September '06 Newsletter

Filling in as Deputy Mayor, Town Councillor George Hawryluk got to cruise the streets in stagecoach style during the Athabaca District Chamber of Commerce parade this past July.  Councillors each take a turn as deputy mayor during their term on council.

Did you know...

… Community bulletin boards have been placed around town to post events. One is on 50 St. Another is on 49 St. next to the post office. (more details......)         AND

… You can have upcoming community events posted on an events calendar on the home page of the Town website. (more details.....)


Did you know...

Athabasca now has a report identifying the community’s most valued historic places. Stage three of the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program is next. (more details …..)



Construction on the Athabasca Regional Multiplex began in ernest on August 14 as heavy equipment commenced site preparation and ground work.

Multiplex construction begins


   Not many days after the official sod-turning ceremony on Aug. 3, heavy equipment started rolling near Athabasca University as site preparation began for the much-anticipated Athabasca Regional Multiplex. The ground began to rumble on Aug. 14 after Jen-Col Construction Ltd. got the go-ahead to initiate one of the community’s most ambitious projects.

   Confirmation came on Aug. 11 that the land lease between Athabasca University and the Town of Athabasca and County of Athabasca had been fully executed, thus paving the way for Multiplex construction to begin in earnest. The land will be leased from the university for 99 years at $1 per year.

   Rising cost estimates had earlier threatened to scuttle the Multiplex project but overwhelming support and encouragement from the community along with the determined conviction of both municipal councils helped keep the dream alive. The cost of the project will be around $16.7 million.


Community spirit the heart of project


   Community spirit has driven the initiative from the beginning. Countless volunteer hours have been committed to research, planning and various aspects of fundraising by representatives from all sectors of the community, including community groups, organizations, the municipalities and other local stakeholders.

   To date, close to $16 million has been donated or committed. The Town of Athabasca has committed $4.58 million, the County of Athabasca, $6 million and the province, $2.5 million with indications that more could be coming depending on new grants as yet to be formalized or announced by the province. Corporate, business and individual contributions plus other cash or in-kind commitments come to nearly $3 million.

   While there is still a shortfall of roughly $755,000, supporters are confident that further donations and funding from various sources will be forthcoming. With the shovels now in the ground and site preparation underway, another wave of community and corporate fundraising is in the plans.

   Still, to assure the successful completion of the project, the Town has guaranteed to cover any shortfall and, with support from the County, is watching for and pursuing all opportunities for grants and other funding. Mayor Richard Verhaeghe says there is no plan to raise town taxes to draw additional funds for the Multiplex.


Confidence shaken, renewed


   Confidence in the Multiplex project was temporarily shaken on July 18 when the Municipal Multiplex Committee opened the final tenders to find that the projected cost had risen to about $18 million. Undaunted, the committee, made up of representatives from Town and County councils, went back to the drawing board to identify areas where cost-saving measures could be implemented and certain components could be postponed. The result reduced the shortfall to just over $1,055,000 with plans to return the postponed components as funds came available to do so.

   Confidence was renewed when the Rotary Club of Athabasca stepped forward with an announcement on July 26. The club had increased its commitment to the project from $200,000 to $500,000 to be raised over the next four years, thus reducing the Multiplex shortfall to about $755,000.


Multiplex doors to open next year


   As a precaution to guard against possible cost overruns, the project is covered by bonding insurance.

   Now, construction has finally begun on the multi-use facility. Site preparation and earthwork is well underway with concrete work to follow. The steel structure is expected to start taking shape towards the end of the year and if all goes according to plan, the community could see the doors open towards the end of 2007.

   Designed to be more than simply a sports arena, once complete the Athabasca Regional Multiplex will meet the changing recreational and social needs of the local area. For complete details on the history and design of the Multiplex and to learn about opportunities to contribute, go to the Regional Multiplex Project.

Cornwall development anticipated 


   Although no formal proposals are on the table, Town Council is anticipating further development in the Cornwall area.

   Noting the importance of proactive planning and wanting to stay a step ahead of potential developers, members of Council held a public meeting at Whispering Hills Primary School on July 19 to give area residents an opportunity to provide some input.

   “That’s the purpose for this meeting,” Councillor Mike Gismondi said to those present. “We can shape that area structure plan. We can say (to developers) that we met with the community (and) here’s some things they are concerned about.”

   Acting as chair of the meeting, Mayor Richard Verhaeghe welcomed the interested area residents and reiterated the purpose of the meeting.

   “Essentially, we’ve recognized that future (residential) development will likely be in the Cornwall area,” he said, adding, “We don’t control development, but we have some ability to shape it.”

   He then encouraged the crowd to take advantage of the meeting as an opportunity to offer constructive feedback.

   While confirming there had been no subdivision applications or proposals up to that point, Doug Topinka, Chief Administrative Officer for the Town, noted that there had been requests from developers for information on utilities as well as on land availability and cost.

   Later in the meeting, at the request of the group, CAO Topinka offered some zoning insight, explaining that R1 is for single-family dwellings, R2 includes duplexes and dwellings with basements, R3 is multi-family and R4 is institutional. He also highlighted the fact that about one-third of the town’s population presently resides in the Cornwall area.


Protection and development of greenspace desired


   Council was very receptive to the concerns of residents towards the preservation of greenspace in and around the Corwall subdivision. One resident stated that they chose their location because of the greenspace; the charm and privacy it offered. He noted how one particular strip of greenspace is providing a natural barrier and if development is allowed to infringe on it, drainage will become a major issue.

   Councillor Lionel Cherniwchan acknowledged the importance of green belts, greenspace and walkways, and that the benefits of such features were included in Council discussions and will receive greater emphasis.

   Another resident wanted to know if existing water and sewer services would be able to handle additional development in the area, and if not, who would pay for upgrades. CAO Topinka responded to the question.

   “If we discovered we needed additional capacity, it is the developer’s cost,” he explained, qualifying that in some circumstances it could possibly be shared between the Town and the developer.


Traffic lights an eventual possibility


   Councillor Colleen Powell responded to a query regarding Cornwall access and traffic concerns caused by increased development in the area. She noted that lights at the west access point into Cornwall would be too dangerous, being that close to the top of the hill.

   “Eventually, it may end up that we have to put lights at the (east) intersection by Hunter Motors,” said Councillor Powell.


Area structure plan the goal


   One goal of the Cornwall meeting was to gather information from residents to help Council form an area structure plan. The purpose is to create a guideline for prospective developers.

   Overall, Council is pleased with feedback received at the meeting and will pass it along to developers when appropriate.

   With the Cornwall meeting providing a model of positive community dialog, Councillor Paula Evans encourages residents throughout the town to come forward with ideas for their neighborhoods.

   “Neighborhoods are welcome to come and talk to us so we can get a better feel for what people are thinking,” she said.


Town Councillor Paula Evans at the Riverfront with the sign proclaiming Athabasca as the Communities in Bloom National Champion for 2005, and with one of the many magnificant floral displays featured in the town this year.

Local Communities
in Bloom group seeks input, support


   While still working to keep the community looking sharp, members and supporters of the local Communities in Bloom initiative took a break from the demands of competition this year. After winning the national title in our population category last year, the group chose not to take part in the 2006 CIB competition.

   Community input is now needed to decide whether or not to take part in the 2007 competition.

   “If Athabasca is going to compete at the national level next year, the committee needs input from the community,” confirms Councillor Paula Evans, “and the committee is going to need additional new members.”

   Opportunities to participate are abundant and diverse. Participation is as simple as choosing one of the eight CIB criteria categories and getting together with a few other like-minded individuals to compare ideas, make some plans, then volunteer a few hours on a regular basis to help put those plans into action. In other words, to help keep the wheels of progress blooming in Athabasca and area.


Categories to suit all interests


   Offering something for almost every interest, the eight CIB categories are Floral Displays; Turf & Groundcovers; Landscaped Areas; Natural & Cultural Heritage Conservation; Tidiness; Environmental Awareness; Tree/Urban Forest Management; and Community Involvement.

   In brief, Floral Displays includes arrangements of flowers and plants, originality, distribution, location, diversity and balance, harmony, quality and maintenance.

   Turf and Groundcovers includes the quality of naturalization, the use of groundcovers and wild flowers, turf management and maintenance, including such elements as mowing, Integrated Pest Management, fertilization programs, irrigation and water restrictions.

   Landscaped Areas includes overall design and suitability for location and/or use, the use of native plant materials or introduction of new materials, a balance of plant material and constructed elements, harmony, and integration of art elements.

  Natural & Cultural Heritage Conservation includes support and attention to museums, archives, history books and interpretative programs, policies and by-laws, preservation and restoration of buildings, cemeteries, parks, heritage gardens and trees.

   Tidiness includes green spaces, medians, streets, sidewalks, ditches, road shoulders, signage, vacant lots and buildings with regards to garbage, weeds, maintenance and repair.

   Environmental Awareness includes such things as sustainable development, policies and by-laws, waste reduction, landfill sites, hazardous waste collection, sewage disposal, transfer/recycle stations and recycling initiatives.

   Tree/Urban Forest Management includes any written policies, by-laws and regulations, short and long-term plans, maintenance, new plantings, heritage trees and woodlots, preservation of trees and succession planting.

   Community Involvement includes citizens from the private, municipal and corporate sector (including all forms of local businesses) and their involvement in various community projects.


Athabasca’s specialty


   Community involvement has long been recognized as this community’s strong suit.

   Thanks to community involvement and a commendable commitment to volunteerism, Athabasca emerged last year as the 2005 national winner in the population category of 2,001-3,000. Receiving a CIB bloom rating of five blooms out of five, our community received recognition during the CIB National Awards Ceremony held in Saskatoon, Sask., on Sept. 24, 2005.

   Each year, winning communities also receive special recognition for areas of particular strength, and last year, Athabasca was noted for Community Involvement. Information featured in national CIB literature stated, “Athabasca is a town of volunteers: the number of volunteers, volunteer organizations and volunteer projects is overwhelming and is reflected in the overall great appearance of the town. The historic Town of Athabasca features great walking trails, a self-guided heritage tour, magnificent scenery, one of Alberta’s top 18-hole golf courses, an archives and library, and live arts theatre, along with the Athabasca University, an internationally recognized distance education university.”


History of special recognition


   Last year was not the first year our community received this special recognition. After being named Provincial Champion in the 2001 CIB competition and earning four out of five blooms, Athabasca again received special recognition in the category of Community Involvement.

   Now, the current group of local CIB committee members and supporters is looking for more volunteers to step up, join in and consider being part of the team to lead Athabasca on to the next level of national CIB competition.

   As Councillor Evans indicates, if Athabasca is going to compete in 2007, input from the community is a must and more supporters are going to have to step forward.

   Contact Councillor Evans through the Town office to express interest and support.


CIB Initiatives Grant offers up to $1,000


   Councillor Evans also reminds town residents that the deadline for the second round of the Athabasca Communities in Bloom Initiatives Grant is Sept. 30. Up to $1,000 can be earned for community projects that reflect Communities in Bloom ideals.

   Community groups, neighborhood associations, schools and institutions situated in the Town of Athabasca are all encouraged to submit proposals. Projects considered will be in the areas of arts and culture, environmental stewardship and education, and flower and vegetable gardening. Other projects may be considered. Collaborative projects and projects that involve youth are especially encouraged.

   Consider how you could use $1,000 to enhance the visual appeal or quality of the community. Pick up the complete guidelines and application form at the Town Office, 4705 – 49 Ave. and get your proposal in before the Sept. 30 deadline.



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