December '12 Newsletter

Season's Greetings from the Mayor

Dianne and Roger Morrill

Dianne and I would like to extend the warmest of holiday greetings to everyone in our community. 

May this Christmas season inspire hope and fill all with joy and an overflowing spirit of gratitude.

Roger Morrill

Mayor, Town of Athabasca


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Rick Kolach, New Outside Services Superintendent

Long-time employee Rick Kolach recently assumed the role of Outside Services Superintendent
with the Town of Athabasca.  Rick brings years of experience and enthusiasm.

Rick Kolach is no stranger to the workings of the Town and the responsibilities of his recently assumed position of Outside Services Superintendent (OSS). The dedicated OS team leader has been with the Town of Athabasca since 1984 and in that time, has gained a lot of valuable experience.

“I think I’ve done everything there is to do with Outside Services,” says Rick. “I started as a garbage helper and then I went full time as an equipment operator. I’ve run all of the Town’s equipment and I’ve even worked with utilities, digging roots out of sewers and working on water breaks, for example.”

Transitioning to the superintendent role was easy, as he had already been overseeing the duties unofficially since the previous OSS, Dave McPhee, resigned from the position a few months ago. Rick’s responsibilities include budgeting, purchasing, project planning and scheduling, staff hiring, scheduling and supervision, and more.

Overall, he says, it has been a very positive experience. He enjoys working with Ryan Maier, Chief Administrative Officer for the Town, and with the outside services team.

“We’ve got the best crew you could dream up. Everybody here is irreplaceable as far as I’m concerned,” says Rick. “They all like working for the Town, they take pride in their work and they go above and beyond.”

More than simply tending to the physical aspects of outside services, Rick acknowledges that a big part of the job is being attentive to the interests and concerns of the public and taking care of things in a way that pleases them and meets their expectations.

“We do our best to serve the community and make everybody happy,” he explains. “We take everybody’s concerns seriously and try to deal with each one. Sometimes it takes longer than they would like, but most people are good about it. They’re understanding and patient and that makes my job easier.”

Rick has seen a lot of changes in the 28 years he has been with the Town and one thing is certain: there’s never a dull moment for the outside services department.

“There’s always something different from day to day,” he says. “It keeps a guy busy.”


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Athabasca Continues as a 5-Blooms Community

Athabasca resident Mary Gislason (right) with Communities in Bloom judges, Hugh Skinner
and Diane Clasen, during their visit to Athabasca in July.  Mary is showing various items of
the archives of All Saints Anglican Church that she has collected over the years.


The results are in and the news is great! Athabasca has succeeded in maintaining its 5 Blooms status in the prestigious Communities in Bloom (CiB) program. Credit goes to excellent community involvement across all sectors of the evaluation criteria.

“We rated very high in community involvement and voluntary participation right across the board,” says Ida Edwards, chair of the Athabasca Communities in Bloom committee. “We are very fortunate to have people in the community who care about the community and take care of it.”

Judges representing the CiB organization, Diane Clasen and Hugh Skinner, visited Athabasca in July to conduct the official evaluation process. The evaluation is based on eight criteria divided into six sections, each assessing four sectors of the community, including Municipal, Business and Institutions, Residential, and Community Involvement. The results of the evaluation are compiled and presented in a thoroughly detailed 16-page report.

The report includes comments, praise and recommendations for improvement in each of the six primary sections being evaluated, which include Tidiness, Environmental Action, Heritage Conservation, Urban Forestry, Landscape, and Floral Displays. Community Involvement is included in each of these sections.

Ida points out that the value of the report goes far beyond what people may realize, as it provides a comprehensive guide for community enhancement.

“You could pay a substantial fee to a professional service to create that report, and we get it free,” declares Ida. She hopes more people in the community will come to understand the treasure that the CiB evaluation report truly is.

In addition to showing the exact point values earned in each of the four sectors in each of the six primary sections, the report includes insightful and encouraging comments and suggestions from the judges.

Comments in the opening remarks include, “We are proud to have Athabasca in our Circle of Excellence and commend you on your dedication to improving the quality of life in your community. Congratulations on the town’s many successful initiatives.”

Here are a few brief highlights from each of the sections:



Praise for the high school Banner Program, as it “adds colour and interest to the landscape (and) gives students ownership in the beauty of Athabasca.”

A recommendation to replace the weathered heritage signs on the Riverfront.


Environmental Action:

Praise for the “outstanding waste and recycling facility” at the Athabasca Regional Waste Management Commission site.

A recommendation to better educate residents on the use and importance of rain barrels, rather than using treated water.


Heritage Conservation:

Praise for the Athabasca Heritage Society and volunteers for the refurbishing work on the Athabasca Train Station.

A recommendation to work on the digitization of the archives of All Saints Anglican Church, collected by Athabasca resident Mary Gislason.


Urban Forestry:

“In some areas of town (the) natural forest has been preserved. These wood lots provide a beautiful setting for parts of Athabasca University and for the system of trails within the town."

A recommendation to develop “a plan of action to promote healthy and diverse tree cover in town.” The report lists five action steps that can be applied when developing this plan.



Recognition of landscaping that has taken advantage of the naturally attractive setting along the Athabasca River, the Tawatinaw River and Muskeg Creek.

A recommendation to improve the landscape maintenance standards in the industrial park.


Floral Displays:

Praise for the hanging baskets and planters around town, including Pleasant Valley Lodge. Acknowledgement given to the volunteers of Athabasca Garden Club, members of the Communities in Bloom committee and to volunteers who plant and care for flowers around community mail boxes.

A recommendation to consider awards for Yard of the Week and Business of the Week.


Many contribute to community enhancement

Ida notes that many individuals and groups have contributed to the beauty and betterment of the community, for example, the Rotary Club of Athabasca. “I really appreciate everything the Rotary Club is doing for our town,” she says.

“We have a community that is buying into the town Sustainability Plan and the Municipal Development Plan and supporting these plans through action. A classic example is litter control. We have people walking around town picking up garbage.”

Action as the key, and Ida’s personal mission statement reads, “In the end, you will be judged not by what you believed, planned or dreamed, but by what you did.”

Ida is sponsoring an informal community vision building event on December 14, 7-9 a.m., at Turnabout Place, 5412-50 Ave., in Athabasca. A continental breakfast will be available and all are welcome to drop in.

For more information about the breakfast event or Communities in Bloom, email Ida at:

Be sure to visit the Athabasca Communities in Bloom Facebook page and post your Athabasca stories and photos.


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Councillor Richard Verhaeghe: Three Priorities

Town Councillor Richard Verhaeghe

Town Councillor Richard Verhaeghe admits that Council can’t solve all of the world’s problems, and that is not what they are here to do. The priority for Council is to identify the immediate needs and interests of residents and with an eye to the future, find the most appropriate ways to address those needs wherever possible and feasible.

“As Councillors, we have to determine what we are responsible for,” says Richard. “What can I do at the municipal level without getting into micro-managing?”

Based on personal experience as a resident and on discussions with others in the community, there are a few things that Richard would like to see move forward for the benefit of all residents.

“I see three priorities,” he explains. “Find a way to heat the water in the riverfront spray park, pave the (alternate) road to Hees Estates, and build a new swimming pool in Athabasca.”

The spray park provides a wonderful recreational opportunity for children and their parents, but there are many days in our northern climate when the water is just too cool for comfort.

“I’ve seen toddlers down there shivering and their lips are blue,” says Richard. “I’ve heard of families going to Westlock or St. Albert because of this.”

In the modern world, this concern can be addressed. An effective heating system would have to be researched, but Richard believes a holding tank would be necessary, plus heating coils and a pump system.

“You need to pump the water through the heating coils, but it’s being pumped now, so maybe the cost for that wouldn’t be much more than it is now,” he says. “Maybe the Town could partner on this project with service clubs in the community? It’s something to think about.”

Paving the alternate road to Hees Estates is another idea whose time has come, Richard believes. A full on paving project could cost millions of dollars, but a less expensive process could be used that would be suitable for the type of light traffic that the road handles.

“It would be for dust control,” says Richard. “That is an issue with the two seniors’ apartments and the adult condos there.”

Richard considers the third item on his list, a new swimming pool, to be long overdue, considering all the money that has gone into maintaining the existing pool and the fact that it has far exceeded its originally anticipated lifespan.

He acknowledges that the cost to build a new pool would be substantial and that it would require a strong commitment from community stakeholders and strong support from the community at large.

“It would be a massive project and would take massive public support to make it happen,” he says. “There are different types of structures to consider, and there is the question of where to locate the new pool. Personally, I don’t think the current location is feasible. I think the Athabasca Regional Multiplex location is feasible, but then we get into issues of traffic and parking. Do we spend money to upgrade the infrastructure?”

One alternative to building a new swimming pool is to simply close the old pool and not replace it. “I don’t see that happening,” says Richard, “but that is an option.”

This issue, as with all matters of Town Council, will be influenced by public interest and discussion. If there is to be a new pool building project, clear direction must come from the community and the community must be prepared to support the project.

Richard is always interested in hearing the views and opinions of residents, whether on the three items listed here or on other issues relevant to Athabasca.


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