December'14 Newsletter

Season's Greetings from Roger and Dianne



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

May the Christmas season fill your home with joy, your heart with love and your life with laughter.

Roger Morrill, Mayor, Town of Athabasca


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Community Christmas Dinner

The 22nd Annual Community Christmas Dinner runs on December 11 this year at the Athabasca Regional Multiplex. There is no cost, serving and festive entertainment begins at 4:30 p.m. and everybody is welcome.

Sponsored by the Athabasca Ministerial Association, the popular event is made possible through generous community contributions and donations and many, many hours of volunteer effort.

Member of the Community Christmas Dinner Committee, Cheryl Balay expresses heartfelt thanks to all who contribute in any way.

“This special event is blessed with a dedicated committee and many amazing volunteers who joyfully work with us throughout the day and evening,” says Cheryl. “We deeply appreciate all of the other contributions that come from our local churches, businesses, organizations, schools and community members. Thank you to everyone involved.”

The rental fee for the Multiplex this year is $735, a cost that is being shared equally by the Town of Athabasca and Athabasca County. “We are thankful for their faithful financial support,” acknowledges Cheryl. “It helps us to host the Athabasca Community Christmas Dinner.”

The dinner last year served an estimated 875 people and organizers are expecting a great turnout again this year. “We hope many people will come and enjoy a delicious meal and wonderful entertainment,” says Cheryl. Take-out meals will also available.

Donations for the dinner, for the Good Samaritan Mission Food Bank and for Santa’s Anonymous are once again being accepted at the event.

Volunteers willing to help out in the kitchen, in the serving area, or during the clean-up time are most welcome. For more information, or to volunteer, please contact committee member Susan Stahl by text or voice at 780-213-0483, or by email at


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Town Welcomes New CAO, Josh Pyrcz

There’s a new CAO in town and he brings with him great enthusiasm and expectation for Athabasca, a community that he sees brimming with promise and potential.

Josh Pyrcz joined the Town of Athabasca team as chief administrative officer in October. Since then, he has immersed himself in the role and has been enjoying the experience of getting to know the Town staff, Town Council and the community in general.

“People have been so friendly and welcoming,” says Josh. “I’ve enjoyed meeting them on the street, having them stop by the office to welcome me – it’s been fantastic!”

Born in St. Albert, Alberta, Josh moved to Wolfville, Nova Scotia, when he was two years old. He returned to Alberta 20 years later to pursue his interests in advanced education, earning a degree, specializing in municipal government.

His professional background includes seven years with the City of Leduc where he served in various roles, including a focus on Intergovernmental Affairs, and eight months in his “hometown” of Wolfville where he served as the town CAO. He sees a vast difference between Alberta and Nova Scotia and happily embraces the progressive social and corporate dynamics prevalent in Alberta.

Josh was contemplating his career and his future when he learned about the CAO opportunity in Athabasca.

“I looked at some of the challenges the community was facing. I reviewed Town Council’s Strategic Plan and vision for the future and recognized it as something I was interested in being a part of,” says Josh.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of things that the town is interested in doing – intermunicipal and regional co-operation, budgeting, strategic planning, performance management. Coming from experience in a larger city, I know we can effectively scale these to a community the size of Athabasca.”

One immediate challenge Josh is experiencing on a personal level is housing in Athabasca.

“I haven’t found housing yet,” he declares. “Housing is one of the challenges Town Council identified in their Strategic Plan. We want to encourage people to come here to live. Housing is a big factor.”

On the job, one of his tasks is to examine the practices, processes and systems the Town currently has in place to see where updates might be beneficial.

“My focus is performance management,” he explains. “That includes matching vision and strategies in ways that allow us to do more towards achieving Council’s vision for our community. Receiving and evaluating input from members of the community is an important part of that.”

The Town of Athabasca welcomes Josh to the team. Be sure to say “Hi!” if you run into him on your travels around town.


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High Marks for Town Municipal Health and Safety Audit     

                             Warren Zyla (l), Parks Foreman, and Rick Kolach, Outside Services Superintendent, are certified safety auditors,
                         giving them greater insight and ability to help lead and administer the health and safety program in Athabasca.


 A recent Municipal Health and Safety Audit conducted by an independent auditor has given the Town of Athabasca high marks for its safety practices and record over the past year.

This year’s score of 94 per cent is an increase of three per cent over last year’s audit. Credit goes to Outside Services Superintendent Rick Kolach and other members of the Town Occupational Health and Safety Committee who oversee the Town’s safety practices.

Rick acknowledges Warren Zyla, Parks Foreman, for his leadership role in helping to administer the Town’s safety program, as well as the Town employees who support and follow the rules outlined in the plan. “It’s teamwork,” says Rick. “Everyone wants to get home at the end of the day.”

Warren notes that the leadership team is responsive to the input and recommendations of the staff. “The workers are free to point out concerns they have in the work environment, to say what’s on their mind,” he says.

Rick agrees. “We all have the right to refuse the work if we feel it is not safe.”

Staff safety meetings are held each month. The Town Occupational Health and Safety Committee also meets monthly, a joint committee including the Town CAO and representatives from Outside Services, the Town Office and the Athabasca Volunteer Fire Department.

Town safety audits follow a three year cycle where qualified Town staff do the audits for two years and an independent auditor from outside of the community does an audit the third year.

Comprehensive training to qualify the auditors is provided by the Alberta Municipal Health and Safety Association (AMHSA). Rick and Warren both hold Safety Auditor Certificates. The AMHSA also provides a standardized audit tool that is used across the province.

Independent auditors are assigned by the AMHSA to communities by matching them with communities of similar size or characteristics. This year’s safety audit of Athabasca was conducted by an auditor from the City of Camrose.

In turn, Rick and Warren worked as a team to do a safety audit for the Town of Devon. “Working together, it took us half the time,” notes Rick. “We commented on their strong points and on points where they could improve.”

The health and safety program in Athabasca is well-organized and covers eight key areas, including Organizational Commitment, Hazard Identification, Hazard Control, Formal Workplace Inspections, Orientation and Training (for all new employees), Emergency Response Planning, Incident Investigation, and System Administration.

“Each of the eight elements has a clear directive to be followed,” explains Warren. “Anyone can come in and follow the manual.”

While the safety of Town staff is the main purpose of the program, there is also a financial benefit for scoring well in the audits.

“When your score goes up, it reduces the Workers Compensation Board premiums,” says Rick. “It saves money for the Town.”

The Town’s Municipal Safety Policy states, in part, “This municipality is committed to a strong safety program that protects its staff, its property, and the public from incidents.”

The audit results show that, under the leadership of the Town Occupational Health and Safety Committee and Rick’s Outside Services department, this goal is being pursued diligently and effectively.


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Utility Pre-Authorized Payment Plan Now Available

Here is another convenience to help make it easier to pay your monthly bills. The Town of Athabasca is now offering a pre-authorized payment plan for Town utilities. Full details and the authorization form are available at the Town Office. A void cheque is required to go with the authorization form.

Once approved, each billing for Town utility charges will be debited from your bank account on the billing due date or the next business day.

There is no additional cost for the utility payment plan and you can cancel the agreement anytime you want. Notification of cancellation must be received in writing by the Town at least 10 business days before the next utility debit from your account is scheduled.


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Off-Leash Dog Park Closed for the Season

Dog owners in the area are reminded that the temporary off-leash dog park located at the Jubilee Park ball diamond (across from the high school in Athabasca) is closed for the season.

The trial run for the park received a favourable response from users in the community and options for re-opening the park at the same or different location will be considered come springtime.

Interested parties are welcome to contact Athabasca Peace Officer Shaun Woloschuk with questions or recommendations. Please call the Town Office at 780-675-2063.


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