summer and this fall specifically.”
Coun. Gord Lawlor said the free children’s programs gives youth a place to go after school.
“The library itself is proving to be a good tool for kids.”
The library also services the local senior homes, said Barabash.

Funds for FCSS
The Town of Stettler will kick in $39,287 towards the Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) $440,060 2018 budget.
The town and county funds 20 per cent of the FCSS’s budget with the province paying 80 per cent.
“There are no big changes to our budget, it’s pretty steady, pretty normal,” said FCSS Executive Director Shelly Walker.
The FCSS wants to, however, do more family events in the community she said, including swimming, skating and family dinners.
“Things to bring the communities together,” said Walker.
Stettler Mayor Sean Nolls said the FCSS is underutilized.
“More people should or could use it. Some people just don’t realize it’s there.”
Walker told council that the FCSS is “working on being more front line.”
Mayor Nolls added,” You guys are an asset. Everything you do is amazing.”

Museum budget questioned
Every year Stettler Town and Country Museum asks the town for an extra $2,000 for its budget and at some point council needs to question that, said Stettler Mayor Sean Nolls.
During Town of Stettler’s regular council meeting Dec. 5, the museum requested $34,000 in funding for 2018, up from $32,000 for 2017.
“In 2010 it was $18,000 now it’s at $34,000,” said Mayor Nolls. “They do have immense costs and a lot of structures but we need to know why (the increase) has to be $2,000 per year and that is something we should challenge going forward or looking into. Giving funding without knowing why, there’s a danger in that.”
Likewise, Coun. Scott Pfeiffer agreed saying sometime the town should look at the fact that it’s an automatic $2,000 increase each year.
Town of Stettler Chief Administrative Officer Greg Switenky said the increases are small and gradual each year rather than eventually having one large increase. He acknowledged that the town doesn’t have the museum’s entire financials and they could ask for more details.
Coun. Gord Lawlor said the museum doesn’t indicate where they expect to spend the money and the town should ask for a break down and more detail where the money will be used.
Coun. Al Campbell, however, said $2,000 a year is minimal in comparison to what they do.
“It’s the fifth largest museum in Alberta.”
In 2017 the museum improved the following: built a gazebo to commemorate long-time volunteer/curator Wilda Gibbon; put new flooring and lighting in the main building bathrooms; and replaced concrete in front of the main building, added a sidewalk to the west door and enlarged the west pad of the event area of the main building.
In 2016 the museum held fundraising events including Light the Night with 51 sponsors, 571 vehicles raising $7,911. They held a July 1 celebration drawing 561 visitors. In addition, they held the 2017 Night of Terror at the Boo-seum and made a $5,000 profit.
In 2018 the museum plans to archive its system, complete roofing, windows and siding, eliminate safety issues in the parking area and work on storage of artifacts.
Council voted in favour of providing the museum with $34,000 for its 2018 budget.

Lisa Joy
ECA Review

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