In this section of my site you will find all things Sherwood Park, from housing reports to local events. I hope you find it interesting and helpful in helping you learn more about our great community.
Gerry Gabinet, director of Strathcona County’s Tourism and Economic Development department, made his year end report to the city council on Tuesday March 26th. In it, he noted that job creation in the county increased by 9.7 percent in 2012, when compared to 2011. In 2012, 48,270 jobs were created, while in 2011, some 43,558 positions came on the books. That’s an increase of nearly 4,700 jobs.
Gabinet also noted that since 63 percent of the county’s tax base is industrial, there will most likely be a labour shortage in the next few months. The retail sector is one of the fastest growing and will likely see a good part of these shortages. That sector leased more than 550,000 square feet of space during 2012.
Housing prices are also going up, as are the number of homes sold. Townhouses and apartments are on track to have 363 units absorbed by the end of the year, with single family homes on track for 375 units absorbed.
Gabinet also announced other items his department was involved in during 2012. Last year the department was involved in 13 projects that contributed to positive economic growth, while so far in 2013 six new projects are already on the books. These are major deals that have an impact on the economic future of Strathcona County.
Some of the projects being considered include a program to provide geographic information more easily, an update on the retail market study, coming up for a work plan for a proposed new industrial manager and improving work relationships between the county and China.
For a more in depth look at the current initiatives or other information go to www.strathcona.ca.
You’d think that with all the political posturing in the United States the stock market in that country might be in the doldrums. That, however, is not the case. In fact, the opposite is happening, with possible ramifications down the road for the property investment market as well as REITs in Canada.
On Tuesday the Dow Jones saw its largest earnings ever. It gained back all the revenue lost in the 2008 crash, and then some. At Tuesday’s close, trading was up almost nine percent on the year. Analysts expect that trend to continue. They also noticed the increased interest in the Greenback by foreign markets, including Canada. The Dow Jones is effectively romancing investors back to their equity offerings.
The S&P/TSX in this country is hardly competitive, with an increase so far this year of only 2.8 percent. That is giving foreign investors cause for concern about investing north of the border.
This may trickle down to Canadian REITS, noted one analyst after Tuesday’s surge. That same analyst noted that the cooling real estate market and the assessment this past Monday by Fitch that home prices are roughly 20 percent over-valued.
Canadian investors are also taking a second look, perhaps reconsidering adding to their portfolio with stocks and property here at home. On the other hand, if more investors turn to the Dow as a portfolio choice, there will be more property for those left to choose from. That is especially true in the multi-family home market, especially since the big banks are starting to be competitive about offered interest rates.
Medical tourism is on the rise and Canadians are increasingly taking advantage of that industry. They seek relief from illness by trying out unproven and usually expensive therapy and/or treatment at private clinics in many parts of the world. These include the sometimes controversial stem-cell treatments.
Tim Caulfield, a researcher and health law expert with the University of Alberta recently gave a lecture on the subject. He noted that many of these clinics are frauds, collecting thousands of dollars from patients in a practice dubbed “science-ploitation.”
The industry is growing rapidly with a great number of their patients, or clients, coming from Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. Treatments are offered for problems such as cancer, Alzheimers, ALS, anti-aging and autism. Considering that so far scientists haven’t figured out what causes autism, that is quite a feat.
Two men at the lecture challenged Caulfield. One noted that last July he spent $30,000 for an experimental procedure involving the widening of neck veins and growing stem cells from bone marrow and injecting those cells directly into the spinal cord. The unidentified man said the treatment helped him to regain motion in the partially paralyzed right side of his body. After researching various private clinics for nearly two years, he decided to go for it at this one in India. The former home inspector also referred the India based clinic to friends.
Caulfield is used to being challenged when it comes to controversial treatments, particularly having to do with stem cells. But he still maintains that legitimate treatments with these cells have yet to be developed. The media more often than not gives positive reports on these out of the way clinics, which encourages their use despite the expense.
Since these clinics are internationally based and/or managed by the Internet, it is hard to create controls for these markets. All most governments have been able to do is educate the public. Legislation is, at this point, not possible, nor would it be effective.
One problem is that people that have undergone various treatments that have failed are coming back to Canada and expecting the health care system to fix everything. Sometimes, as in the case of some bariatric treatments, this requires surgery. Those who have received organ transplants sometimes experience organ rejection, requiring anti-rejection treatments. In this respect, medical tourism is putting an undue and unnecessary burden on the Canadian health care system and its taxpayers.
Alberta’s Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission has submitted its recommendations for new federal electoral boundaries to Canada’s chief electoral officer. Member Donna Wilson noted that public hearings were held this past September concerning the initial recommendations. These meetings were province wide. Using the feedback from those meetings, the commission came up with their current proposal.
The proposal gives Alberta six new electoral districts. Though the commission knows they cannot please everyone, they did go back and redraw 20 of the 34 districts after those public hearings. Now it’s up to the MPs to review the districts when it is sent to the House of Commons to be discussed in committee.
After the MPs review and input their own ideas into the proposal it goes back to the commission for another look. MP changes may or may not be implemented. After this the redrawn districts become official. The new boundaries take effect with the next federal election, scheduled tentatively for Oct. 19, 2015.
Election boundaries throughout Canada are considered every ten years, after the census. This allows for changes in population and overall growth within the different regions. Wilson notes that there may still be some concerns after the boundaries are finalized. She advises the public to contact their MPs if they aren’t happy with the results. MPs are allowed to file objections; whether they are successful in those objections is something else again.
Paul McCartney is coming to Edmonton. The famed Beatle has never been to Alberta’s capital and City Hall is going all out. The décor will be distinctly musical and ever so British. Well loved McCartney tunes will play nonstop. City fathers are also renaming 102 A Avenue. It will become Abbey Road and sport a replica of the famed crosswalk.
The Carillion will play its own versions of McCartney tunes, each day at noon, from November 26th through the 29th. A collection of memorabilia, including a 1968 Les Paul guitar, similar to the one Paul played back in the Beatle days will be on display, thanks to contributions on loan from an energized public.
Tuesday will bring carriage rides on Churchill Square, British beer and scotch served at Three Bananas Café and screenings of the iconic “A Hard Days Night” from 1964 and “Live Kisses” a new offering from Paul. Both are free and at Edmonton City Hall.
The man himself is performing at Rexall Place on both Wednesday and Thursday. The concerts are sold out, and have been since word leaked out of McCartney’s arrival. A sing along at City Hall on Wednesday, performed by actors, will ease some of the fan frustration at not getting tickets.
Two tickets will be auctioned off that day, with proceeds going to the charity Donate a Ride. Councillor Kim Krushnell is doing the honours. She credits McCartney’s music with helping her and her friends survive karaoke night in South Korea. Karaoke is big in that country and being able to belt out “Yesterday” and other assorted McCartney tunes helped the group make instant friends.
The Elk Island Public School’s board recently held open house sessions concerning the possible school boundary changes within the district. Not only were people invited to meetings on October 29th, November 5th and 6th, they were also invited to complete an online survey. Now that the feedback is in, the board will take that information to the trustees before finalizing any decisions.
At the open house, parents were advised of the various options for the border changes. EIPS had staff members there to answer questions and thoroughly explain the theory behind the proposed changes. The information gathered will also be posted online so residents can get an idea of how their neighbours felt about the ideas.
A summary of the feedback and the proposed border ideas is expected by mid December with the recommendations going to the board in January. If there is a need, the public will again be consulted before finalization. The public is expected to get some sort of update by the end of November.
One area that caused concern was the proposed changes for the Ridge and Regency Schools. Ideas included a middle school idea involving bussing, called Phase 2 and the idea to keep the kids walking to school, known as Phase 3. Some parents thought keeping the kids walking, and getting some exercise, was the better way to go. Bussing kids clear across town didn’t seem to make any sense, especially when some of the routes seemed overly time consuming. This concern, as well as others will be looked at before the boundaries are set in stone.
Sherwood Park’s Elk Island Public Schools, or EIPS, is redrawing their boundaries and is looking for public input. There are three separate options being considered as part of the district’s “Re-Imagining” project. Previous public input has been taking into consideration in the creating of these options, which were weeded out from a much larger assortment.
For this third phase of the “Re-Imagining” project the EIPS will be setting up planning stations at the district’s main office. Staff members will be on hand to answer questions and provide further information on the boundary choices. Residents are invited to drop in and give their opinions on which of the three they feel are the most beneficial and user friendly.
EIPS is hoping to get enough community feedback to put together a final presentation in January of next year for the board of trustees. If all goes well the new boundaries will be approved early in the coming year. From there, the actual timeline for the new boundaries to come into effect will depend on the complexity of the plan chosen, and how the board of trustees wishes to proceed. The target date for completion is for the 2013-2014 school year.
The last round of public opinion sessions for the “Re-Imagining” project resulted in the administration of EIPS deciding that there will be no change in the locations for the Logos Christian program, the German and French bilingual programs or special education programs. Boundary map considerations for all regular grades are being explored.
The boundary map options will be on display on October 29th and on November 5th and 6th, from 4:30pm until 8pm each day. The address of the Sherwood Park EIPS district office is 683 Wye Rd. If you have further questions, please visit the website at www.eips.ca/re-imagining.
The International Monetary Fund, or IMF, released its latest report on the global economy this past Tuesday and it is issuing a warning to Canadians about the amount of personal debt levels seen currently. They do grant that the recent round of mortgage rules has reduced the amount of credit growth in that department, and Canadians are as a whole making some progress on paying off debts. But the IMF also notes that Canada’s government may have to initiate some changes if the debt load does not decrease significantly.
Those most concerned with such news are investors that buy properties with the intention of flipping them as soon as possible. Some condo investors even flip, or resell, the properties even before they take possession. If the Canadian government adds more regulations, it might become harder to get loans. Not only that, it may soften the real estate market considerably. The last round of mortgage rule changes implemented this past summer is having a similar effect already.
Looking at Greater Toronto, condo units fell almost five percent this past August, compared with August of 2011. Sales vastly decreased, with 2012 seeing only 645 properties changing hands, compared to 1,967 sold the prior August. Condo investors believe any further regulations will sour the market even further.
Not all economists agree with the IMF’s point of view, considering them far too cautious. Some are noting that the amount of debt held by Canadians is decreasing, now sitting at 152 percent of household income. Other investors, such as those buying apartments or condos to put on the rental market, may welcome new regulations. If the government makes it more difficult for people to qualify, that’s all the more people that will still be looking at the rental market.
It looks like Fort Saskatchewan might get its own energy production plant intended to turn locally mined natural gas into usable diesel fuel, at a rate of nearly 96,000 barrels a day. The company making the announcement was Sasol, which, working with Total E&P Canada has agreed to purchase the necessary acreage for the site. This is the same firm that back in 2008 wanted to put an upgrader close to Fort Saskatchewan city limits.
As of now the plans are in the preliminary stages, with the site currently being in an option to purchase status. Both firms are also beginning the basic engineering work. The plan is to build the gas-to-liquids plant in two stages, each capable of handling 48,000 barrels a day. The first phase would start construction in 2014, with an estimated completion date in 2018 or 2019. The second phase would then go ahead as long as the economic conditions remain much or more favorable as they are today.
The preliminaries, including figuring out the cost of the plant, should be finished by the end of 2012. If everything checks out the go ahead for the project should be given by the end of this year.
The technology is based on a procedure implemented during the 1920s, used then to liquefy coal. It originated in Germany and Sasol has changed it a bit to make it more cost efficient and of course to handle natural gas. The process is already in use at Sasol’s other two plants in Nigeria and Qatar. Sasol is also considering putting in plants in Uzbekistan and Louisiana, USA.
Sasol picks its locations based on the difference in price between natural gas and oil. If the price points are wide enough, it becomes economically feasible to process the natural gas at or near the point of origin. Currently natural gas is running between $2 and $3 per unit, much lower than oil costs.
The Fort Saskatchewan plant would be processing low-sulphur diesel as well as Naptha. The latter is used as a diluter for bitumen by workers at the oilsands. Propane will also be a byproduct which Sasol will sell locally.
An open house will be held at the Dow Centennial Center in Fort Saskatchewan, hosted by Sasol on Wednesday, September 26 at 5pm. The address is 8700 84th St.
Beginning September 1st the hiring of five more peace officers in Strathcona County will mean the mobile photo radar units will be put out to pasture. Drivers may initially rejoice, until they find out the new officers will be responsible for speed and traffic enforcement, first hand. They will not only be looking for speeders, they will be looking for other frequently noticed bad driving habits.
Getting physically pulled over and issued a ticket may be more of a deterrent than an anonymous photo by a mechanical marvel. Some habitual speeders would just pay the automatically issued fine and just keep speeding. Tickets issued by officers cause demerit points to also show up on your license. If you get 15 demerit points, your driving privileges are revoked. Const. Wally, spokesperson for the Strathcona RCMP noted that there will be an increased police presence on the area’s roadways.
The reason for the move from mechanical to police officer traffic enforcement was because of the increased focus in the county on traffic safety. The physical presence of an officer is more of a deterrent to bad behaviour. Not only will they be looking for speeders, but cell phone users, people not wearing seat belts and keeping tabs on driving habits in general. As an example, a photo radar machine cannot pull over an intoxicated driver.
Not all of the mechanical devices are going away. There are seven intersections in Sherwood Park that will still have speed detection and red light cameras. Wye Road has four and Baseline Road has three. The new officers will work with the traffic force already in place along with RCMP units.
Strathcona County is growing and council is doing its best to keep up. Now that council has asked the administration to come up with a new timeline for its growth management strategy. The intent of that plan is to give some direction for that future urban expansion.
The strategic plan is also a requirement under the municipal development plan, otherwise known as the MDP. Items looked at include the financial impact on taxpayers, service requirements, the likely order of growth locations, the potential amount of population growth and how to diversify the use of the land.
Northeast of Sherwood Park is an urban reserve area, and the MDP is needed to oversee development and community input on the management of that zone. This also applies to the Colchester District and some areas south of Sherwood Park. Both of these are potential areas for growth, but before that happens items such as infrastructure costs, transportation, agricultural and environmental concerns must be looked at.
Further analysis would look into housing, employment, local services, social enclaves and the preservation of open spaces. It would also outline accessibility to commercial services that already exist in Strathcona County.
A two year timeline was already presented for Vernon Park, which was targeted for completion by 2014. But it appears that looking at the current growth trends, the area will be completely built out by 2022. Linda Osinchuck, the Mayor, wants this timeline greatly reduced.
So instead of approving the report, council sent the administration back to the drawing board. It is hoped and expected that reduced timeline will be available for the next council meeting, scheduled for August 28th.
The City of Fort Saskatchewan and Strathcona County came up with a common bonds agreement, intended to create an authority to look after regional housing. The agreement was signed this past Wednesday, creating the Heartland Housing Foundation. This will entail the municipal housing councils of both cities to take care of the region’s non-market housing.
Linda Osinchuk, Mayor of Strathcona County, noted this will streamline the process. The Fort Lions Foundation, the Fort Foundation and the Pioneer Housing Foundation will all come together to manage the nine senior housing facilities in the region, looking after some 450 units.
Before this, each municipal council managed the residences in their own territories. This foundation will allow the creation of more affordable housing throughout the region. It will allow the granting of temporary rent subsidies for up to 50 homes each month.
Funding will come from both cities, based on proportionality. Looking at the 2011 numbers, the foundation will take 85 percent of its funding from Strathcona County, the rest from the City of Fort Saskatchewan. Representing Fort Saskatchewan will be Stew Hennig and Don Westman. Strathcona County will be represented by Vic Bidzinski and Peter Wlodarczak.
Mayor Linda Osinchuk gave her State of the County address in early April and stressed county safety as a primary concern. Sherwood Park was named by MacLean’s Magazine, in 2011, as the safest municipality in Alberta, for the second year in a row. The mayor emphasized the importance of keeping that distinction. Osinchuk credited the Strathcona County Emergency Services and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for their efforts.
The RCMP, for 2011, did focus on four primary areas, improving traffic safety, reducing drug use and trafficking, reducing the number of mischief complaints and issues of domestic violence. These items will continue to be at the forefront. In September of 2012 a photo radar project will be initiated.
In 2011, Strathcona County had 89 RCMP officers and 18 peace officers. There were also 38 community volunteers that helped with victim services. County Emergency Services had 130 firefighters, full-time, with an additional 38 serving part-time. They responded to a total of 5,384 calls.
There are five fire stations, in Androssan, South Cooking Lake, Josephburg and Sherwood Park, which has two. A sixth is expected to open in 2013 in Sherwood Park, next to the RCMP station. Construction on that building began in 2011. Between the land, building, designs and the vehicles, the cost is roughly $20.8 million, with the provincial government paying for half. The new station will help reduce response times, which does save lives.
The province of Alberta is leading the nation in availability of employment. Statistics Canada released their data this past Friday and it showed an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent, the lowest figure seen since December of 2008. Saskatchewan tied with that same figure.
May saw an increase of 9,800 jobs compared to this past April, which knocked 0.4 percent off the unemployment rate figure. In the last 12 months the employment rate increased by 4.1 percent, making Alberta the fastest growing of the provinces. It also topped the 1.2 percent national average. In those same 12 months a total of 84,500 jobs were created. Another thing of note is the high number of those jobs that are full time positions. Out of that 9,800 figure from May roughly 8,200 were full time jobs.
In the Calgary metro area, the area went from a 5.1 percent unemployment rate in April to 4.9 percent in May. The latter month saw 4,000 new jobs created and in the past 12 months 30,900 jobs were created. The yearly percentage of job growth came in at 4.3 percent.
TD Economics senior economist Sonya Gulati noted that except for a slight decrease this past February, Alberta has seen consistent job creation since the beginning of 2012. The province is well on its way to be one of the top employment and economic leaders by the end of the year.
The unemployment rate in Calgary a year ago was at 5.7 percent and province wide it was 5.4 percent. Usually if unemployment goes below four percent the market favors the employee. The city is coming close to that point.
Looking at the country as a whole, May remained unchanged employment wise, after March and April showing fairly large gains. The national unemployment rate is 7.3 percent. In the last 12 months there was an employment increase of 1.2 percent, with a total of 203,000 jobs created. Compare that to Alberta, where the numbers account for 41.5 percent of the nation’s employment growth over that year.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce held their yearly general meeting this past Friday at Millennium Place. Joe Oliver, the Federal Minister of Natural Resources, gave a speech on resource development at the morning gathering, focusing on the Responsible Resource Development Plan, a government initiative intended to protect Canada’s environment while creating jobs nationwide.
Oliver noted that it was not beneficial to see delays on major projects, such as building a pipeline infrastructure to service the oil fields. He noted that by delaying these items, jobs and money making opportunities are also being held back. Oliver insisted that Canada can and will come up with a plan to preserve the environment and still keep infrastructure projects on track.
In fact a version of that plan is already in place, insuring that the environment will be protected by advanced and efficient systems, backed up by cutting-edge technology and scientific research. Alison Redford, Alberta’s Premier, supports the development plan as well as an effort to make the review process even more efficient. Oliver noted that taking eight to ten years to get a project up and running is just not acceptable nor is it cost effective.
The resource plan will put $165 million towards environmental protection issues. These would include upgrading the navigational systems, making double hulled tankers mandatory and increasing pipeline inspections by roughly 50 percent. Annual pipeline audits would double. All of this is to help an industry that is the basis for roughly 400,000 Canadian jobs, and that could bring in over $22 billion in government monies annually.
Oliver also expressed concerns about public hearings being limited, allowing only those with applicable expertise or a direct interest in the project. He then noted that the majority of Canadians believe that a public meeting is not there for anyone and everyone to express an opinion. Not according to Websters, which defines a public hearing as a place where concerns and views of the public are expressed concerning an agency’s or government’s action. They might want to change the name.
The Strathcona County Economic & Tourism Department just released its housing start report for 2011. It showed that most areas saw a decrease. In 2010, 16,772 permits were issued for residential construction. Another 5,563 permits were issued for rural projects. In 2011, 10,066 urban permits were issued, and 6,556 rural permits were granted. Increases on one were virtually cancelled out by decreases in the other.
Permits for single family homes went down 38 percent, from 511 this past year to 317 back in 2010. Multi-family units went down 15 percent, form 304 units to 258. Completion percentages were only down by two percent. Single family homes saw a 14 percent decrease, going from 511 to 317 units, while multi-family properties saw an increase of 32 percent, going from 168 to 222 units. Residential construction rates went down by 9.8 percent.
Randy Richards, who is the commercial development manager of that agency, noted that 2010 was an especially busy year for construction, and the 2011 actually saw a considerable amount of building. Many of the permits, particularly for condo projects, were granted in 2010, but the projects did not actually start until 2011. This somewhat distorts the figures.
Right now the county has a high number of available units, but that is considered good. Developers know they will sell the units in the current upbeat market. Sherwood Park’s market is actually doing better than Edmonton’s core, with more people looking to invest in that area.
Those considering investing in the condo market may be put off by rumors of market crashes that are being fanned in the media. But there are ways to minimize the risk if you do decide to take the plunge.
The real estate market in Canada is still healthy. Sales, considering all property types, have gone up eight percent since March of this year, with prices almost ten percent higher than they were in March of 2011. Condo sales, on the whole, remained the same for comparative time periods. Toronto actually saw a two percent decrease, and in the downtown core, that decrease was 13 percent. So, what to do…
First, check out the location. A good location can do wonders for an investment property for both appeal and value. It can also insulate your property from a major price decrease. Those areas that are popular, in a condo’s case closer to downtown, will be the ones that weather the financial storm the best. People will still want to live close to work.
Make sure you know how much that investment will cost you, and how much it will bring in before you sign that paper. Look into key investment issues, cash on hand returns and cap rates. Look at your operating costs and interest rate. After you consider this, how much will you be making from rental income? Are you making or loosing money?
Buy a resale property instead of a new one. Prices on new condos are 97 percent higher than they were in 2007, averaging $680 per square foot. Spend 20 percent less on a resale and chances are you will have a storage locker and a parking space included.
Consider the size of condo you buy. The larger units cost more per square foot, simply because they are becoming harder to find. At the same time, keep away from the high rises because there are too many out there right now. Smaller properties, those with less than 15 floors are more desirable and buyer friendly.
Don’t buy on blind faith, especially if the deal you are being offered seems far too good. Make sure that investment property was built by a reputable developer using equally reputable builders. Eliminate defects and other surprises before they happen. It’s just smart.
MLA candidates running in Strathcona County attended a forum at the Bethel Lutheran Church this past Tuesday, hosted by the Seniors United Now organization. All seven Sherwood Park candidates participated including Gordon Barrett with the Alberta Social Credit Party, David Anderson, a Liberal, Garnet Genuis, with Wildrose Party, James Ford, Independent, Cathy Olesen, a Progressive Conservative, Chris Kuchmak with the Alberta Party and Lyndsay Pinder with the NDP. Representing Strathcona were John Murray, a Liberal, Paul Nemetchek, with Wilrose and Mike Scott for the NDP. Dave Quest, current Conservative Party MLA did not attend.
Nemetchek started the discussion, noting that his party wanted to find a way to get seniors out of acute care beds and placed in suitable, professional long-term facilities. He promised that there would be no additional costs and the transfers could be done in a reasonable amount of time, even by using alternate care facilities. Seniors who wanted to upgrade their facilities could do so, but the base model would be available for everyone. Scott, the NDP candidate, did not agree, fearing that seniors would end up paying enormous amounts of money each month, possibly having to refinance property or get part time jobs.
Other items that came up included the shipping of Alberta oil to the United States for processing (Keystone Pipeline) which would take away Alberta jobs and decrease the tax base, which would ultimately affect senior care. Candidates were also questioned about when the Strathcona Community Hospital was to open. Olesen, PC candidate noted it would be sometime in 2013. Other discussions were on how to keep doctors and nurses practicing in Alberta and in-home care for seniors.
You probably don’t give your furnace a second thought unless you push the button and if fails to go on. Just like any other major system, your home furnace needs some TLC once in a while. Regular maintenance will make your furnace more efficient, not work as hard and save you money in the long run.
Furnace cleaning should be done at least once every two years as part of your regular home maintenance. The ductwork, which carries the heated air into your home, can get filled with dust, pet hair, food and sometimes stray toys. All of this gets blown into your living space, reducing the air quality and in some cases triggering allergies and respiratory distress.
Cleaning the furnace ducts improves airflow, lower your heating costs and gives you a more pleasant breathing experience. Cleaning more than once every two years is warranted after renovations or if water has somehow gotten into the ducts, which can cause mold spores to be spread into your living space. Hire a professional to make sure the job is done right.
Filters should be checked once a month. The filter keeps dust and debris from hurting the furnace fan. Some types of filters may be vacuumed, others need replaced. The maximum lifespan for any filter is a year.
Furnace inspections are also needed at least once a year and the best time to do so is the spring. Most firms offer free inspections, which will make sure your furnace is running smoothly and not emitting carbon monoxide gas, which can be deadly.
Strathcona County ended up at the head of the pack in Money Sense magazine where it was featured in an article called “Best Places to Live.” The annual piece noted that the county was considered the best place to find employment and to raise a family. The study covered 190 communities across Canada and Strathcona County placed 11th overall.
Linda Osinchuk, Strathcona County Mayor, noted that being picked for being best for families was not much of a surprise, since the county makes an effort to make it attractive to that demographic. She thanked all the residents and all others in the community that helped them win that honor.
The study actually looked at 22 different categories that covered items like air quality, culture, unemployment rate and population growth. Each category garnered communities a certain number of points. Statistics Canada provided the data. The community with the most points came out on top. This year it was Ottawa that came away with 74.11 points and that top spot.
Strathcona County also did well in jobless rate, discretionary income and household income. The one category that could use improvement concerns residents not being able to walk or ride a bike to work, where the county came in 177th. Another ranking of note was the availability of doctors per 1,000 people, where the county came in at 46th place. As far as population growth, Strathcona County’s rate was 12.1 percent.
The Elk Island Catholic School Board is doing a bit of student shuffling and the parents are not too pleased. Last week the board held its public meetings and it is safe to say those members got an earful. The discussion was about moving students from Kindergarten through Grade 9 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help to the current, soon to be replaced Archbishop Jordan Catholic High School. A new high school, of the same name, will open in September and all of Jordan’s current students are moving there.
Then junior high students from Jean Vanier, St. Theresa and Madonna schools would be combined in the then available Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The elementary grades at Jean Vanier Elementary School would more to Madonna. Jean Vanier will close.
First question was asked of Tony Sykora, wanting to know why Jean Vanier was picked for closing. His reason given was that the school needed an excessive amount of renovation and would be the most costly to fix. The heating system would take about $1 million to fix. Sykora also cited low enrollment.
The main dissension was that junior high students would be moving into a school that was suited for younger grades. Council advised it would take about $250,000 to get it ready for the coming school year, but some items would be ongoing, such as equipment for the CTS programs. Residents can expect a decision by the end of March.
The annual Youth Speakers Invitational is scheduled for March 14th. The event welcomes students to complete for the honor of being named the top speaker in Strathcona County. Now in its fourth year, the competition is open to Grades four through six.
Jordan Smith, a teacher from Brentwood Elementary who is also this year’s organizer, notes that the competition has grown each year, going from three schools in the inaugural year to 14 in 2011. This year there will be students competing from 20 schools. The county sees about 2,500 students participating, first in month long competitions at their respective schools. The top four speakers of each grade compete in the finals March 14th.
ATB Financial is the official sponsor for the event this year. That means less funding comes out of the county budget. The judges have yet to be named, but in the past they have included Linda Osinchuk, the Strathcona County Mayor and Superintendent Bruce from the Elk Island Public Schools.
The competition actually started at Brentwood Elementary six years ago. After one of the founders moved to another school, the competition grew, first at that new school, eventually going county wide. The event encourages public speaking, helps to combat shyness and increases self-esteem. Competition begins at 5 pm with the first round. Finalists from that round go to the main competition starting at 7:30 pm. The event is being held at the Strathcona County Community Centre.
There is no mention of funding for moving Colchester Elementary School students to neighboring Fultonvale Elementary-Junior High because of the Heartland Lines in the 2012 provincial budget. Still Elk Island Public Schools, or EIPS, is hoping that Alberta will come through with the money. Karen Sand, EIPS spokesperson noted that the district is working with the government towards that end.
This is a necessary move to protect students from possibly harmful side-effects from being too close to high-powered transmission lines. The Heartland Project, which appears to be on the road to approval, is set to carry 500Kv of power through each of two lines. These lines are within 200 meters of Colchester Elementary, running parallel with Highway 216.
The intent is to have the evacuation completed by the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year. EPIS members, parents and representatives form Alberta Infrastructure and Education all agreed this would be the safest move. Altalink and Epcor plan on having the Heartland Project in operation by fall of 2013.
Funding is needed to install modular buildings to accommodate more students, and to further modernize and expand Fultonvale. If for some reason the funds are not allowed, then parents may have to look for other schools to place their children. That is not an acceptable option, in anyone’s opinion.
The 2012 Capital Budget was amended by Strathcona County’s council this past Tuesday to account for the Campbelltown Heights Water/Wastewater Service Project. The expected cost for the project is $811,865, and would involve designing and building a new water distribution system. Also included, for those living in Campbelltown Heights, is a STEP waste water collection system.
Laura Probst, head of Financial Services for the county noted that this project was left out because of an oversight. The county expects the project to begin this spring, as scheduled, with the actual construction completed by summer. Council advised there would not be delays or increases in costs to worry about. A public meeting will be held in Campbelltown Heights sometime during the latter part of February and in March.
Another issue brought up was the Androssan Wastewater, Regional Plant project. After a debate, approval was granted to take $ 2 million out of reserve funding to get the project going. This is an upfront loan for the developers of said project, and not a common practice.
Jason Gariepy was the only councilor that voted against the loan, noting that the other instance granted roughly a year ago for building roadways for the Emerald Hills neighborhood was to be a one time thing. The reason for the exception during that time was because of construction of a school in the area. The developers will pay the money back, with interest, but the more you continue this practice, the more risk for the county and its taxpayers.
It is definitely winter in Strathcona County. The cold and the snow are really big clues. Along with those two messengers heralding this chilly season comes the inevitable winder driving issue. The beginning of winter is always the worst as people get used to the icy, slushy streets.
Constable Wally Henry with the Strathcona County RCMP noted that this year is no different. Collisions are up, but luckily there have been no serious injuries. This year it seems that people may have been lulled into a false sense of security because most of winter has been relatively mild. But, the honeymoon, as they say, is over.
The RCMP is warning against driving too fast for conditions, and if possible, not even going out on the roads if things are too bad. Cars take longer to stop in icy conditions, even with snow tires. Tickets have been issued for excessive speed and unsafe driving.
Another concern this time of year is for pets. It’s too cold for them to be outside except for quick bathroom breaks or walks. People have been reporting stray animals and the authorities have been following up, but so far there have been few problems.
Sherwood Park’s Salisbury Village Optima complex, currently under construction, is on target to be one of the most environmentally friendly developments in town. The Wye Road development is a 50 unit complex three-stories tall and offers advanced building technology and a contemporarily designed urban profile.
Designers at Ziola New Studio Architecture came up with the many winged concept. Core Developments teamed up with ReSol Financial Group to get the project underway. All of the units are being built with materials that are long-wearing and energy efficient.
Sherwood Park is quickly running out of available land space for development, so this project is part of the city’s switch to a more sustainable building mode initiated in 2010. Phase One of the Salisbury Village project is turning out to be the pilot project, so much is riding on its success. Another sustainable development, Emerald Hills, has yet to start construction.
When finished the Salisbury development will be LEED certified, using building methods approved by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Optima is making sure the construction methods comply with the new bylaws and requirements laid out by Strathcona’s Sustainable Urban Neighborhood group, otherwise known as SUN. This group was formed to work with developers on creating a more sustainable urban village environment.
Strathcona County still has concerns about the path of the Heartland Transmission Line, so it has filed an appeal to the decision from the Alberta Utilities Commission. They are asking the AUC to reconsider burying the part of the line that goes past Sherwood Park underground. The AUC may or may not decide to even consider the appeal from Strathcona County or anyone else that happens to lodge one.
It seems that there are recent events that may sway the AUC’s decision to put the 500kV line above ground. One of those events is the fact that Alberta has recently set aside two other high voltage power-line projects to do further study. Both the eastern and western Alberta lines are in limbo. Apparently no one involved in the Heartland project was aware of either suspension.
AltaLink’s partner Epcor is against the underground option because it would increase the cost to more than $1 billion. The above ground lines would cost around $610 million. Strathcona’s appeal also noted that the public interest was not served by the AUC. Instead they based their decision mostly on the money factor. The actual families being displaced, and those that would be living in the mere shadow of the proposed line, were not given due consideration.
Epcor had planned on starting work on the project this December. Depending on where this appeal goes, those plans may be delayed.
Christmas has arrived at the Strathcona County Museums and Archives. The doors open Saturday, when people will be able to see a display of Christmas memorabilia from not only North America, but from far away Germany, Great Britain and Norway. Vintage trains, hockey skates and other items donated by local people make up the new exhibit.
This year, for the first time, the museum tried the concept of asking people in the community to donate items to be part of the celebration. The success no doubt means there will be a repeat showing in the future. Some of the people that have items in the museum are Kevin Prendergast, featuring items from Quebec, Inger Paulson’s, with his collection of Danish items, Starr Hanson’s showing German items and Peter and Jane Staveley adding a bit of British flair.
The opening this Saturday also features a craft fair, activities for the kids including lessons on making sugar cookies, and lots of hot chocolate. Christmas ornaments, wreathes, old fashioned cards will also be on sale. Hours are 10am to 4pm daily except when the museum is closed during the final two weeks of December. The display runs until the middle of January and admission is free.
There has been a plan afoot for revamping the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton for quite some time now. In fact, the idea came about six years ago, when Ralph Klein was premier. A competition was held and the winning design was revealed. So what happened?
Alberta had a change in government. Ed Stelmach took the reins and the museum project was tabled, indefinitely. Reasons given were first because of the downturn in the economy, and then conversely because the economy was too hot and construction and labor costs were skyrocketing. The architect, Donna Clare, who won the contest even came up with several new designs, but no go. It seems that Stelmach was not going to finish what Klein started, no matter what.
Then this past April, Stelmach came up with his own idea for the Royal Alberta Museum, build another one behind city hall. Donna Clare won this contest as well. It seemed to be a go, and then, well, another premier entered office. Alison Redford, Alberta’s new leader, called a press conference to announce that this museum plan was also going to be scrapped. In this case the reason was that the federal government withdrew its commitment to contribute $92.5 million to the project. As such, the province would not be able to meet its November 16th signing deadline.
Is this another case of a new premier not wanting to finish a predecessor’s vision? It appears that the story may be a bit ambiguous, since the feds are denying their part in it. Best guess is that Redford doesn’t want to spend money on something that would become a Stelmach legacy. Funny how history somehow repeats itself…
On Tuesday, October 4th, the Strathcona County council was presented with the framework of a business plan outlining items hoping to be accomplished between 2012 and 2014. The intent is to get a handle on what is needed so that those needs can be considered during the November budget meetings.
Kelly Rudyk, who is in charge of the county’s Corporate Planning and Intergovernmental Affairs office, notes that this early, but it does give council the chance to study the proposals. That did happen, and as a result some of the items were taken off the table. One of these items was shrub bed maintenance, which was delayed until future meetings.
One important issue deals with discontinuing mobile photo radar and the revenue loss from doing so. The photo radar will be in operation until September of 2012. RCMP Officer Gary Steinke noted that it would cost $405,000 to remove the mobile photo radar devices within the first year. The following year that cost would be reduced by $24,441. Steinke noted that to hire officers to replace the devices would cost $750,000 during 2012 and $888,441 for both 2013 and 2014.
Linda Osinchuk, the mayor, advised that the hiring issues would be part of the budget talks. There would also be talk of hiring both peace officers and RCMP officers to help enforce traffic issues.
Gary Mar is running for the Tory leadership in Alberta and is running into a problem. When he was finishing his term in 2007, he took a $500,000 payout before that term ended. Originally he said he would never take any such money. Turns out he later said he was only deferring the payment, not committing to non-acceptance of the funds.
All of this was rehashed at a debate this past Wednesday, as his rivals Doug Horner and Alison Redford brought up the incident and questioned his trustworthiness. Mar noted that this funding is known as a transitional allowance, and is a common practice of departing MLAs. Redford simply stated she had a problem with the practice, period.
Mar is the frontrunner in the race, so both Horner and Redford sort of ganged up on the leader, oftentimes agreeing with each other on issues and opposing Mar. Typical political strategy when the only way you can go is up. Mar was also criticized on health care. He supports a private option, in addition to public health care.
The only issue they three managed to agree on was that money from the province should go towards the sometimes controversial downtown arena in Edmonton. This has been a hot topic in Alberta for months now. Redford did agree with Mar that the provincial books could be balanced by 2013. But neither Horner nor Redford were on board with spending being dependent on the energy industry.
Strathcona County has been evaluating the pros and cons of an aquatic center in Sherwood Park. Residents have had opportunities to provide viewpoints on indoor or outdoor pools, by way of the Strathcona Aquatic Strategy.
Mayor Linda Osinchuk commented in a press release that feedback from residents has resulted in five different concepts for a possible indoor pool. Recently conducted open houses have resulted in people’s ability to comment on potential venues for the aquatic facility.
According to Sarah Geisler, the recreation program specialist for Strathcona County Recreation, Parks and Culture, the open houses were well-attended by residents. The first open house was attended by some 150 people. Geisler said that people are passionate about the prospects of a pool, and that the first open houses provided an opportunity for her organization to listen to residents’ wants and needs.
Geisler emphasized that swimming pools are an expensive asset, and that the community wants to make sure that any pool would meet the needs of the most people. She added that she sought feedback not just from current users of the athletic facilities, but also from people who are not using them. She indicated her interest in wanting to know why residents have not been utilizing the facilities so that they might be attracted to them in the future.
The next step in the process for a pool will be the October 18 workshop hosted by the county council. At this forum, information will be provided on possible sites, as well as feedback collected thus far. If the council approves funding for the aquatic center, construction could begin as soon as 2013, with an opening projected for 2014 or 2015.
Three hockey players from Sherwood Park made the short list for Team Pacific, an under 17 hockey team slated to play at the 2012 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. The event will take place in Windsor, Ontario from December 29th to January 4th at this year’s end.
The three men are Tyler Morrison, Mason Geertsen, both defensemen, and Greg Chase, a forward. All spent last season playing with the Kings, a Sherwood Park Midget AAA team. Geersten and Chase previously were first round picks in the bantam draft for the 2010 Western Hockey League. Edmonton Oil Kings picked Geersten, who was 19th in the pick, and Chase, who was 22nd, went to Calgary.
Of the 46 players that competed at the July camp for Team Alberta, 32 were short-listed. Now those picks will be scouted during their respective team games between now and November as Team Alberta picks 11 final players. The other 11 come from British Columbia.
Making it to the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge is quite the achievement. It opens the doors to playing for the U-18 and U-20 leagues in the National Team Canada organization. Team Pacific members play against four teams from across Canada as well as international teams from the United States, Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Last year’s team won the bronze metal after defeating Team Quebec. Hockey greats Dion Phaneuf and Jarome Iginla were both part of Team Pacific.
The final submissions are in to the Alberta Utilities Commission regarding the Heartland Transmission Project. Both Strathcona County and an organization called Responsible Electricity Transmission or RETA, put in their recommendations for the preferred route and the burying of transmission lines along that route. Now all the people of Strathcona County can do is wait for the decision of the commission.
Linda Osinchuk, the county’s mayor is hopeful that the submissions outline the reasons and the benefits of having the 500kv line, to be built by AltaLink and Epcore, put underground. She was reassured by the varied number of parties to be involved in the decision, and that the issue would be treated fairly.
The Heartland Transmission Project was considered a necessity for the county under Bill 50, so it did not need the usual assessment. But John Kristensen, who is vice president of RETA, advised that the evidence presented by different groups within the province warrant that assessment. He notes that the groups have provided sufficient evidence of health and safety concerns to merit putting at least 20 kilometres of the line, if not the entire project, some 66 kilometres long, underground.
Kristensen warned that there would indeed be a backlash if the line were to be built above ground. He noted that a number of politicians who are looking to fill Ed Stelmach’s leadership role have voiced opposition to Bill 50. The decision will be made by October 24th.
The downpour this last weekend in Edmonton caused flooding at the Lakeland Village Mobile Home Park. The owner, Stephen Mandel, who also happens to be the city’s mayor, along with his staff worked through the weekend to try and minimize the damage. The flood extended from the neighborhood pond all the way to a strip mall and gasoline station that is at the park’s entrance. In some places the water was waist high.
Mandel has hired an investigator to find out why this is happening. Apparently it’s not the first time, but this was apparently the worst. The drains could not handle the excess water during the downpour. One long time resident advised flooding occurs every year in the same place. Another resident, who has lived in the park 13 years, advised that the draining ditches are too small and the water pumps are not powerful or big enough. Management has been notified repeatedly.
Mandel thinks the problem is coming from downstream, most likely because of the blossoming development of Sherwood Park. There is so much water draining from that development that it is going too fast and the drainage system just can’t handle it. Mayor Linda Osinchuk of Strathcona County, where Sherwood Park is located advised she would be working with Mandel to find the problem.
The prospect of Pioneer Housing building low-income housing units south of the Silver Birch Lodge is causing quite a stir, both with those residents and neighboring Brighton Bay. Strathcona County council approved the first reading on the firm’s application for a $ 7 million loan for the four-storey, 7-unit complex. Last February $5 million was also approved by council, coming out of funds slated to go towards affordable housing. Those living nearby are not as thrilled with the idea.
At issue is the fact that Pioneer Housing, which built and sold Silver Birch Lodge as a senior community, had the property rezoned, more than a decade after the first residents moved into the development. They then sent a letter to residents informing them that low-income housing was going in to accommodate all age groups. The rezoning was done in 2008; the informing of the residents by letter was in 2011. There was a definite lack of communication, intentional or otherwise.
The application must still go through two more readings scheduled for August. Meanwhile, some of the neighbors have sent some recommendations for the new project. Included are changing the size of the building to be only two-storeys tall, changing the location of the parking lot so it is farther away from the existing residences and putting up a chain link fence with proper landscaping to make it eye-appealing. Also on the list of must haves are plenty of reliable lighting and security cameras.
Strathcona County is still determining what types of issues can be discussed in public meetings, and what should be left for in-camera, or private council sessions. They are trying to follow the guidelines of the Freedom of Protection and Privacy Act as well as the Municipal Government Act, or MGA.
The latter directs that all council meetings will be open to the public unless the matter to be discusses is deemed to be of a sensitive nature. Motions can only be made and passed in a public meeting. The exception to this is the making of a motion in the private session that the meeting is now to become public.
The term in-camera is used to describe a meeting that is held in court behind closed doors with only the councilors and involved parties present. Items discussed are confidential. Both Mayor Lind Osinchuk and Peter Wlodarczak, a councilor, agree that at times in-camera sessions are necessary. The council does attempt to remain transparent as much as possible.
Public council meetings usually start in the afternoon, the normal time being 2 pm. But council holds their in-camera sessions in the morning, prior to the public meeting.
Visitors to the Strathcona County Community Centre will soon find more free parking spaces available. The 20 stalls already allocated is not enough, and the city has agreed to add an additional 30. The free stalls will have a two-hour time limit from Monday to Friday from 7am to 5pm.
The city will step up its parking enforcement efforts at the Center in the Park, in both the free surface lot and in the parkade, which does charge a fee. Part of the problem, brought to light by letters to the Strathcona County Library, was because of high school students from both Archbishop Jordan and Salisbury Composite Schools filling up the parking stalls. The library is in-between both schools. This led to other issues such as cars blocking other cars in because of a lack of space.
The intent of creating Centre in the Park, or the community centre, was to encourage people to walk or use public transit to get to the facility. But feedback from that same public has made it clear that additional stalls are needed. The city is also increasing the number of handicap stalls in the parkade from three to six, also based on public comment and need. These will also be strictly enforced by the parking officers.
Talks between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers have broken down. That was on Monday. At that time a 72 hour strike notice was issued by the CUPW, to be exercised if no agreements were made. As the clock ran down, the first area to make the strike official was Winnipeg, Manitoba. At 11:59 pm on Thursday, a rotating strike began, which means mail will be delivered, but much more slowly. Employees rotate working shifts with being on strike.
Other areas may end up holding full on strikes, where no one works. In that case, the national union has agreed to allow mail carriers to voluntarily deliver items such as social assistance and pension checks. The intent is not to cause undue hardship for those who need that support to live.
At issue between the two sides is forced overtime, salaries, particularly for new workers, and vacation time. Canada Post is asking employees to work ten years to qualify for a month’s vacation, rather than the current seven. Employees start with three weeks per year. As far as wages, Canada Post wants to decrease the starting salary by 22 percent.
Staffing is a big problem. Some examples are St Albert, Sherwood Park and Edmonton. During the last couple of years these areas did not have enough letter carriers to insure people were getting delivery Monday to Friday. This mean forced overtime. In some cases, like in Sherwood Park, even with the overtime, some homes went nine days or more without mail delivery. CUPW wants this issue resolved as well.
Despite the fact that gasoline prices, to put it one way, are through the roof, Albertans are still diving into their wallets to support their love affair with cars and trucks. In March, residents of that province snapped up 18,041 vehicles, a 4.2 percent increase over this past February. It is also a 9.7 percent increase over sales in March of 2010. Other than September of 2010, this is the best sales month since the recession in 2008. In Alberta, March also came out as the third month in a row that showed an increase from the prior month.
Looking at car and truck sales on the national level, sales increased 2.0 percent. That translates into 135,261 vehicles. The better part of those sales went to North American built cars according to Statistics Canada. That company’s report did not have information about the type of cars Albertans were buying. Typically known for being fond of trucks, understandable in a largely rural province, it is yet to be seen if there is any trend towards buying smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles. Other reports on auto sales across Canada seem to indicate that the country is leaning that direction. Since gas prices are hurting everyone, it is likely Albertans who can are doing the same.
Also of interest to those who watch money matters in Alberta, the province has the highest percentage of mortgages in arrears than anywhere else in Canada. The percentage as of February in 2011 was 0.83 percent. The national average is 0.45 percent. This is a concern because interest rates are bound to go up, and more homeowners may start having trouble making ends meet.
The third debate between Federal Election candidates in the Edmonton-Sherwood Park area was held at Festival Place this past Tuesday. It was part of the meeting hosted by the Sherwood Park and District Chamber of Commerce. Participants were Chris Vallee of the Green Party, Tim Uppal, a Conservative, Rick Szostak, Liberal party, Paul St Laurent from the Western Bloc and James Ford, an Independent.
Most of the questions went to either the Liberal Szostak or the Conservative Uppal, with only two to the Independent candidate Ford. It seems that the community had narrowed their choice down to these two, and was just trying to make up their minds. The main issue, as expected, was the economy.
Szostak noted that the economy would not be such a big issue had the Liberals been in power when the recession hit. He went on to explain that the Liberals had a $13 billion surplus when the party was defeated back in 2006. The Conservative government in essence used all of that surplus, and more. If Canada still had its surplus when the recession occurred, the country would have been in better shape. Szostak also noted that John A MacDonald, back in 1889, had the last Conservative led government to lead the country out of a recessionary period.
Uppal defended the Conservative’s handling of the recession. He noted that tax cuts, part of the party platform is important for Canada. Uppal encouraged voters to put in a Harper Conservative Majority in power to preserve low taxes, fight crime and continue to improve the economy. While St Laurent, with the Western Bloc Party, is opposed to taxes, he did note that government should tax just enough to fund reasonable government. His idea for federal government is to stick to federal issues, like controlling the borders.
Recent comments about Alberta’s oilsands are causing frustration and even embarrassment for political members.
Premier Ed Stelmach recently penned an open letter to Canadians regarding the oilsands, discussing the idea that select federal party leaders and some candidates have been pitting province against province for political gain. Stelmach also said that some policy platforms will stifle economic growth and become a detriment to tax politics.
Brian Mason, the NDP party leader, said the letter is a wedge to improve the standing of Conservative candidates, and Energy Minister Ron Liepert said the letter was laid out well in explaining misinformation that is released in the media.
Liepert was a recent target on an oilsands issue attack, though. Last week, US President Barack Obama commented that there are environmental questions about tarsands destructiveness, and said he wants to examine every question.
Liepert responded to the President’s remarks, saying his division could brief him on the issues and it would only take Obama 15 minutes to read about the issues. Leipert was quoted as saying he wished Obama would sign the Keystoen XL project order and get on with it.
Guy Boutilier, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo’s MLA, said Leipert throws tantrums when things aren’t going his way and was embarrassed that Liepert insulted Canada’s best customer.
Liepert’s office was unavailable for comment.
Plans for the new Cambrian Crossing development to be located north of Highway 16 have been approved. It will go up in four phases over 10 to 15 years and ultimately house 7,200 people. Since Sherwood Park is expected to be out of building space by 2014, the additional homes will be needed. Mayor Linda Osinchuk from Strathcona, wants people to be comfortable with building the first neighborhood North of Yellowhead.
The land site already has services so it is a less expensive option that to try and add homes to Ardrossan which has limited infrastructure. Another plus is the addition of a shuttle service promised by the Cambrian group’s Michael Von Hausen back in July of 2010. The layout of Cambrian Crossing will also be pedestrian friendly and will have businesses close enough that residents can opt to walk to work. The shuttle gives them choice.
The developers will also acknowledge that some people want to continue using their cars by making sure the plans allow for ample parking and easy to navigate streets. Also citing concern from those in agribusinesses about using agricultural land, Osinchuk will have developers take a look at road alignment. But the county is growing and ultimately some land will have to be sacrificed for homes. The key is to use what is taken wisely.
When the budget for the 2011-2012 school year was recently passed, it was uncertain whether the much applauded and needed Keys to Empowering Youth to Succeed (KEYS) program would survive. As it turns out, the provincial government will still be funding the Support Mental Health Capacity Building (MHCB), of which KEYS is a part, but that allotted amount would be less.
The Minister of health and wellness, Gene Zwozdesky, announced that $19.2 million has been budgeted for MHCB to cover the next three years. Funds will then be sent to the 24 expansion centers, of which 19 are KEYS members. Elk Island Public Schools (EIPS) coordinating director Tanya Orr does not known how that funding will be divided. Vegreville and Sherwood Park each have an EIPS school with a KEYS program.
Meetings will be held between MHCB leaders and the coordinators of the local project sites to discuss how the funding will be divided up, but no date has been set. There are currently 39 separate projects scheduled to receive part of that $19.2 million. Projects that assist children and youth up to age 19 have priority as far as funding goes. At this point no one knows how much the reduced funding will affect programming and services of the affiliated projects.
Who knew that a calculator buried in the ground for twenty years would still work? That is exactly what happened when a time capsule buried in 1991 at Ardrossan Junior-Senior High was opened. Principal Dan Vanderburgh started punching the buttons and the calculator was still managing to crunch numbers.
Other items were pulled out of the capsule, among them a floppy disk, the pre-cursor to the CD, a VHS tape, grandfather to the DVD and a photo of an analog phone with a price tag of $249.99. A paper one-dollar bill, pre-loonie, was discovered as was a photo of a ninja turtle. In case you don’t remember those, ninja turtles were a group of crime fighting amphibians that dressed in warrior costumes and took the names of famous people, like Leonardo and Michelangelo.
Other items that had more sentimental value were an old sports jersey and a photo of a past theatre production. Vanderburgh got particularly emotional about the latter because he saw the production and remembered the kids. Some of those kids were among those that returned to the school for the February 24th unveiling.
Plans are to bury another time capsule to be opened in 2035. Androssan celebrates its 75th birthday in that year. The 1991 capsule contained items selected from the senior class. Vanderburgh wants to allow all grades to participate in the making of the new capsule. I wonder if an IPad would work after 25 years underground.
Firefighters and dispatchers from Strathcona County Emergency Services will be holding a roof-in on the top of Fire Station 1 starting Tuesday, February 22. Perhaps the more correct term would be roof-on. The idea is to camp out on the roof for three days in the hopes of raising $50,000 for Muscular Dystrophy. This is the second year for the campout. In 2010 the group raised $38,000. This year they have the process down to an almost science. Lt Mike Nicholson is one of the organizers and also a representative of the Western Canada division of Muscular Dystrophy Canada.
This year the teams will have two tents rather than one. There will be three firefighters and one dispatcher on the roof at all times and another team in front of Station 1 to collect donations. The roof and curb will be manned in shifts. One of the tents will serve as a welcome area to host guests that want to participate. Weather-wise it looks like for that week the average high will be -4 C and the average low -13 C. Day shifts will be ten hours and night shifts 14 hours, same as the regular shift schedules.
Strathcona County is also challenging departments in Leduc, Spruce Grove, St Albert and Edmonton to hold their own roof-in and/or to raise money for the cause. Besides dropping by and donating there are other ways to help. Go online to www.muscle.ca/campout to donate or use your cell phone. For the latter, text “muscle” to 30333 and $5 will be donated and charged to your cell bill.
Strathcona County sought the help of a Vancouver based research firm to find out exactly how much money the residents were spending and where that money was going. Though the report has not been finalized, those at the Chamber of Commerce meeting this past January 19th got a preview from Strathcona’s Manager of Economic Development and Tourism, Gerry Gabinet.
In short, those living in Strathcona County tended to spend more on average than residents of Edmonton. In convenience spending the county was ten percent higher, food and beverage 16 percent more and for entertainment Strathconians spent about 14 percent more. Roughly $1.04 billion was spent in retail businesses during 2010. But not all of that money is staying in the county.
Shoppers were heading towards South Edmonton Common, Southgate, Kingsway Mall, West Edmonton Mall and other vendors on the south side of town in search of needed or wanted goods. About 28 percent of residents made the trek into town about once a week and 13 percent made even more trips. Granted some people who worked in the city took care of things while already there, so those numbers might not give the entire picture.
But what it does tell those who manage Strathcona County is that there is a market ready and waiting for some businesses to set up shop closer to home. Gabinet noted that some companies such as Home Outfitters, Pet Smart, The Gap and Best Buy have already been approached about moving in. The study basically confirmed that city fathers were on the right track.
Mention the word snow and you will have skiers and snowboarders doing mental cartwheels and envisioning making tracks in all that fresh powder. Mention that word to commuters trying to get from their toasty warm homes to the office and the reaction is not quite so enthusiastic. It’s even worse if you happen to park your car outside. First, find the car. Actually, first, never buy a white car. If you can’t figure out why then you obviously have not been through a decent Canadian winter.
Edmonton’s winter so far has been extraordinarily decent. This past weekend saw 20 centimetres of snow covering up cars, trees, anything that happened to get in the way. The weekend before 40 centimetres fell on city streets. Between those two storms and all the snow falling in-between, Edmonton is within reach of breaking the snow pack record set in 1971. By the end of January during that year 66 centimetres had blanketed the city.
So far the snow pack in Edmonton is about half that amount, but Mother Nature isn’t done yet. Another storm is due in by the beginning of the week.
All of this snow has played havoc with travellers trying to get in or out of Edmonton International, either on a flight or simply getting to the airport. Traffic accidents and vehicle problem calls are up, meaning an average eight hour wait for a tow truck. The city road crews are on double shifts, trying to keep the roads passable.
Add to all of this the mass of Arctic air that appears to have parked itself on top of the city. Snow and extreme cold is never a favourable combination. Warmer temperatures are expected later in the week, but for now telecommuting sounds very tempting…especially if you can’t find your white car.
Don’t count on Rudolph to get you home if you’ve had too much to drink at holiday parties. Operation Red Nose has been cancelled this year. According to Constable Wally Henry, the Strathcona County RCMP’s media liaison, the program that gave free transportation to inebriated individuals suffered from lack of funding.
Henry noted that many people took advantage of Operation Red Nose in previous years, but that he hoped for a host of alternatives to driving while intoxicated. One option he suggested is to use a taxi service. Henry acknowledged that there is often a longer wait for taxis during the holiday season, but that perhaps people could contact family or friends if they are not able to drive or locate a cab.
Henry said that he would be surprised if anyone receiving a call from a friend or family member needing a ride would not step up to assist. He advised that now, more than ever, people are aware of the potentially dire consequences of drunk driving. With that in mind, said Henry, there is no excuse for an increase in the amount of driver arrests.
Business colleagues are urged to take care of each other, and provide rides home for co-workers who have been a bit overzealous in celebrating.
Henry advised that he hopes that Operation Red Nose will be resurrected next year. If the group that had previously managed the operation is unable to do it in 2011, perhaps another organization would be able to revive the program.
Keeping up with advanced technology, as well as upgrading to modern learning techniques, are key objectives for Elk Island Catholic Schools. The schools are taking steps to ensure that even their youngest students are receiving the latest standards of education.
With that in mind, ECIS is examining a reporting statement for all kindergartens in the divisions. This could possibly be implemented during the current school year. According to Tony Sykora, who is the EICS board of trustees’ chair, early childhood education should be better able to accommodate young students and their unique learning requirements. Sykora said that a junior kindergarten might be a viable option for special-needs children, noting that such a program could assist with these students’ eventual integration into mainstream programs.
The kindergarten-reporting prospect dovetails with the same type of reporting initiative for first graders. That program was launched during 2009-2010. Sykora said that participation in the kindergarten program is entirely voluntary on the part of parents. He emphasized the board’s philosophy that parents are the primary teachers, and that Catholic schools and churches help to support the parents’ moral training.
EICS recently introduced the PowerSchool program, and seeks to implement it to some 15 schools during this school year. PowerSchool is an integrated data system for students. Teachers, administrators and school office personnel learned the system, including its functionality for scheduling and registration.
Sykora is also enthusiastic about improvements to the schools’ technology prospects. Previously, his organization would buy computers that were maintained by district workers. Now, all technology is leased with a defined warranty. When the leases expire, the replacement equipment is of the latest technology.
Scammers are at it again and are targeting the elderly, as usual. Two seniors in Sherwood Park were tricked out of $3,900 and $2,900 this past November 16th via a long used telephone scam that has resurfaced yet again. The elderly are the favored targets because they tend to have a giving nature and be more trusting.
The way this scam works is that a caller will identify himself as a family member, usually a grandchild, and say they are in need of money. Usually this is said to be for bail money. They trick the senior into giving a name, then use that name throughout the call. If the first call doesn’t work, sometimes a follow up call is made. The caller then identifies himself as a lawyer for that family member, again asking for money.
RCMP is advising seniors, or anyone else for that matter, that gets such calls to report them to the police. Constable Wally Henry advises just to hang up the phone and not even talk to the caller. Then notify police and if possible include the call display number if available. The more information the police can gather the better chance of shutting down the scam operation.
Anyone getting a call from a family member requesting money should verify the request with another family member. Most of the calls appear to be coming from eastern Canada, and they are on the rise because it appears to be a lucrative venture.
It looks like the homeowners of Strathcona County will be getting a 4.86 percent property tax increase if the 2011 budget as written is approved on December 14th. Usually there are some alterations, but that for now is the best educated guess. The figure is actually less than the five year average of 5.57 percent.
Almost 61 percent of your tax dollars will be going towards municipal services and to keep the same level of service, the tax hike will have to remain basically the same. Other items supported are education, taking 36 percent of the pie, the community library takes two percent and the remaining one percent is dedicated to the Pioneer Housing Foundation.
The budget itself is calculated at $51.6 million, which is lower than the $131 million that is the five year average. The full report, called the Budget binders, that has all the details was not ready in time for the meeting. The Financial Services department was having staffing issues. It will be ready in time for the first official presentation and discussion on November 29th. Further meetings will be held on December 1st, 3rd, 6th and 9th.
Topics slated for discussion which may or may not alter the proposed tax increase include budget requests from councillors, initiatives for business plans and projects in the county that are under consideration. The goal is to stay within budget, keep taxes reasonable but at the same time, not decrease the level of municipal services.
Canada’s economy seems to be in a recovery mode, but the rest of the world is not faring quite as well, which can still affect us. The United States, Japan and countries in Europe are still seeing very slow growth, much of it due to the number of people out of work. This global sluggishness will bring down annual world growth rates by a full percent throughout 2015.
Canada is energy rich and that in part has contributed to the strong loonie. It has been playing on both sides of par with the United States for quite a while now. But Canada must keep moving forward, encourage innovative ideas and boost its productivity to become a true global competitor. Most of all, Canada has to learn to live with a much stronger currency. Economist Glen Hodgson referred to Canada as the Switzerland or Norway of the North American continent.
The real concern is Canada’s aging work force and the high number of retirees expected as the Baby Boomers reach that time of life. Alberta’s workforce is only expected to increase by 1.5 percent per year between 2011 and 2015. After that, through 2020, the rate is expected to slow to about one percent per year. From 2006 to 2010, the average per year growth was three percent. Canada needs to replace its workforce more rapidly if it is to maintain fiscal security and economic stability.
With its 7,400 hectares of land and a 160-kilometre trail, Edmonton’s valley parkland can be a formidable place for inexperienced walkers. However, one group in town knows its way around the valley like no other. The Wild Rose Ramblers have been hiking through the area since the group was founded in 1988. Pat Wishart, founder of the group along with Jean Horne, says that walking in the valley is an easy way to get exercise and make friends.
Last year, the Ramblers introduced their first book, called The Heart of the City. The publication offers 14 hiking options throughout Edmonton’s central area. Complete with directions, maps and historical information, the book has become a local favorite. It has made its way to area best-seller compilations in the nonfiction category. The Edmonton Nature Centres Foundation is the beneficiary of funds raised from the book’s sales.
The Ramblers are now at work on a sequel, which will focus on hiking opportunities around the southwest part of Edmonton. The group is hoping the new book will be available next spring.
Wishart says that many of the Ramblers have been members for more than ten years. She noted that the group is composed mostly of women, many of which are retirees or seniors. One member, 84-year-old Elizabeth Chow, said that she has been hiking with the Ramblers for 18 years. She became a member of the group after the death of her husband.
After their walks, many of the members gather for coffee. Member Pat Cartwell said that the Ramblers have enriched her in terms of knowledge as well as exercise. She noted that several of the members are always happy to share their knowledge of the plants and trees along the trails.
The Chamber of Commerce from Sherwood Park banded together with chambers of similarly sized communities from across Canada and because of their efforts the entire country has benefited. The group was successful in lowering costs for businesses across the nation and that savings has reduced Strathcona County’s costs as well.
Their collective lobbying has resulted in the federal government agreeing that EI premiums would not be seeing an increase. The neatly dodged one percent increase in the rates would have cost businesses some $66 million. Employers would have been responsible for more than 60 percent of the premiums.
Another victory was the extension of capital cost allowance rates nationwide. This takes effect in fiscal year 2013 to 2014. Perrin Beaty, who is the head of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, believes these changes came about because chambers from small communities across the country made their collective voice heard.
Beatty was in Sherwood Park to celebrate with the local Chamber this past week. He also gave the cheery news that because credit was becoming easier to access, by the year 2012; businesses across Canada will save over $14 billion. All thanks to Chamber of Commerce chapters, many of them in Alberta, that stuck together and brought their ideas and needs to the attention of Ottawa.
Strathcona County has a new wildlife area. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) just purchased two plots of land intended to be kept in an undeveloped state to serve as a protected wildlife habitat. The 148 acre Hicks property and the 315 acre Kallal property were acquired for a combined $1.7 million.
The additional acreage becomes part of the Cooking Lake Moraine Natural Area, established in the early 1900s. This natural area has been a rest stop for migrant birds and a year round home for mule deer, elk and moose. Red-tailed hawks also use the area as a breeding and hunting ground.
Hastings Creek, which runs through Cooking Lake Moraine Natural Area, will get another section added with the recent land purchase. This adds even more protected wetlands for migrating water birds, fish and other aquatic and land based animal species.
The Strathcona County wildlife area joins the ranks of Alberta’s existing wildlife parks including the Ministik Lake Game Bird Sanctuary, Blackfoot Grazing Wildlife Provincial Area and Elk Island National Park. Across Canada, the Natural Areas Conservation Program has set aside some 342,000 acres for the preservation of wildlife. There are 79 native species that are considered to be endangered or at risk.
It seems that some Strathcona County residents really don’t want a four lane highway cutting across their farmlands just south of Fort Saskatchewan. Over 100 disenchanted residents recently voiced that opinion at the Partridge Hill Community Hall. County officials told them, basically, it was the province’s idea, not Strathcona County.
The Alberta government asked for the bypass to go along with the Alberta Industrial Heartland Association’s master plan for the region. The county complied, picking out the route that would least affect residents. If the province has its way, the bypass will be built within the next 10 years.
But plans have changed for the region and the bypass may no longer be needed. Instead of the nine expected upgraders being built in the heartland area, only two or three will most likely become reality. That is a lot less traffic to accommodate. Upgraders process oil taken from the oil sands. Fewer upgraders means less oil being transported in and product coming out. Fewer employees will be commuting to work and back. Residents are not convinced the four lane road is needed.
Another objection from residents is that the road is being built for the benefit of the contractors building the upgraders and that after construction is done, the roadway will be left a virtually ghost-way. Why pay taxes on something that is superfluous? All of these concerns will be addressed with the five heartland association members. These five must approve the plan before it is sent to higher ups for further consideration.
An 11 year old boy lost his entire family this past Sunday in a horrific crash near Golden, British Columbia. Aashar Arshad was in a separate vehicle in front of the mini-van that the rest of his family was riding in. The young boy is understandably still trying to process what happened.
Killed in the crash were his father and mother, Arshad and Shakila Mahmoud, his two older sisters Dolly and Mahlaka, his grandfather and a teenage family friend. Aashar knew something bad was happening but he bravely waited for the ambulance to come, hoping for a good outcome. Unfortunately, no one in the mini-van survived.
Relatives are on their way to Edmonton, Alberta from their overseas home and it is not known if Aashar will be able to remain in Canada. Friends and neighbours are helping out in the meantime, both financially and emotionally. There has already been a fundraising drive started to help with expenses. Aashar is also getting support from very high places. The Consulate General of Pakistan in Edmonton, as well as the Vancouver office, is also contributing to the cause. Aashar is well loved, and through the pain, he is aware of that love.
Fort Saskatchewan is weathering the global recession quite well. Single family home permits are up, with 148 being issued during the first part of 2010. If the pace holds steady, the city could have 296 permits on the books by years end and may just break its old record of 250 single family home permits issued in 2007.
The way the population appears to be growing that seems entirely possible. A civic census completed in June of this year showed that the city’s population increased 6.78 percent since 2009. Prior to that, growth had been a steady four percent for the four previous years.
Mayor Jim Sheasgreen views this as positive and only sees a problem if the population starts to show increases in the double digits, like what happened in Airdrie. Short of that sort of population boom, the city is well equipped to handle the additional numbers.
The only part of the housing market that is in a slump is the multi-family home starts. In the first part of 2010, only 50 permits have been issued. If this pace keeps up, Fort Saskatchewan will have the lowest number of starts in this sector since 2003. The banner year for multi-family home starts was 2007, when 423 permits were issued.
It seems that residents in Calmar, Alberta are dealing with their own energy leak issues. Five new homes built too close to an abandoned gas well have to be moved because of safety concerns. Ken Allred, an MLA from St. Albert is on the side of these homeowners and others so afflicted and he intends to take the concerns to Premier Ed Stelmach.
Allred was a surveyor before he entered the political arena and would like to implement legislation that would create an energy industry registry. Those wanting to build in the province could check for abandoned wells, mines and other underground infrastructures. With all the oil production in Alberta, and the subsequent abandoned wells, this would keep new neighbourhoods safe. It would also protect the provinces underground power, gas and telecommunication lines from being damaged.
Allred had previously put a similar motion to the House which seemed to garner support until the Minister of Energy Ron Liepert rallied against it. The motion was defeated. The Calmar incident, which involved residents finding a leaking natural gas well behind a home in the Evergreen Crescent development, has increased awareness of the potential problems of “building blind.” Allred will take another run at getting legislation approved, but this time will start his lobbying at the top.
Despite the fact that the real estate market has not hit its bottom point, the 2010 Global Investor Sentiment Survey released by Colliers International reports that Canadian investors are cautiously hopeful for a quick upcoming recovery.
While eight of ten global responders surveyed report no offshore portfolios or plans to invest overseas, 64 per cent of the global community surveyed said they are considering purchases over the next year. Sixty-five per cent of Canadian private and institutional investors are considering purchasing over the next year.
Eighty-five per cent of Canadians surveyed shared that their plans will focus on the domestic market, with 27.8 per cent focusing on Toronto, 16.7 per cent on Montreal and Vancouver, 14.8 per cent on Edmonton and 11.1 per cent on Calgary.
The survey included 26 Canadian institutional property investors and over 244 large real estate investors with an investment portfolio totalling over $300 billion.
Colliers International Managing Director Joe Binfet said that developers are displaying an interest in properties that hasn’t been seen in a while. Investment decisions slowed in 2009 while investors waited for the market to reach bottom, but now land and industrial and retail real estate properties are in higher demand.
Surveyed Canadians shared that they prefer investing in Canada due to capital availability, assets quality, income stream diversification and better valuation matching income.
Vaughn Wyant sells cars. Fords, Volvos, Jags and soon to be…Porsches. In Saskatchewan? Nothing could be a better outward indicator of how the province has changed, both economically and image wise.
Saskatoon, the province’s largest city is fast becoming a modern day boomtown. It offers million dollar plus mansions in a development known as the Willows, a new championship calibre golf complex and its University of Saskatchewan is getting a billion dollar facelift.
All of this is due to Saskatchewan’s prolific agricultural industry and its crops of wheat, canola and soybean and the province’s rich mineral resources. Saskatchewan has an abundance of oil and gas and will soon top Alberta in its production rate. The province also has diamond deposits, potash, uranium and coal.
The old Intercontinental pork plant on Saskatoon’s south end is coming down. The new face of the city will be sleek downtown low-rises with tenants such as the Australian firm BHP Billiton, which is rumoured to be aiming to take over the local Potash Corp., the biggest potash firm on the planet.
Almost a quarter of Saskatchewan’s one million people live in its business city centre, Saskatoon, which has already outgrown the capital, Regina. The population is getting more affluent, and younger. The mindset of how to spend money has also changed. No longer content to remain conservative and hide wealth, younger residents of the province are earning good money and want to buy Porches and Jaguars and expensive homes. Mr. Wyant’s Porsche dealership venture isn’t so crazy after all.
Multiple factors in Canada’s real estate market are keeping realtors busy, creating bidding wars and boosting prices.
Banks have increased their mortgage rates on March 29 from the record low of .25 per cent, a rate set by The Bank of Canada to stimulate the economy during Canada’s recession last year. New legislation effective April 19 will force home buyers with less than a 20 per cent down payment to qualify for a five-year mortgage at the posted rate.
In Ontario and British Columbia, Harmonized Sales Tax will take effect in July at a rate of 12 per cent, increasing the average price of a home by $2,500 to $3,000.
These changes are sending buyers scrambling to lock in terms and find a home before they find themselves unable to compete.
The rising prices have affected cities all over Canada. Despite Canada’s average house price of $328,440, an 18 per cent increase over 2009, Vancouver’s average price is $584,435, giving it the status of the most expensive market in Canada. Vancouver’s housing market increased by 20 per cent over 2009.
The Greater Toronto Area’s average sale price increased to $434,696, and Montreal’s average sale price increased to $245,000, a jump of 10 per cent.
The Provincial government mended fences with local politicians on Monday when Athabasca-Redwater MLA Jeff Johnson introduced Bill 9 in the Provincial Legislature.
The new bill, an amendment to the Local Authorities Election Act, removes many of the problems seen in Johnson's 2009 private members Bill that put rules and limits into place for the acceptance and spending of campaign contributions.
Johnson's earlier effort had angered municipal politicians across Alberta. It included a seemingly impossible provision that would have put a $5,000 ceiling on individual campaign contributions. That clause has been removed. It also delays until 2012 a stipulation that unused campaign contributions be funneled to local charities.
A spokesman for the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association noted that Johnson's first effort had been written without proper discussions with local governments.
Mayor Stephen Mandel is pleased with the process this time around, noting that all suggestions made by the City had been addressed.
Mandel noted that the provincial government had dealt with the city's objections very effectively.
“We're very pleased.”
Louis Riel was executed 125 years ago for high treason. It appears that his essence is still causing trouble for Canada’s Conservative government. Recently a bill was put forth by MP Pat Martin of the NDP party to grant Riel a governmental pardon, posthumously.
This so upset Conservative MP Peter Goldring from Edmonton that he mailed out a four page rant to his constituents describing the same Riel as an anarchist, villain and murderer. It is safe to say that his vote on the pardon will be NO.
This debate over who or what Louis Riel really was is not new. In fact it goes as far back as the 19th century. He was of Metis blood and can rightfully be credited with bringing the province of Manitoba into Canada’s Confederation. After that, he was considered a hero.
Riel then spent some time in the United States before coming back to Canada in 1885. He led his people, the Prairie Metis in the Northwest Rebellion, meant to stop immigration of whites into their ancestral lands. The Rebellion was a defeat for the Metis and turned into a death sentence for the once well thought of Riel.
While many people can’t decide whether Riel is friend or foe, there are those on the fringes that are dead set in their opinion, one way or another. The Metis people revere and perhaps romanticise him. Those of a completely opposite mindset label him a traitor, end of discussion.
What upset most people about the rantings of Mr. Goldring was that he used his governmental position to spread his opinions, which in many respects can be considered racist. In a time where Canada is pulling together to weather an economic windstorm, and appears to be making progress, the country does not need negative posturing by government officials.
Strathcona County had a rather decent 2009 and the area is looking forward to a pleasantly profitable 2010. The area is particularly keen on adding to its residential numbers and keeping up the current trend towards sustainable growth.
The population in the area has grown by 22 percent since 2001. Currently there are 87,998 residents, averaging 37.8 years of age which is lower that the nation average of 39.5. The residents are also fairly affluent with average family incomes of $102,004.
The people in Strathcona are also quite stable, with 93 percent of residents living in the area for at least five years. 79 percent of residents also work in the area, putting their earnings back into local pockets.
Though both employment and migration figures for metro-Edmonton in 2009 were lower than predicted, home resale prices at an average of $366,761 per home exceeded the expected figure of $350,000.
Sherwood Park did even better with home prices averaging $405,000, topping the predicted $380,000 per home figure. There were also 416 new housing starts, almost double the predicted 230. 29 mobile homes and 8 row house projects were also started. Residential and commercial building permits combined brought in $338 million.
The county also has a healthy amount of commercial space. Like elsewhere in the country commercial and industrial real estate vacancies have increased. At the end of 2008 Strathcona showed a 1.4 percent vacancy rate. In 2009 that figure went to 14.5 percent for the first three quarters. Additional commercial space being started and finished in 2009 have added to the inventory, thus inflating the figures somewhat.
The Fort Saskatchewan city council recently honored a local resident for his years of outstanding service in youth recreation. Vaugh McGrath was awarded the Recreation Volunteer Recognition award for his twenty years of volunteer service as a coach and mentor to young people in the province. The award was presented at the Energize Awards, during the Alberta Tourism, Parks. and Recreation Association convention in Lake Louise.
Vaugh McGrath has been a life-long resident of Fort Saskatchewan, and he has been a member and coach of the local Nordic ski club for over fifteen years. He is also the president of Cross Country Alberta and a member of the recreation and culture board of the city. He has always been heavily involved in local sporting clubs, and he is currently the president of the outdoor soccer association and a past president and member of the sports association.
He claims that he is surprised by the award, and he figured that there would me many other suitable candidates. People around Vaugh say that he's a special person to work with because he always puts 100% of his effort into every task he under takes.
Using a hovering helicopter, a brave AltaLink transmission lineman installed unique markers on the electrical lines while dangling from the side of the helicopter. The new markers installed into the wires are designed to deter birds from colliding with the lines.
The company is taking action to protect the birds because the lines are located at an important migration stop for waterfowl, and many bird watchers have reported seeing birds die after they clip the power lines. The lines running over Sturgeon River at Big Lake have been sort of a trap for migrating birds, and the AltaLink wants to change that fact. The new markers should help the loads of migrating waterfowl see and avoid the power lines.
The lines were supposed to be repositioned with the help of the provincial parks department, but the City of St. Albert decided that the annual budget could not fund the project. AltaLink explains that the markers on the power lines are simply a short-term solution, and they want to move the line as soon as the city is willing to help fund the project. The yellow markers will dangle from the lines and reflect light for the birds to see.
Many environmentalists in the area are happy with the company’s efforts, and many residents believe that the city will revisit the idea of moving the lines once the funds have been secured.
A $2.9 million building expansion is being sought by the Fort Saskatchewan Public Library. The library wishes to add 9,000 square feet to its current building, with a goal of improving service for its patrons. The library board would like to borrow the $2.9 million in estimated expenses, and repay its creditors over a period of 25 years. Debt payoff costs at present mortgage rates would factor in at approximately $200,000 per year.
Per data from the province’s Regional Library Systems, the library now encompasses 11,000 square feet, permitting it to offer only the essential types of services to the public. With population increases projected for Fort Saskatchewan, projections from the Regional Library Systems indicate that the library will not be able to provide basic levels of service when the town’s population increases to 20,000.
At a November 9 City Council meeting, Library Director Angela Kublik referenced the results of a 2008 questionnaire completed by 400 Fort Saskatchewan citizens. A consistent theme among the results was the need for better service. Kublik and the library board are requesting that City Council allocate $450,000 from 2010 through 2013 to help pay for the design of the library addition. If approved, the addition would be ready for use in 2013.
Alberta, as well as the federal government, threw down the gauntlet in the battle to contain industry-related carbon dioxide emissions. Shell Canada Energy’s Quest project near Fort Saskatchewan has been pledged some $865 million from Canada. Alberta’s $745 million contribution comes from the province’s $2 billion program for carbon capture and storage. The $120 million coming from Ottawa is part of a fund supporting significant carbon dioxide projects throughout Canada. Money from both sources will be paid over a 15-year period.
This funding will permit Shell to go forward with two additional years of engineering at the company’s bitumen upgrader in Scotford. It will also permit an increase in local geological research and regulator-related consultations. Upon completion of the engineering work and consultations, the $1.3 billion project would be approved by Shell, and construction would commence.
The Quest project is essential, according to Mel Knight, Alberta’s energy minister. He contended that research and technology are necessary in order to reduce the price of carbon dioxide mitigation. Lisa Raitt, Canadian minister of natural resources, advised that few projects in the world compare with Quest’s potential ability to store more than one million tons of carbon dioxide annually.
A break in the local waterline has forced the city to mandate some water conservation efforts. Every non-essential use with be stopped for the next few days. Washing your vehicle at home or watering the lawn will have to be put on hold, according to a recent city news article.
The fort won’t get any new water supply for the next few days, so it’s going to have to use it’s current reserve. The city is stopping the feed at the local fill station, but locals will still be able to get some water for domestic requirements via the coin-operated fill.
If you have any questions about water usage you can always call 780 992 6248. Areas affected by the water shortage include most of the Sturgeon County region.