October '12 Newsletter


Town Welcomes New CAO, Ryan Maier

Ryan Maier, Chief Administrative Officer


Town of Athabasca administration has a new leader at the helm. Ryan Maier began his official duties as the Town’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) on September 17.

Saskatchewan born and having lived and worked in Alberta for the past eight years, Ryan and his family came to Athabasca from Rimbey where he had been serving as assistant CAO for the Town of Rimbey since January 2010. Previous to Rimbey, he served as CAO for the Town of Millet.

Considerations that went into Ryan’s decision to make Athabasca his new home included family, career and the appeal of the rural setting.

“We like a small community and my son is in French Immersion, so it is a career move and it is a good move for my family,” says the new CAO. His son began the school year in Athabasca.

The family is looking forward to the great outdoors, both in and around Athabasca.

“We haven’t lived in a waterfront community,” Ryan explains. “The river was a definite attraction and also the lakes in the area ... and the golf course.”

He is confident that his background of education, training and experience will contribute to his effectiveness as the Town’s CAO and will add value to his role as a member of the administrative team.

Ryan’s municipal experience covers a range of departments, from recreation to taxation to development and more, and he has attended numerous job and career related training sessions and courses over the years. His educational achievements include a Certificate in Local Government and a national Advanced Certificate in Local Government. He anticipates putting all of this to good use for the benefit of town residents and the community at large.

“My initial goal is to maintain the good practices that have already been established here,” says Ryan. “If we can find ways to improve on them over time, we will. I want to carry on Doug’s good work and leadership.”

Former Town CAO Doug Topinka announced his retirement this past June after serving in the role for more than 10 years. His last day was early in July, but the Town retained his services as interim CAO until a replacement could be found.

Ryan is the successful candidate and is pleased to have been offered the position. He had the opportunity to meet with members of the Town staff prior to his start date and was encouraged by the experience.

“They seem like a very dedicated group of people. I am looking forward to working with them.”

The Town welcomes Ryan to the administrative team and to the community and anticipates a mutually beneficial relationship.


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Mayor Roger Morrill: Focus on the Future

Mayor Roger Morrill


Athabasca is a community with a great deal of appeal for a variety of reasons. We have so much to offer, says Athabasca Mayor Roger Morrill, and now is the time to be looking and planning ahead for expected growth.

The anticipation of new, potentially rapid development in Alberta’s north could provide significant spinoffs for Athabasca, both in new industry and business and in population growth for the town. As companies and their employees begin to express more interest in Athabasca, the community must prepare to present itself well as a preferred location to set up a business or service and raise a family.

“Our community is looking good,” says Roger. “Look at the number of projects and improvements that are getting done. Many things are being accomplished. The town has a lot of appeal and we have a quality of life to offer that many other towns do not have.”

One thing that he believes would further enhance the success of the community’s efforts towards promotion and development would be to have Town Council working together with a greater sense of unity and mutual focus.

“We have seven members on Council and each should be free to venture their opinions and concerns,” Roger explains. “There will always be strong opinions and a difference of opinion as we do our best to represent our constituents, but the idea is to create balanced decisions. The way we express those opinions is something we can improve on, as it does influence the support we get from fellow Councillors.”

He admits that when the issues are controversial, it can be challenging, but the aim for Council should be to engage in respectful discussion, arrive at a mutual decision and agree to present that decision to the public in a unified manner.

Regional collaboration is another factor that can be further developed for the benefit of the entire community. Roger believes the Town has done well in working collaboratively with Athabasca County and with other local groups and stakeholders. Expanding on these cooperative efforts makes good sense as the community plans for the future.

“Regional cooperative agreements are extremely important,” says Roger. “The Aspen Regional Water system and the Athabasca Regional Multiplex are two examples of agreements that have benefited the community. They could not have been built without regional agreements.”

He notes that Athabasca County has been very cooperative and county residents are very supportive of the Athabasca community. Athabasca University is another organization that works cooperatively with the Town and supports the community in a variety of ways.

“The Town has to make use of synergy in the community and there is great synergy with Athabasca University,” he says. “One example, look how the university is sharing labs with the schools. I can’t say enough about Athabasca University.”

Preparing effectively for the anticipated growth ahead is going to take the interest and effort of the entire community, including Town Council and many stakeholders and individuals throughout the town and the county.

“This community has to be prepared for the growth that is coming,” advises Roger. “People and businesses are looking at moving to the region. There have been a lot of enquiries. We need to have in place the services, the organizations and a nice looking community to attract them.”


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Lions Children’s Heritage Playground a Go in Athabasca

X-Wave (l) and Supernova (r): Examples of playground equipment supplied by PlayWorks Inc.  Photos compliments of Playworks.ca


It has been three years in the planning and now it’s a go! The Athabasca Lions Children’s Heritage Playground is being constructed on the Riverfront in Athabasca with plans to have it completed in October.

Residents and visitors will be impressed with the state-of-the-art equipment and the variety of fun features that will be available, says Lions member and committee chairperson Mark Neaves. Before it is finished, though, many hands will be needed to help get the job done. He encourages volunteers to join in and contribute a few hours of their time to the community-enhancing project.

“We invite anyone who is interested in helping during the installation,” says Mark. “We’re looking at saving costs through in-kind donations and volunteer help.”

The project budget is a little over $222,000. The finished project will be something to behold and will be a wonderful complement to the existing riverfront attractions.

“The playground will be located close to the Rotary Spray Park and it will be wheelchair accessible,” Mark explains. “That is a priority for the Lions Club.”

The surfacing material for the playground will be an engineered wood fiber called “Fibar” that meets CSA safety standards as well as ADA standards for wheelchair accessibility.

Playground equipment is being provided and installed by PlayWorks Inc. and will include a selection of climbing, balancing, spinning and swinging elements. The equipment, with names like “Supernova” and “X-Wave”, is designed to entertain and challenge young people and provide them with positive play experiences that maximize enjoyment and healthy development.

“The kids are going to have a blast!” declares Mark. “It will be a playground that residents from throughout Athabasca County will enjoy. Tourists will love it and will tell others what a great play area it is. Parents will be able to take their kids to both the playground and the spray park. It’s very exciting.”

After waiting about three years to begin, due to the ongoing Alberta Transportation Highway 55/813 interchange redesign project currently in process near the riverfront, the playground project is now moving forward very quickly, and for a very good reason.

“We save money by doing it now,” Mark explains. “We avoid rising costs in the spring.”

He emphasizes the need for plenty of volunteer labour to help get it done faster and he expresses appreciation for both the financial and the in-kind support the Athabasca Lions have received for the project to date.

“Many thanks to the Town of Athabasca for donating $25,000 and for providing interim financing,” he says. “Athabasca County is giving an in-kind donation of $10,000 worth of equipment, which is wonderful, and Chris and Lynette Crawford, the owners of Kel-Kan Holdings Ltd., are also donating the use of equipment.”

Mark’s company, Whispering Hills Fuels, is donating the use of a skid steer and a truck and dump trailer.

While the Athabasca Lions Club is ultimately responsible for the playground project, the planning committee is made up of representatives from the club, the Riverfront Design Committee, the Athabasca Heritage Society and members of Athabasca Town Council.

The reason the local Lions initiated the project in the first place was to add value for residents and do something to further complement the appeal of Athabasca’s riverfront.

“We are a service club and want to do things to enhance the community and give children a place where they can have fun and enjoy the beautiful riverfront,” says Mark.

Volunteers interested in contributing to the Athabasca Lions Children’s Heritage Playground are welcome to contact Mark at 780-689-6268; committee member Gordon Topps at 780-213-1471; or Athabasca Lions president David McGuire at 780-675-5587.


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