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Liz Dolman, a middle-aged woman with long, straight, blonde hair, sits at a table collecting petition signatures

Borrowing bylaw for curling rink petitioned

A petition circulating in Pincher Creek could upset council’s plan to build a new curling rink, according to an administration report in council’s March 27 agenda. 

The petition, launched by town resident Elizabeth Dolman on March 17, aims to block the passage of a borrowing bylaw for a multi-million-dollar construction loan, pending a referendum on the loan, Dolman told Shootin’ the Breeze

“We don’t have enough information [about the curling rink project],” Dolman said, questioning the potential tax implications and calling for more attention to other civic priorities, namely housing

“Curling is a wonderful thing, … but people can’t move here for jobs because there’s no place to live. The town’s known this for at least 20 years, and they’ve made plans here and there. But they haven’t done anything yet,” she continued. 

 

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The petition is the latest development in a long-running and hotly contentious debate about whether or not to build a new rink and where to build it. 

Whatever might be said of the project, the town’s existing curling rink at 837 Main St. is at the end of its working life, according to structural studies dating back at least to 2008. The rink is run by the Pincher Creek Curling Club, at the club’s expense. The club has around 150 members, roughly evenly split between the town and MD of Pincher Creek, according to outgoing president Glenda Kettles.   

Council on Feb. 13 narrowly passed a resolution to build a new rink at the Community Recreation Centre at 942 Hyde St., to be renamed the CRC and Events Centre if the build goes ahead. The borrowing bylaw, still before council, was given the first of three readings at chambers on Feb. 27. 

Second and third readings are not listed on council’s March 27 agenda. 

 

Pincher Creek holds approximately $3.5 million in debt as of the new year — roughly $1.85 million for the town’s early learning centres and around $1.65 million for Pincher Creek RCMP’s current headquarters at 1369 Hunter St., according to finance director Wendy Catonio

That burden represents just under one quarter of the town’s approximately $15 million allowable debt limit, which the Municipal Government Act caps at 150 per cent of a municipality’s most recent annual revenue. For context, Catonio said the town’s current debt load is unremarkable compared to regional municipalities. 

If passed, the borrowing bylaw would authorize council to take out a loan for up to $4 million in estimated construction costs for the curling rink build. The town would then be obligated to pay down whatever amount it draws on the loan. 

The town has meanwhile applied for a federal grant that could cover up to 60 per cent of the build. Tristan Walker, the town and neighbouring MD’s energy project lead, said he hoped for a decision by the grant funder sometime this summer. 

 

Town council in 2017 committed $1.25 million to match the curling club’s hoped-for grant through the province’s Community Facility Enhancement Program. The CFEP grant didn’t come through, and council has included the $1.25 million commitment in subsequent budgets. 

The $1.25 million was always intended to be financed through a loan rather than the town’s capital reserves, Catonio explained.

Coun. Mark Barber, a longtime supporter of the build, told council last month that the curling club would contribute $200,000 through fundraising efforts, adding that the club would donate its ice plant, which Barber said was worth $500,000. 

Barber also said the MD would probably kick in some money. Reeve Rick Lemire later told the Breeze that MD council discussed that possibility in a joint session with town council, but the MD hasn’t made any financial commitments. 

 

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In order to be successful, Dolman’s petition would have to satisfy a number of conditions listed in the MGA.

Petitions to council need signatures from 10 per cent of municipal residents, which amounts to roughly 360 people in Pincher Creek, according to the 2021 census. 

The petition would have to come to Angie Lucas, the town’s new chief administrative officer, no later than March 30. Lucas would then have 45 days to decide if the petition satisfies the Act’s requirements. 

If the petition holds up, council would have to either scrap the curling rink build or put the borrowing bylaw to a town referendum. If the petition fails, council could pass the borrowing bylaw and move ahead with the project, according to Lucas’s latest report to council.  

 

Lucas has recommended that council receive for information an explainer at chambers Monday evening about the petition process.

Few of the project’s vital details have been made public as of Friday afternoon, including a detailed cost estimate, according to an FAQ page on the town’s website.

The curling club owns the existing rink, while the town owns the land on which it sits. There is no plan for what happens at the old curling rink after the building comes down,  nor information about the financial implications for the town and tax implications for residents, the FAQ page explains. 

The curling club did not respond to a request for an interview before Shootin’ the Breeze published this story online on Friday afternoon. 

 

Roughly 170 people had signed Dolman’s petition to that point. Dolman has said she will continue to collect signatures at Ranchland Mall over the weekend. 

Kettles said Friday that the curling club has so far raised around $100,000 toward the new rink.

Group of people in business suits at the base of a large hurdle

Borrowing bylaw for curling rink passes first hurdle

Pincher Creek town council narrowly approved first reading of a $4-million borrowing bylaw to pay for a new curling rink at the Community Recreation Centre at 948 Hyde St. Council then unanimously voted to expand the project in hopes of qualifying for a federal Green and Inclusive Community Buildings grant for up to 60 per cent of the build. 

A second grant could deliver up to $1 million in construction costs, while council has already set aside $1.25 million in its 2023 capital budget.

Council greenlit the new curling rink through a contentious 4-3 split Feb. 13, with councillors voting along the same lines when the borrowing bylaw was put to the test Feb. 27. 

 

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Coun. Mark Barber tabled the borrowing bylaw at chambers, stressing that grant funding and a hoped-for contribution by the MD of Pincher Creek would offset the rink’s $4-million price tag.

Both councils discussed a potential contribution by the MD at a closed meeting last month, but MD council hasn’t decided anything, Reeve Rick Lemire told Shootin’ the Breeze last Thursday. 

“We’re keeping our options open at this point,” he said. 

Mayor Don Anderberg and Couns. Gary Cleland and Wayne Oliver supported Barber’s motion, with Couns. David Green, Sahra Nodge and Brian Wright voting against. 

 

 

Barber and Anderberg cited the town and MD’s joint master recreation plan, which ranked a new curling rink as a third-tier priority in March 2021, based on a survey of around 630 residents. 

The curling club and its estimated 150 members hope to donate $200,000 toward the project, plus an ice plant that Barber said was worth $500,000. 

Anderberg said council has funded new walking trails and has started to address upgrades to the Memorial Community Centre arena at 867 Main St., which survey respondents listed as first- and second-tier priorities.

The mayor’s comment drew jeers from residents in attendance, to which Anderberg replied, “I believe the survey was accurate and that it was done for a purpose.” 

 

 

“I would say we’re aggressively pursuing grant money, and all indications are that there would not be a need to borrow the entire [$4 million] amount,” Coun. Oliver said. 

Coun. Nodge was the first to speak against the motion, reminding council that the project remains largely unfunded, and warning that residents might have to support a heavy debt load through higher taxes. 

Nodge also highlighted the town’s 2022 master infrastructure report by the engineering firm ISL, a planning document that recommends roughly $13 million worth of sidewalk, storm sewer and other upgrades as part of a 10-year capital plan. 

Acknowledging strong support for the curling rink among some portions of the community, Nodge insisted that council hasn’t hadn’t done its homework ahead of the project. 

 

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“If this goes ahead, which it probably will, and somebody asks, ‘What are the implications for this on taxpayers for the Town of Pincher Creek?’ I don’t have an answer other than my own speculation, and that worries me.” 

Noting the town’s acute, chronic housing crunch, Coun. Green reminded council that the community and the municipality have limited resources to bear across a host of civic projects. 

“Consequently, a plan for priority spending should be developed in conjunction with the current council’s strategic priorities from 2022 through 2026, which will help eliminate any reactive or misaligned development decisions,” Green said. 

Council then unanimously voted to add a bouldering wall and an exhibition space to the Community Recreation Centre. The additions strengthen the town’s chances of receiving the GIBC grant by making the facility more accessible, according to the grant’s funding criteria. 

 

 

The grant requires a carbon net-zero build, which would add about 30 per cent to projected construction costs, according to Tristan Walker, municipal energy project lead for the town and MD. 

Walker said the additions would ultimately save money because the grant would cover up to 60 per cent of total construction costs — if council receives the grant. 

The recreation centre currently runs year-round, and project supporters say the new amenities would offer a more robust selection of activities.

The borrowing bylaw must be put to a public hearing and two more readings at chambers, according to the Municipal Government Act. 

If passed, opponents would have 30 days to challenge the borrowing bylaw, according to finance director Wendy Catonio.

 

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RCMP Sgt. Ryan Hodge speaks into a microphone at Pincher Creek town council

RCMP patrols in Pincher Creek to be scaled back

A policy change by Alberta RCMP (K Division) will shave an hour off Pincher Creek Mounties’ regular patrols, likely at a cost to the town, according to Sgt. Ryan Hodge.

“It will specifically impact our detachment,” Hodge told town council on Feb. 13. 

K Division announced the policy a week earlier, citing the need to protect Mounties’ safety, he explained. Pincher Creek RCMP will either scale back regular patrols by an hour in the early morning or start patrols an hour later, he added. 

Coun. Mark Barber asked if this would increase the town’s annual policing costs, now budgeted at over $200,000. 

“I believe there will be a cost increase,” Hodge answered.

 

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The new scheduling policy will not take away from the detachment’s ability to police the community, and may increase the number of officer shifts, Hodge explained.

Hodge said he hoped to explain the policy change and hear from town residents more generally at an open house before the town’s police advisory committee meets on March 15.

The detachment is currently at full strength, Hodge said.

The United Conservative Party under former premier Jason Kenney voted to phase in policing costs to Albertan municipalities under 5,000 residents starting in 2020. 

 

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Pincher Creek’s new policing budget has steadily risen from $74,000 in 2020 to just over $217,000 in 2023, according to finance director Wendy Catonio. 

Premier Danielle Smith, who succeeded Kenney last fall, instructed Justice Minister Tyler Shandro in a Nov. 8 letter to “finalize a decision on establishing an Alberta Police Service,” but Public Safety Minister Ellis said no decision had been made as of the new year.

K Division wasn’t immediately available for comment when Shootin’ the Breeze went to press Tuesday.

 

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Pincher Creek Curling Club – – Pincher Creek Trade Show

 

 

Pincher Creek town councillors and administration sit at chambers table and one is on-screen, attending virtually. Four have hands raised, voting in favour of new curling rink plan.

Pincher Creek to build new curling rink, pending borrowing bylaw

The motion, tabled by Coun. Mark Barber, triggered a lengthy deliberation at chambers Monday, drawing input from all six councillors and Mayor Don Anderberg as they weighed the project against the town’s acute, chronic housing shortage, the potential tax increase to pay for the build, and the state of the existing facilities at the CRC. 

Council several times acknowledged the long-running contributions by the local curling club, which has long operated the current curling rink at 837 Main Street at its own expense. 

Council set aside $1.25 million of the estimated $4 million build in its 2023 capital budget. The remaining $2.75 million will be funded by a long-term loan, pending council’s upcoming vote on a borrowing bylaw, which will be the subject of a public hearing. 

Speaking in favour of Barber’s motion, Mayor Anderberg said that, in a worst-case scenario, council could pay for the project with a three per cent municipal tax increase. Council will apply for a federal grant that would cover up to 60 per cent of construction costs, provided the build goes ahead on a “net-zero” carbon footing, he told the public audience. 

 

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Coun. Gary Clelland cast the vote as an “11th-hour” decision that would determine the curling club’s future.

“This is the time for us to take a positive step forward in our community, and say, ‘We want hundreds of people involved in this (curling) centre that for 100 years paid their way, have been leaders in the community … paid taxes in the community for 100 years, and still do today,” he said.  

Coun. Sahra Nodge objected that the long-term borrowing costs and subsequent maintenance of the rink would overly burden taxpayers, adding that the CRC’s gym and bowling alley are approaching their end of life.

“My role on council is to make sure that the monies that are spent by the town are done so responsibly, and with the due diligence and transparency that our community expects,” she said. 

Echoing Nodge, Coun. Brian Wright asked council, “How do we not bring a tax increase in order to get this to move forward?” 

 

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Anderberg noted that residents surveyed in Pincher Creek’s March 2021 master recreation plan identified an upgrade to the curling rink as a top priority for indoor recreation.

“If our community tells us that a new curling facility is high on their list of priorities, I’ll follow their direction,” he said. 

Coun. David Green said housing solutions should take priority over the proposed curling rink. 

The town’s population has marginally shrunk in the past 15 years. Its housing vacancy rate was less than 1.5 per cent in 2017, when most of the town’s and neighbouring village of Cowley’s housing stock was close to 40 years old, according to a 2018 housing-needs assessment commissioned by council. 

“The lack of adequate and affordable housing for low-income families is a barrier to the economic growth and stability of (Pincher Creek) communities,” the assessment found.

 

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Coun. Wayne Oliver, who attended the meeting remotely due to illness, said he trusted Anderberg’s business savvy. 

“Yes, housing is extremely important. But, I think we could work parallel on housing while building a new curling rink facility,” Oliver said. 

Barber’s motion passed 4-3 after Anderberg called the question, with Couns. Barber, Clelland and Oliver in favour, and Couns. Nodge, Green and Wright against. 

Council then unanimously passed Barber’s motions to apply for the federal grant and to tack $2.75 million onto 2023’s operating budget. 

Council must now decide whether to authorize a $4-million loan through a borrowing bylaw. The loan would  cover construction costs not already budgeted for if council’s grant application fails, but Anderberg said the town probably wouldn’t spend the full amount.

 

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Yellow snow plow on icy road

Snow and ice policy under review

Town council has directed administration to review its snow and ice policy, following a flurry of complaints by concerned residents.

Alexa Levair, Pincher Creek’s director of operations, was asked to speak to the town’s snow and ice policy when council met at last week’s committee of the whole. The policy, which is available for viewing on the town’s website, prioritizes hills, emergency routes and the downtown core along Main Street for sanding and snowplowing. 

School zones and traffic signs are listed as second- and third-level priorities.

Councillors said they’d heard complaints over the Christmas holiday from residents who felt their streets ought to have been plowed.

“I was definitely told by some members of our community that Adelaide Street wasn’t being looked after,” Coun. Mark Barber told the committee, referring to a nearby condominium complex that caters to seniors. 

“I was hoping that the seniors centres were on high-priority snow removal,” he added. 

Levair reminded council that, while such complaints are common, Pincher Creek’s snow and ice policy doesn’t prioritize residential streets. 

Despite prevalent misconceptions to the contrary, Levair pointed out that “We aren’t actively plowing every single residential road whenever it snows.”

 

Table setting of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

The town has neither the staff and equipment nor the budget to do much more in terms of plowing and removing snow, she explained.

Mayor Don Anderberg said he’d heard similar complaints, but suggested that a previous council had prioritized snowplowing on Hewetson Avenue leading up to the intersection of Adelaide Street. 

Speaking at her office Thursday, Levair said snowplowing isn’t as easy as it might appear. 

“Wherever you plow snow, you have to put it somewhere else,” she said, explaining that snow has to be carted away when it piles up. It’s certainly not impossible, but it is time-consuming and costly, she later told Shootin’ the Breeze.

The committee of the whole passed a motion directing Levair to look into whether or not council had upped snowplowing and removal near Adelaide Street.

The director of operations said she planned to bring the town’s snow and ice policy back to council for review this summer. 

“It’s about finding a balance,” she said from her office at the town works yard. “Ultimately, it’s council who sets that balance.”

 

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