August '07 Newsletter

Town Council News

August 2007                                                                                                                                             Volume 2, Issue 3


Former administrator takes new oath

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Preparing for the fall municipal election, former Town admistrator Cliff Sawatzky signs his Oath of Returning Officer form while local Commissioner of Oaths Joyce McKenzie witnesses the transaction. Over the years, Cliff has been the Returning Officer about a dozen times. He served as Town administrator from 1976 to 2002.

Grab your hat, it’s municipal election time!

Residents of the Town of Athabasca, here is your opportunity to make a bid for a seat on town council. The fall municipal election is approaching – Election Day is Oct. 15 – so grab your hat, toss it into the ring and see what you can do to make a difference in the community.

Feeling up to the challenge? Come on, you know you are interested—everybody has ideas on how best to run the town. Coffee shop talk is rife with recommendations. So, if you believe in responsible leadership and you want a stronger voice in the community, run for office. Members of the current Town Council encourage you to do so.

“It’s a good idea,” declares Councillor Lionel Cherniwchan. “If you care about the well-being and the future of the town and the strength of the community, you can help. You can play an important role in this dynamic community of ours.”

Council thrives on diverse perspectives, he adds. “When you have people from all walks, all ages, all economic groups, the town benefits, we all benefit.”

Municipal elections are held every three years. There are seven seats available on Athabasca Town Council, including the mayor’s chair. Each councillor is assigned a portfolio of responsibilities that, together, span the whole spectrum of committees and activities relative to town business. Councillors admit that the role is demanding and sometimes thankless, but the reward comes in knowing that you are giving of yourself to serve the best interests of the community.

“In a way, it’s self-gratifying,” says Councillor Cherniwchan, noting that a person gets a sense of fulfillment when they see something they introduced to council brought to fruition.

“If you’re thinking about running for council, talk to a councillor,” he advises. “Get knowledgeable.”

Helpful guide provides insightful overview for interested parties

There are a few requirements and restrictions for those interested in running for council. Alberta Municipal Affairs and Housing offers a comprehensive guide for prospective nominees: Running for Municipal Office in Alberta – A Candidate’s Guide, is available at www.municipalaffairs.gov.ab.ca

To be a candidate you must be at least 18 years of age on nomination day, a Canadian citizen, and you must have been a Town of Athabasca resident for the six consecutive months preceding nomination day.

You are not eligible to become a candidate if you are the Town auditor, an employee (unless granted a leave of absence), if your property taxes are in arrears, or you are in default to the Town for any debt in excess of $500.

A judge, member of parliament, senator or member of the legislative assembly must resign that position before taking office as a member of town council.

The Candidate’s Guide advises that the demands on a councillor’s time are heavy. During the three-year term of office, councillors must attend regular meetings of council, council committee meetings, meetings of other boards and agencies, conferences, conventions, seminars, and workshops for training and discussion. Councillors must also attend social and other events promoting the town.

In order to make informed decisions at meetings, time must be spent reading material and talking with residents, the chief administrative officer and others.

For their time and effort, Town of Athabasca councillors receive remuneration for meetings attended.

Success in the seat of power takes teamwork

The Candidate’s Guide further advises that the power of individual members of council depends on the member’s ability to persuade others to adopt his or her point of view. Decisions are made at meetings, open to the public, where a quorum of council members is present. Election campaign promises made by an individual can be carried out only with the support and acceptance of a majority of council members.

For a more complete understanding of the powers of a municipal council, The Municipal Government Act is recommended as a good source.

To become familiar with local legislation, such documents as the Council Procedural Bylaw, Land Use Bylaw, the bylaws establishing the positions of the chief administrative officer and the designated officers, and the Town Policy Manual are recommended.

It is important to note that the duty of council is to establish policy for the town and the duty of town administration is to implement the policy. The Candidate’s Guide emphasizes the need to draw the support, advice and assistance of the town CAO if a councillor is to be effective in the role.

Prospective candidates are encouraged to do a little advance research to help strengthen their campaign and prepare them for office. Council agendas and minutes are available on the Town website; talking to current councillors and sitting in on council meetings will provide insight; the Town office may be able to recommend additional information that is helpful.

Nomination Day, Sept. 17, 10 a.m. to noon: late submissions cannot be accepted

Nomination forms will be available from the Town office from Sept. 1, onward. Forms must be signed by five people who are town residents eligible to vote in the election. The name, address and signature of each of the five must be included on the nomination form.

Nominees are required to make an affidavit saying they are eligible for nomination and that they will accept the office if elected. The affidavit must be sworn or affirmed before a Commissioner of Oaths or the returning officer. Nominees should make themselves aware of the contents of Sections 12, 21, 22, 23, 47 and 151 of the Local Authorities Election Act.

The completed form is to be filed with the returning officer between 10 a.m. and noon on Nomination Day, Sept. 17, 2007. It can be filed in person or by any designated representative of the nominee. Note: The returning officer cannot accept nominations after noon on nomination day. Make certain the form is filled out completely and accurately and delivered before the deadline.

Deposit required with nomination form

A $100 deposit, payable in cash, certified cheque or money order must accompany nomination forms for Athabasca Town Council. The deposit applies to both councillor and mayoral nominations. The deposit is returned if the nominee gets at least one-half the number of votes of the elected person with the least number of votes.

Nomination forms can be withdrawn if within 24 hours of the close of nominations and more than the required number of candidates has been nominated for the office. A withdrawal cannot be accepted if it would result in less than the required number of candidates. Withdrawals must be in writing to the returning officer.

If the number of nominations filed is less than the number of vacancies, the returning officer will be available the next day (and for up to six days) from 10 a.m. until noon to receive further nominations.

If by noon on any of the days the number of candidates nominated equals the number of vacancies, nominations will be closed and the returning officer will declare the candidates elected by acclamation. The election will not be necessary and will not be held. If more than the required number of nominations are received by noon on any of the days, nominations will be closed and the election will be held as planned.

After filing: a few campaign rules

Campaigning allows a candidate to try to convince electors that they are the best person for the position. Candidates can talk to people and use brochures, posters and/or ads in local media.

Candidates cannot give or promise to give money or any other consideration, such as an office or job, to anyone in return for their voting or refraining from voting. It is also an offense to accept money or any other consideration in return for voting or not voting.

The use or threat of violence, injury, damage or intimidation is an offence. Electors cannot be obstructed in any way from voting.

On election day, candidates cannot canvass or solicit votes in or immediately adjacent to a voting station. Campaign material cannot be displayed or distributed inside or on the outside of a building used for a voting station.

Candidates are entitled to have one official agent or scrutineer at each voting station. The agent or scrutineer must be at least 18 years of age. Check with the returning officer on how to appoint an official agent or scrutineer.

After the votes are in, the counting begins

On election day, after voting closes, the ballots are counted and the ballot boxes sealed and protected until the boxes and contents can be destroyed.

Unofficial results may be made available during and following the counting, but the official results are not announced until noon on the fourth day after the election.

The successful candidates will begin their three-year term at an organizational meeting of the new council, to be determined.

Sources for additional information

Contact the Town of Athabasca office with questions about the electoral process.

For information about the Running for Municipal Office in Alberta – A Candidate’s Guide, go to www.municipalaffairs.gov.ab.caor call 780-427-2225 (in Alberta, first dial 310 0000, toll free).

For information about the Local Authorities Election Act and the Municipal Government Act, contact Alberta Queen’s Printer Bookstore at 780-427-4952.

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Water treatment plant to be replaced

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A new water treatment plant is in the works for Athabasca. The existing John M. Stychin water plant will be replaced by a new $17.8 million facility-part of the regional water system-to be operational in 2009.

Regional partnership the wave of the future for Athabasca water

Decision by committee may not always be an easy process, but the value of a joint effort is the opportunity it presents to share research, expertise and other resources, including project expenses.

The Athabasca Regional Water System is one example of how the Town of Athabasca is joining forces with others for mutual benefit and to create enhanced regional strength and appeal. The Town is presently working in partnership with the County of Athabasca and the Village of Boyle to form a Regional Water Commission to oversee and operate the regional water system.

The most immediate result of the regional water partnership between the municipalities is the new water supply line running from Athabasca to Colinton. The water line was chosen as a more cost-efficient way to supply Colinton residents with water than building and maintaining a new treatment plant in the hamlet. The old Colinton plant was past its prime and due for replacement.

Research continues on the possibility of extending the water line to Boyle and Grassland.

Athabasca: $17.8 million water treatment plant targeted for 2009

In Athabasca, the focus is on building a new water treatment plant to replace the John M. Stychin Water Treatment Plant presently located on Athabasca’s riverfront.

“We have the initial design work done,” says Doug Topinka, chief administrative officer for the Town of Athabasca. “It is hoped that it will be commissioned in mid-2009.”

Given the cost of the new plant – estimated at $17.8 million – and the environmental implications of the project, the Town has leaned heavily on the guidance and support of the Alberta Government. “We’ve been planning the project, working with the Province for about 18 months,” notes Doug.

A few government departments are involved: while Alberta Environment governs the project, Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation is providing a grant to cover about 78 per cent of the construction costs.

New environmental standards indicate eventual increase in water costs

Upgrades to the Town's water facilities must be put in place in order to comply with new environmental regulations. The result will be increased water costs for users: not at this time, but certainly in the future.

Although the existing water treatment plant could be upgraded, that would leave the Town with an old plant that would not have the life span of a new one. As a preferred alternative, the current regional water proposal includes a new water treatment plant in Athabasca designed to facilitate the distribution of water throughout the region.

Councillor Colleen Powell points out that, whether upgrading the old plant or building anew, any future increase in water costs would be comparative between the two options.

“The increase in costs borne by Town residents should be no more under a regional scheme than if the existing plant is modernized,” states the councillor.

The ultimate goal of the new environmental regulations is sustainability.

Province-wide water initiative sets criteria for sustainability

Every aspect of the Athabasca Regional Water System is designed to meet the criteria of the Alberta Government Water for Life strategy, a province-wide initiative focusing on sustainability.

Water for Life: Alberta’s Strategy for Sustainability has three primary goals: a safe, secure drinking water supply; healthy aquatic ecosystems; and reliable, quality water supplies for a sustainable economy. Complete details are available at the website: www.waterforlife.gov.ab.ca/

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Formal business plan guides Town Council and Administration

From town administration, to public works and utilities, regional recreation and all the various departments in-between, every aspect of running the Town of Athabasca is governed by a carefully developed formal three-year business plan.

From operating and capital budgets, to financial management, land development, regional initiatives, sustainability and much more, the Town’s comprehensive business plan is designed to keep Council and Administration focused and on track from year-to-year.

As standard practice, Town council and management staff participate in an annual retreat to review policies and current-year operations, and to set priorities for the next three years. Business plan details are determined by December each year. The operating and capital budgets are established and approved by April 30 each year.

The Town’s business plan includes three sections, or departments – Administration, Public Works and Utilities, and Recreation. Each of the three is broken down into a variety of specific categories:

Administration

· Administration/Council Relations

· Communications

· Customer Relations

· Community Recognition

· Regional Initiatives

· Multiplex Project

· G.I.S.

· Financial Management

· Business Plan

· Emergency Preparedness

· Economic Development

· C.N. Station

· Municipal Heritage Partnership Program

· Training

· Operating/Capital Budgets

· Policy Review

· CAO Formal Review

· External Funding

· Sustainability

· Tourism

· Police

· Fire Department

· Bylaw

· Reserves/Cash Flow Master Plan

· Land Development

· Planning and Development

· Utilities Administration

Public Works and Utilities

· Administration/Common Services

· Safety/Risk Management Practices

· Streets

· Water

· Sewer

· Waste Water Disposal

· Solid Waste Collection

· Weed Control

· Traffic Control

· Cemetery

· Shop

· Culvert and Storm System

· Beautification/Communities in Bloom

· Riverfront

· Snow Removal

· Sidewalks

· Equipment Maintenance

Recreation

· Administration/Regional Recreation Board

· Facilities (General)

· Arena

· Pool

· Athabasca Performing Arts Centre

· Community Centre

· Parks and Playgrounds

· Campground

· Stage/Riverfront

· Trails

Business plan categories highlighted in detailed document

On paper, the 54 individual categories listed in the business plan spread out over 14 legal-size pages. Each category in each of the three departments includes, to varying degrees, corresponding project plans and highlights covering the current year and the next two years.

A few brief examples from the pages of Administration include:

· Regional Initiatives: (includes, in part) liaise with County Administration, consultants and related Provincial Government staff; assist with implementation of Regional Water, Multiplex, Community Economic Development agreements

· Economic Development: (includes) provide support to the Athabasca Regional Economic Development Committee; raise awareness in the use of branding in our community (for example, making certain that Town information and Town logos, used by local groups with Town approval, is consistent and appropriate)

· Municipal Heritage Partnership Program: (includes) complete the Heritage Management Plan; implement the required land use bylaw amendments

· External Funding: (includes) ensure that all external sources of funding are identified, obtained and made the best possible use of

· Sustainability: (includes) explore the use of Sustainable/Best Practices in all areas of our operations

· Land Development: (includes) work with our planner, engineers and developers to bring residential and commercial lots on to the market

A few brief examples from Public Works and Utilities include:

· Administration/Common Services: (includes, in part) research ways to reduce energy costs; assisting engineers on reviewing development proposals

· Streets: (includes) update 20-year street overlay and reconstruction plan; work with Alberta Transportation on 813/55 interchange project; prepare a street improvement project for 2008

· Water: (includes) help with the pre-design of the new water treatment plant; provide technical advice to Administration and Council with respect to establishing a regional water system

· Sewer: (includes) develop and implement a 10-year replacement/relining plan

· Solid Waste Collection: (includes) investigate the feasibility of reducing the number of garbage bags permitted per household

· Weed Control: (includes) investigate and develop a pesticide control bylaw to a address use of pesticides

· Riverfront: (includes) assist community groups with construction of the skateboard/splash park; advertise the commercial lot for sale at 50 St. and 50 Ave.

· Sidewalks: (includes) completion of yearly replacement program; develop a master plan for the trails system in consultation with the Rotary Club

A few brief examples from the Recreation department include:

· Administration/Regional Recreation Board: (includes, in part) assist council on future use of current arena and curling rink site; assist with the development of the Multiplex

· Facilities (general): (includes) develop and implement promotion plan to maximize facility usage; develop switch over plan for facilities

· Parks and Playgrounds: (includes) work with Riverfront Committee on the riverfront development

· Trails: develop a master plan for the trail system with community members and Public Works; phase in development of trails network; install highway signage for Muskeg Creek Trails

Public service, the ultimate purpose

The Town of Athabasca three-year business plan is reviewed, evaluated, prioritized and approved on an annual basis.

The aim of Town administrative staff is to provide a high level of support for members of Town Council, and to maintain a high priority of service to the public.

Members of the public are welcome to sit in on Town Council meetings where various items and issues relative to the business plan are discussed as they come up on the Council agenda. Unless otherwise posted, meetings of Town Council are typically held on the first and third Tuesday each month, 7 p.m. at the Town office. Meeting information is posted at the front door of the Town office. A link to Council meeting minutes can be found on the Town homepage.

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