August '09 Newsletter

Town Council News

August  2009                                                                      Volume 4, Issue 3

Centennial countdown begins in September

The Town of Athabasca is celebrating its Centennial in 2011 and the community is just weeks away from an exciting event designed to help launch the official countdown.

Organizers are hoping for a great turnout for the event, scheduled to be hosted at the Athabasca Regional Multiplex on Sept. 19 from 12-4 p.m. Presentations, displays and a variety of other attractions will make the event both informative and memorable.

One highlight will be the unveiling of the Athabasca 2011 Centennial Logo. A logo design contest wrapped up in June and a panel of community members selected one outstanding winner from the nearly 70 entries received. The winner will attend the September event to receive recognition and a special prize.

“Mayor Powell will be on hand to present the winner with a $500 cheque from the Town,” says Town Councillor John Traynor. “All of the logo design contestants are invited.”

Once the official logo is announced, it will be available for use by members of the Athabasca community. Typical applications could be on t-shirts, pins, stationery, banners, flags and perhaps a commemorative coin. John encourages the community to use the logo in other unique ways throughout 2011 as well.

“We’re suggesting that sports clubs include the logo on their jerseys for the Centennial year,” he says. “Also, that they consider giving events they hold in 2011 a Centennial-themed name.”

In fact, every group, every club and every event scheduled by anybody in 2011 should consider using the Centennial logo and relating it to their event theme.

Other highlighted attractions planned for the September 19 countdown celebration are amusement park rides, demonstrations by area emergency response personnel, and a silent auction fundraiser.

“The silent auction will have a lot of memorabilia from over the past 100 years,” John advises. “One example is a very nicely framed picture of the old grain elevators with a truck parked in front.”

Individuals and businesses are encouraged to contribute other items of historical significance for the auction.

“We’re asking for more donations,” John confirms. “All funds raised through the auction will go to the Centennial Committee for activities and events throughout 2011.”

Advance planning and volunteer support key to 2011 success

The ultimate success of the 2011 Centennial Celebration will depend on early planning and support from community volunteers.

One main focus of this September’s countdown event is to provide community members with an update of Centennial planning to date and detailed insight into the various committees that are already working on event preparations.

“Committee chairs will be introduced so the public knows who they are and they’ll be invited to say a few words,” notes John. “We just want to encourage more people to participate early in the planning stages and sign up for committees they may be interested in.”

Local dignitaries have been invited and members of the Logo Contest judging panel will be present. A variety of refreshments will be served, including a large cake featuring the winning Centennial logo.

Looking ahead at further planning for the 2011 Centennial year, John says there is an opportunity for a committee to step forward to take on a particular focus.

“We would like to see federal dignitaries attend Centennial events in Athabasca throughout 2011. Maybe there’s a committee that would like to form just to look into organizing this?”

Contact John by email at for more information about Centennial planning or to find out how to get involved with the Centennial Committee.

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Riverfront Development: Looking ahead to 2011

Riverfront development in Athabasca has been on the minds of area residents for a number of years. With Town of Athabasca 2011 Centennial celebrations quickly approaching, many feel it is important now more than ever to keep moving the riverfront development plans forward.

Various individuals and groups have contributed throughout the planning stages of the project.  While some have been more visible, many others have worked behind the scenes and some continue to do so. It is hoped that more people and organizations will be inspired to get involved and support the project as the community prepares for its centennial year.

Local resident Mike Gismondi has been involved with the riverfront project since the beginning, first as a Town Councillor and then, over the past two years, as a private citizen. With current recommendations now sitting before the Design Review Committee, Mike anticipates seeing further development activity soon.

“I think the community is ready to see some forward movement on the riverfront,” he says. “Especially, as the town prepares for the 2011 Centennial we should try to complete Phase I and part of Phase II.”

Phase I will focus on the basics of site preparation.

“This phase is not very exciting to the public,” states Mike. “We are hoping to get the footprint of the site developed.”

The area of the riverfront involved lies directly east of the Town Common between 50 Ave. and the river and continues east to approximately where the old caboose (formerly the Tourist Information Center) is presently located.

“The main purpose of the riverfront is recreational,” Mike explains. “The area will be landscaped and designed to direct the flow of people.”

Vehicle parking will shift from its present state where vehicles can park anywhere in the central area to being limited to designated spots along 50 Ave.

“There will be lots of parking,” Mike assures, “but it will be parallel along the avenue with a curb and a small median of grass and trees.”

As the project progresses, the back lane will be closed to vehicles and the existing decorative street lights will be moved forward. The end result will be a much more people-friendly park-like area that will integrate well with the walking trails, the overall landscape and the natural setting along the riverfront.

The design proposal includes a couple of large wooden gateways to be placed at two key entry points to the riverfront area. “These iconic, artistic A-frames will be evocative of boat building,” notes Mike.

Phase II will include additional landscaping, possibly a playground and potentially a view deck overlooking the river, he says. “The shape of it will be like the bow of a scow thrusting out towards the river.”

Also proposed for future consideration are a redesigned boat launch and a heritage-focused interpretive centre.

“There is the potential for a small interpretive centre or tourist information centre. The proposed riverfront design includes a footprint—a space and a design for it,” says Mike.

He suggested also the possibility of expanding the Farmers Market concept on the riverfront.

“We want the riverfront to be a multipurpose, multi-use site. There’s the opportunity to grow the Farmers Market concept in the summer time.”

Riverfront project affected by financing

A project as dynamic as riverfront development is not without its cost considerations and challenges.

“We are still struggling with the budget for the overall project,” states Mike. “The Town is topping up existing community donations that have been designated for the project to $400,000 for this year, but there are a number of hidden costs. We need cash donations and in-kind donations of equipment, labour, material, services...” Whatever can be contributed, he says.

Some of the costs that are not outwardly obvious include the installation of such infrastructure as electrical and water services. These will be particularly beneficial during large community events and festivals like the Magnificent River Rats Festival.

“$400,000 will not go far unless we get in-kind donations from the community,” advises Mike, noting that seed money may get the project started, but more support is needed beyond that.

At present, riverfront development is a Town project, but it has the potential to become a regional project, he says. “The river is a regional attraction.”

The redesign of the boat launch is one example of where regional funding could contribute to the overall riverfront development project. Initial estimates to rebuild the launch plus provide suitable access as well as proper drainage indicate the costs could be substantial.

History of the Riverfront Development Project

A number of years ago, encouraged by user groups and members of the community at large, Athabasca Town Council took the east end of the riverfront off the market. The idea was to look at developing the area as contiguous community space with a park theme and no commercial development.

“We did a study,” recalls Mike, “and the community said ‘we need a new community centre and we need the riverfront developed.’”

After due course, this resulted in the Athabasca Regional Multiplex project with a riverfront component. While specific funds were designated for the riverfront, they were at risk of being diverted elsewhere. Fortunately, says Mike, he succeeded in “protecting” them.

Eventually, van der Zalm and associates, a landscape architecture and development consulting firm, was commissioned to produce a conceptual site plan for the riverfront. This they produced representing a low impact park setting.

The site plan included all of the requested elements, including allowances for significant green space, walking trails, utilities and parking.

The Athabasca Heritage Society, the only other land owner in the proposed development area, agreed to combine their land with the project, subject to the inclusion of certain heritage-related design elements.

Community support needed for Riverfront Project

Planning is well underway for Athabasca’s 2011 Centennial celebrations. With the significance of this event in mind, it is hoped that interested members of the community will come forward to volunteer time or resources to the Riverfront Development Project. The Centennial year will be Athabasca’s chance to showcase what has the potential to be one of the region’s greatest attractions: the historic Athabasca Riverfront.

For more information, contact the Town office at 780-675-2063.

To view a copy of the current Riverfront Design Concept click here

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Regional Water Treatment Plant on schedule

The new Aspen Regional Water Treatment Plant, under construction and on schedule on Woodheights Road in Athabasca.

The walls are going up and construction of the new regional water treatment plant on Wood Heights Road in Athabasca is on schedule. The facility is expected to be fully operational by August, 2010.

At present, concrete work is the primary focus and work on the facility’s support systems is also progressing well.

“The raw water reservoir and the draining system for it are about 95 per cent complete,” says Town Chief Administrative Officer Doug Topinka. “The raw water line from the old water treatment plant up to the new site is about 75 per cent complete.”

Once the new plant is operational, the old treatment plant will serve as a pumping station.

“The old plant will be used to pump river water up to the raw water reservoir, which is adjacent to the new water treatment plant, and then through the plant,” Doug explains.

The plant will treat only river water and is designed to accommodate the needs of communities located throughout Athabasca County for many years to come.

“It should be able to supply Athabasca, Colinton, Boyle, Grassland, Wandering River and surrounding rural communities for 25 years,” says Doug.

An Alberta Municipal Water/Wastewater Partnership Grant from Alberta Transportation will cover 81.68 percent of the projected $18 million cost of the construction project. Percentages are calculated with a population-based formula.

The project and the facility are governed by the Aspen Regional Water Services Commission.

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Town Administration Staff updates

Town of Athabasca administration staff (l-r) Doug Topinka, CAO; Deb Singer, Office Services Clerk; Leah Milot, Accounting Assistant; Carla Kooistra, Finance Officer; Rachel Ramey, Information Services Officer; Melody Wolansky, Assistant CAO; Tammy Makar, Accounting Officer; Montana Skye, Executive Secretary

A few new staff members have joined the Town administration team over the past little while. Learn more here about how Montana Skye, Leah Milot and Deb Singer contribute to the office and serve the Athabasca community.

Montana Skye, Executive Secretary

Town Executive Secretary Montana Skye serves as Secretary to the Chief Administrative Officer and Council. Her responsibilities include the flow of correspondence to and from Town Council and preparation of Council agendas and minutes. Montana recently returned to the Athabasca area and is enjoying small town life once again.


Leah Milot, Municipal Accounting Assistant

Leah Milot started as the Office Services Clerk in January 2008 for the Town of Athabasca. She has since moved to the position of Municipal Accounting Assistant and is responsible for the Accounts Payable and Tax Information Services. Leah loves living in the beautiful Town of Athabasca and spending time with her family and friends.


Deb Singer, Office Services Clerk

Deb Singer is the Office Services Clerk for the Town of Athabasca. She is responsible for reception and cashier duties as well as accounts receivable and licensing. Deb relocated to Athabasca with her family from Fort McMurray in the fall of 2007. She is enjoying the lifestyle a smaller community has to offer, including spending more time with her horses and garden.


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