April '12 Newsletter


Town Council News

April 2012                                                                                                                          Volume 7, Issue 2


Growth Results are in for Athabasca


Census information released by Statistics Canada in February has confirmed what many Athabascans have known for some time: the Town is growing.

The federal 2011 Census reveals that the population in the Town of Athabasca was 2,990 when tallied last year, a 15.9 per cent increase over the previous federal census of 2,575 taken in 2006.

The 2011 total for the town represents a 9.3 per cent increase over a Town of Athabasca municipal census of 2,734 taken in 2008.

The rate of population increase between 2006 and 2011 is substantially higher in Athabasca than in other regions of the province and the country. For example, the Village of Boyle had a 7.3 per cent increase; Athabasca County, 1.2; Edmonton, 11.2; Alberta, 10.8; and Canada, 5.9 per cent.

Many regions throughout the country experienced a decline in population. Closer to home, the Hamlet of Lac La Biche dropped 7.8 per cent from a population of 2,758 in 2006 to 2,544 in 2011. The Town of Westlock dropped 3.7 per cent, from 5,008 in 2006 to 4,823 in 2011.

The present rate of growth in Athabasca is no guarantee of continued growth, but members of Town Council acknowledge that potential growth must be factored into planning for the future.

“We have to be prepared for what could be coming,” states Athabasca Mayor Roger Morrill. “The kind of growth we’ve been seeing, it speaks to our community. We need to understand what it is that is drawing people here. Is it jobs? Quality of Life? Economy of living? We know we have many positives and a lot of potential in our community.”

He notes how the town is experiencing a fair amount of development at present with a variety of projects happening and more in the planning stages. The new campground facility and the new sports field project are moving forward, as well as research into the possibility of a new library, a new swimming pool and paving and road construction projects.

“Many things are occurring in the community right now,” says Roger. “A lot of dirt is being turned.”

Council is trying to anticipate some of the needs the town may have in the near future.

“If it looks like we lack in an area, we have to be responsive to it,” Roger explains. “For example, Council is very aware of the need for more industrial land and we have put it on our priority list.”

The rate of population growth cannot be predicted, but some steps can be taken to help prepare for potential growth and Council will include as much information in the mix as possible when making plans and decisions.

For more information about the 2011 Federal Census, visit 2011 Census Profile, Athabasca.

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Winning candidate in the February by-election, Colleen Powell began her role as a Town Councillor at the regular meeting of Council on Feb. 21 where she was officially sworn in by Mayor Roger Morrill.

Colleen Powell returns to Town Council

Former Athabasca mayor Colleen Powell has returned to Athabasca Town Council after winning a February by-election held to fill a vacant seat on Council. The seat had been vacated last fall by Councillor Christine Nelson who resigned to relocate out of town.

Colleen brings 12 years of experience to the table, having served as a Town Councillor for three terms from 1998 to 2007 and as mayor for one term from 2007 to 2010. In 2010, she was bumped from Council by current Mayor Roger Morrill who won the Mayor’s seat during the municipal election held that year. Colleen is happy to return to Council and is looking forward to serving as a Councillor.

“It’s good to engage with friends and colleagues on Council again,” she says, admitting that she has a bit of catching up to do. “Council responsibilities still take more time than you think they’re going to take.”

Contributing to the leadership of a community is a complex business and Colleen enjoys the experience.

“I like this work and I was interested in returning to Council because there are certain things in town that I want to help carry forward. I have found that the longer I am here, the more fascinating it becomes. People should be encouraged to serve on Council.”

Colleen explains that every council is made up of different people, different personalities and different perspectives and that kind of diversity can help to make a council stronger.

“You get a variety of points of view and that is the strength of local government,” she says. “Each of us represents a certain segment of the community and together we try to make decisions that best represent the community as a whole. Our level of government works best with collegiality. It involves an exchange of ideas and a consensus rather than trying to beat the other person down. Sometimes it means looking for compromise.”

The added advantage to local government is the ability to make non-partisan decisions. “It is the ability to sit down and hammer things out without a reference to political parties,” says Colleen.

One unique dynamic of the current council is that it includes three former mayors in addition to the sitting mayor, Roger Morrill. Former mayors are Colleen, Councillor Lionel Cherniwchan and Councillor Richard Verhaeghe.

Colleen encourages the concept of open government and she believes that the councils she has sat on have been good about supporting the concept.

“It means being as transparent as possible and making sure the public knows what decisions Council is making and what councillors think about things,” she says. “I want people to know what I am thinking.”

She notes, too, that members of the community have a responsibility to respond back to Council about issues and decisions. Council does try to get information out to the community and it is up to the individual to take notice of it and respond accordingly.

Colleen admits that there is more that Council could do to open up the lines of communication. “We need to meet the public more often,” she says.

What the future holds for the community remains to be seen, and while the population of Athabasca has been increasing in recent years, she cautions that continued growth can never be counted on. Still, opportunities exist to attract new business, for example, light industry.

“New business can bring incremental growth,” says Colleen. “We have to attract some industry here, or we have to encourage existing industry to expand. That is just as valuable.”

Colleen assumed her role as a Councillor at the regular meeting of Town Council on February 21 where she was officially sworn in by Mayor Morrill. Council meetings are open to the public and residents are welcome to attend as observers.

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Individuals that work for certain businesses and institutions, and workers and volunteers for certain groups and organizations in a community may be required to obtain a Criminal Record Check from the RCMP detachment in their jurisdiction.

The purpose for the Criminal Record Check is to help assure the safety of the public, in particular those who may be most vulnerable, including children, the elderly and persons with diminished mental capacity.

The record check is intended to identify potential offenders and prevent them from serving in positions of trust where they could have access to persons of vulnerability.

Residents of Athabasca, Athabasca County and the municipal district patrolled by the Athabasca RCMP detachment can obtain Criminal Record Checks from the detachment office located in Athabasca.

Sergeant Brian Scott of the Athabasca detachment notes that there is no charge for record checks obtained in Athabasca, but individuals who require the checks should take note of a couple of important details.

“You have to reside within the detachment boundaries and you have to come in personally with two pieces of identification,” he explains. “Preferably your driver’s license, because it has your picture and your address, and one other piece, for example your Alberta Healthcare card, your birth certificate or your Treaty ID card.”

Individuals who do not have a driver’s license can get an alternative from the Motor Vehicle Registration office (Athabasca Registries) that will include their photo and address.

When applying for a Criminal Record Check, Sgt. Scott recommends visiting the Athabasca detachment office on a Wednesday, as that is the day the attendant is available and able to process the form quickly. Applications submitted on other days may be subject to delays.

High school students planning on leaving for college or university the following year and who may need a Criminal Record Check are advised to get it now, while they are still at home in their own community. It will simplify the process.

Likewise, students who are presently home from college or university are advised to get their record checks here and now before they return to their studies.

Coaches who are anticipating upcoming sports seasons should plan ahead and get their annual Criminal Record Check early to avoid unforeseen delays. If they wait until the season starts and a delay in getting the record check occurs, it could interfere with their coaching duties.

“The problem is, the check might turn up another person in Canada with the same birth date and a similar name and if they have a record of misconduct, then we have to take your fingerprints to make sure it is not you,” says Sgt. Scott. “That can take weeks to process. If you know you are going to be involved in coaching and you are going to need a Criminal Record Check, the best thing is to plan ahead and do it early.”

A Criminal Record Check can be requested only by the individual who needs it and must be applied for in person at the detachment. Once the check is complete and the document is available for pick up, it can be turned over only to the person named.

The regulations governing Criminal Record Checks are firm and every RCMP detachment is obligated to obey them.

Questions regarding the process can be directed to the office of the Athabasca RCMP detachment. The phone number is 780-675-5122.

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