Opinion: Local government fails openness test

By Enrique Massot
The County News Online

The refusal of Rocky View Reeve Greg Boehlke to answer questions from the County News at a Jan. 19 public event is certainly shocking, but not unexpected.

In fact, Boehlke has made the readers and taxpayers a favour by setting the record straight on his contempt for this online newspaper.

Boehlke, who is the official spokesperson for Council, has never answered questions emailed by the County News.

While this blatant disregard for an elementary component of democracy should alarm every resident and every taxpayer in Rocky View, it can only strengthen the resolve of those seeking a more open and transparent local government.

Rocky View’s Communication Services, made up of staff, have not answered any of several questions e-mailed by the County News in the last six months. The Reeve’s now clear position shows that staff is receiving direction from the top authority on how to (not) respond to this media outlet.

Some of the topics the County News inquired about in the last six months included:

  • Criteria used to select a consultant with links to the gravel and sand industry assisting in the preparation of a gravel policy;
  • How the Ghost Cottage Club west of Cochrane, approved on the basis of seasonal occupancy has become a year-round operation;
  • Action the County had taken to respond to a resident’s noise complaint;
  • The extent of Rocky View’s subsidy to the East Rocky View utilities,

Of course, a test of a government’s vocation to transparency and openness is the way they deal with independent media.

“Local media can…do significant damage to the County and its reputation.” Rocky View Budget 2015

Authoritarian governments usually seek to control the message by cajoling “friendly” media and obstructing media they classify as “unfriendly” or “hostile.”

Nothing, however, sums up better the siege mentality existent in the “bunker” than this excerpt found on page 23 of Rocky View’s 2015 budget:

“Local media can help (and) can also do significant damage to the County and its reputation through misinformation or biased reporting.”

Reeve Greg Boehlke speaks to the media at a Bragg Creek event. Photo: County News archive

Public Council meetings are currently about the only way the County News can report about all the councillors’ views on issues and the way they vote.

On Jan. 19, Reeve Boehlke said the County News is “very biased.”

However, the County News has been regularly sending emails seeking to convey the Reeve’s voice and that of other councillors in different articles—with no response from Boehlke.

On June 2014, the County News offered all councillors the possibility of publishing reports to constituents, and some took on the offer—but not Boehlke.

The County News has offered in the past, and hereby reiterates its offer, to publish opinion columns submitted by councillors. To date, only the late councillor Al Sacuta, Coun. Jerry Arshinoff and Coun. Rolly Ashdown have submitted contributions.

Reeve Boehlke claimed that the County News is not a legitimate media outlet, which in today’s rapidly changing field of journalism would be difficult to establish.

One important characteristic of a newspaper is continuity. The County News has now been functioning without interruption for three years, and has published over 500 articles.

This reporter has been covering Rocky View since 1999, with few interruptions.

Provincial government departments promptly answer questions asked by the County News, usually within the day and without asking for credentials.

Rocky View was not always hostile. In the early 2000s, then Municipal District of Rocky View No. 44 had no communications staff. Directors of departments, municipal manager and councillors were just a phone call away, and promptly answered media questions.

Things began to change in the mid-2000s and the County began to gradually shut up at the time it declared to be “open for business” and it began to implement its “made-in-Rocky View solution,” consisting in using the taxpayers’ credit to build infrastructure supporting development in Balzac.

The County first hired one communications person, and then a second one. Reluctance and delays to give out information became more frequent.

When the County created a Communication Services, it started initiatives to get out its own, controlled message. It contracted an Airdrie radio space in which the reeve performed a scripted interview addressing constituents, and the County’s publication The Vantage Point (a glossy magazine) was published and distributed—at taxpayers’ cost.

A new Communications manager was hired who asked the County News to send questions in writing, a practice considered by journalists to be less effective than verbal interviews.

In 2017, Rocky View Communication Services will cost taxpayers $850,000. (From RVC 2017 Base Budget, page 15).

Five staff members work on this service—but they apparently are too busy to answer questions asked by the County News.

 

Reeve of Rocky View snubs reporter

Greg Boehlke says County News lacks legitimacy

By Enrique Massot
The County News

Rocky View County reeve Greg Boehlke flatly refused to hear questions from the County News at a well-attended open house on Jan. 19.

“I am not going to answer any of your questions,” said Boehlke. “You are very biased.”

Boehlke also said he did not recognize the reporter as “legitimate.”

No other media outlets covered the event at Weedon Pioneer Community Hall in Division 9 northwest Rocky View, the last of four open houses in Beiseker, Springbank, and Bearspaw designed to present a proposed policy establishing regulations for gravel operations in Rocky View.

A public presentation with Q&A session that had been advertised for the four open houses, however, was cancelled by the County in both the Bearspaw and the Weedon Hall open houses.

Area Coun. Bruce Kendall, who attended the Weedon Hall event, did make himself available to the County News.

He said County staff made the decision to cancel presentations after tempers flared at a Springbank open house last week.

Residents have been critical of the proposed policy’s minimum separation distances between gravel operations and homes, and also consider its monitoring and enforcement provisions do not go far enough.

“If you want to beat the politicians, beat the politicians. We are fair game, it’s open season all the time,” he said.

However, he felt municipal staff were treated with disrespect at the Springbank open house.

The only alternative to the cancellation of the public presentations, Kendall added, was to shut down entirely the open houses.

“We did not have time to find a capable facilitator to take control of the meeting,” he added.

(Editor’s note): This article was modified Jan. 20 with the addition of a Councillor Kendall speaks video document.

 

 

Opinion: Shutting down presentations risks backfiring

By Enrique Massot
The County News Online

The group of councillors who force most decisions in Rocky View County has shown again its lack of regard for the very citizens who voted for them.

Feeling a strong backlash against a policy project that would give green light to gravel operations to settle near densely populated areas, they simply decided to suppress the mechanism that allows for expressions of dissent.

Eliminating public presentations and the Q & A sessions that followed from two open houses presenting the proposed gravel policy, this body of elected officials appears to believe it can erase public opposition by skirting debate.

By so doing, these members of the Rocky View council are not only antagonizing County citizens; they are seriously underestimating them. An impromptu speech of emergency room doctor Mardelle Gamble shows the community’s potential for contestation.

Industry-friendly setbacks, ambiguous monitoring and enforcement conditions also include a clause amazing for its unbalance, that is, the obligation to put on hold any development on lands that sit on top of gravel deposits. Landowners wanting to develop would have to demonstrate their property does not have that resource underneath, according to this policy.

This industrious group of councillors are in fact attempting to make possible hated gravel extraction operations in populated areas close to the City of Calgary. Bearspaw, of course, being one of such areas. Companies have tried in the past, but strong public opposition convinced councillors that it would be political suicide to vote in favour—therefore the attempts failed.

What makes Bearspaw the central battlefield for gravel is the fact that some companies own large pieces of land in the area and gravel policy as drafted may help them obtain easier approvals for their projects.

At stake is at least one large pit waiting to happen—hundreds of acres worth of gravel just a stone throw from Calgary that would cost less in transportation costs.

However, Bearspaw resident and long-time veteran of the fight against those heavily industrial land uses Mike Edwards is right: Rocky View decided, a long time ago, to allow for residential development to become the dominant land use in Bearspaw.

If Rocky View had wanted to allow instead for companies to go and dig the gravel out, then they should have withheld residential approvals, create a “gravel reserve” and then go about it. By first allowing residential development and now wanting to squeeze gravel pits in the same area, Council appears to wanting to please everybody but its residents.

The disingenuous choice of Golder Associates as consultant to help with the policy process and the subsequent revelation that the consultant is a member of the Alberta Sand and Gravel Association also shows underestimation of Rocky View citizens.

It’s not a case of denying Rocky View gravel resources to the region’s supply. The County is criss-crossed by large deposits throughout a large part of its territory, including less-populated areas where gravel could be extracted using acceptable setback distances.

There should be no confusion as to who is the leader on this initiative. This policy project was started by a Council’s decision and Council is keeping close tabs on the project.

A municipal council provides direction to a municipality, being the watchdog ensuring tight control on what Administration does—or doesn’t.

And this Council’s majority is not “any” sort of majority. Four of its members have had their election campaigns entirely or almost entirely funded by the development industry. The two other members have never declared contributions to their campaigns, but they are of the longest-serving councillors with a consistent pro-development record.

This Council has the unenviable distinction of opposing a declaration in support of clean air and also defeating a proposal to create a list of electors to ensure the “one person, one vote” principle during municipal elections.

This is a Council that worked on business initiatives of dubious public interest, such as putting up for sale lands the municipality leases to the Cochrane and District Ag Society, invest nearly $50 million in a new administrative building without meaningful public consultation, and plans to spend millions to upgrade a sewage treatment plant in Langdon to foster more development—at a time when significant debt remains from the previous upgrading allowing for commercial development in Balzac.

This is also the Council that attempted to charge an extra tax to Cochrane Lake properties, to make residents pay for a flood resulting of a defective development project—an initiative thwarted by the action of the late councillor Al Sacuta and Coun. Jerry Arshinoff.

This policy that has the mark of the industry all over needs a complete revamping–a revamping that cannot be trusted to Council.

This Council expects to vote on the Aggregate Resource Plan (ARP) on April.

There remains one open house available to citizens, to be held on Jan. 19 at the Weedon Pioneer Community Hall, starting at 6 p.m.

County planners are also taking comments and questions on the draft document until February 24. Feedback forms must be sent to planner in charge of the project Dominic Kazmierczak at dkazmierczak@rockyview.ca.

Council’s consideration of adoption of the aggregate resource plan is expected in April.

 

 

 

 

Emergency room doctor pleads for safety on gravel mining

By Enrique Massot
The County News Online

An emergency room physician says breathable particles of silica, a known carcinogen generated during gravel extraction, can travel far and seriously harm humans.

“It permeates your lungs,” said Dr. Mardelle Gamble. “It never leaves.”

Gamble made an impromptu speech at a Bearspaw open house held by Rocky View to gather input on a draft policy regulating, among other things, the location of gravel operations.

“I came as a doctor and as a very concerned citizen,” she said. “I have decided that I am going to be the voice for our children (who) can’t speak for themselves and are the most vulnerable.”

The Bearspaw resident and specialist in emergency medicine has worked for over 17 years in Calgary hospitals and is concerned the draft policy written by the County will allow gravel operations to locate as close as 500 metres from residences.

Tiny crystalline silica particles freed during gravel extraction and crushing are carried away by the wind and if inhaled reach far into the lungs, causing lesions and ailments such as heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and lung cancer.

Dr. Mardelle Gamble speaks at a Jan. 16 open house in Bearspaw. Photo: Enrique Massot

Dr. Mardelle Gamble speaks at a Jan. 16 open house in Bearspaw. Photo: Enrique Massot

 

“Crystalline silica is the dirty word nobody wants to talk about,” she said.

Staying indoors may not guarantee safety, Gamble said.

“(Silica) permeates your heating and cooling systems,” she added. “It does not go away.”

Speaking without a microphone, Gamble said doctors’ duty is to care for their patients, and in a similar way elected officials have a duty to care for their constituents.

“If you come to my emergency department, I will care for you as I do for a member of my family,” she said. “We ask that councillors and planners act in good faith—that they represent and safeguard our health.”

Gamble’s unofficial presentation was not in the program of the Jan. 16 open house. Official presentations by Rocky View County staff were announced for the four open houses and held in the Beiseker and Springbank events, but were abruptly cancelled before the Bearspaw event.

“We saw in the previous open house that it was an ineffective way to communicate,” said Dominic Kazmierczak, municipal planner in charge of drafting the policy.

Coun. Jerry Arshinoff regretted the decision and said public presentations allow everyone to hear the same message, and everyone listens to questions by others, which often brings about additional questions.

Resident Keith Koebisch said there were pointed questions after the Springbank presentation and a councillor present appeared to feel the need to protect the planner in charge.

Dr. Mardelle Gamble speech attracted a large crowd at a Bearspaw open house. Photo: Enrique Massot

Dr. Mardelle Gamble speech attracted a large crowd at a Bearspaw open house. Photo: Enrique Massot

 

However, Koebisch added, “People were not aggressive—they were emotional.”

Bearspaw resident and member of Rocky View Gravel Watch Gary Moroz did not believe the County’s official explanation about cancelling presentations.

“At the meeting last week, they were running for cover,” he said.

Moroz said there are concerns about the wording of the policy.

“We do need gravel, but you got to have a good balance with rules that are enforceable,” he said. “Their plan is very (industry) biased.”

Moroz said he does not share hopes that Council could improve the policy by introducing changes at the last minute.

“They had the opportunity to get this right the first time,” he said.

Peter Koebisch, who lives near Westbrook and has a chiropractic practice in Cochrane, said feedback from residents and two written presentations from himself did not appear to influence those who prepared the draft policy.

“I was at the meetings all summer and it’s like they never happened,” he said.

“A lot of problems could be solved if they had larger setbacks,” he added. “I recommended two miles.”

Long-time Bearspaw resident Mike Edwards also believed the decision to cancel presentations was to suppress public discussion.

“They got a rough ride in Springbank and also in Beiseker—by me,” he said.

As for the Bearspaw open house, Edwards said, “the only thing that was accomplished tonight was the doctor who made a speech—I thought it was a good one.”

Rocky View Council stifles debate

Councillors muzzled as they express views on infrastructure funding, disclosure

By Enrique Massot
The County News Online

Margaret Bahcheli

Margaret Bahcheli

Two members of Rocky View Council were told to shut up on Jan. 10 during debate on how to fund infrastructure for new development.

Reeve Greg Boehlke stopped Coun. Margaret Bahcheli as she was detailing implications of Rocky View fronting cash to increase the Langdon wastewater treatment plant’s capacity as opposed to ask developers to front the necessary capital.

“The trade-off is between prudent fiscal management and rate of growth,” Bahcheli said. “To the extent that this government body decides to underwrite development, we take in more market-facing risk.”

On the other hand, she added, if “we force the market to underwrite its own development, we have less fiscal risk.”

However, Bahcheli said, “some councillors…felt that it was not the developers’ responsibility to front that money.”

Adjacent to Langdon, Weed Lake receives stormwater and treated wastewater effluent from the Hamlet of Langdon. Photo: County News archive.

Adjacent to Langdon, Weed Lake receives stormwater and treated wastewater effluent from the Hamlet of Langdon. Photo: County News archive.

 

Coun. Bruce Kendall, who spearheaded an initiative to consider upgrading the Langdon plant once 70 per cent of its capacity is reached, submitted a ‘point of order’ and Boehlke granted it, stopping Bahcheli on her tracks. His action was supported by six out of nine councillors, while councillors Liz Breakey, Jerry Arshinoff and Bahcheli voted in opposition.

Later in the meeting, Boehlke barred Arshinoff from making a motion directing Administration to implement disclosure provisions included in Rocky View’s Water and Wastewater Off-Site Bylaw.

A page 5 provision in the bylaw mandates the County Manager to provide full annual reports to Council outlining levy collections, expenditures and levy amounts paid.

Although the bylaw was approved in 2013, the disclosure provision was never put in practice.

“We have a bylaw that has never been fulfilled,” Arshinoff said.

But Boehlke was having none of that. He promptly granted a ‘point of order’ submitted by Coun. Lois Habberfield to bar Arshinoff from submitting his motion to the rest of Council.

“I don’t think you are bringing forward this motion in the right context,” said Boehlke, adding “you are off topic then” in response to Arshinoff’s protests.

Next, Boehlke cut off Arshinoff’s microphone and closed discussion on the Langdon plant item.

An audio recording of the discussion is available at rockyview.ca. The Langdon Wastewater Treatment Plant item in question is discussed from one minute and 50 seconds to one hour and 36 minutes.

 

Residents pack gravel watch meeting

By Enrique Massot
The County News Online

Over 120 residents packed the Bearspaw Lions’ Hall on Jan. 11 to debate a policy on gravel extraction being prepared by Rocky View County.

“The focus is to allow extraction everywhere, which is unacceptable,” said Samanntha Wright, Div. 8 resident.

Many in the audience believed the policy as drafted by the County is geared to protect the industry while failing to protect residents from impacts such as noise, dust, and heavy traffic as well as property values.

Bearspaw resident Julie Quillian, who lives on Burma Road, said she is concerned by traffic, which is already intense in her area.

“I counted five trucks on a Sunday,” she said. “I do not care about priorities (and) do not want a pit on Burma Road,” she said to an applause from the audience.

Resident Bertha Staddon, who has written a column describing life near a gravel pit, said promises about monitoring and enforcement are forgotten as soon as a gravel pit is approved.

The Bearspaw Lion's Hall packed with over 120 residents Jan. 11. Photo: Enrique Massot

The Bearspaw Lion’s Hall packed with over 120 residents Jan. 11. Photo: Enrique Massot

 

“Once the permit is issued, you are done,” she told the County News. “It becomes nobody’s business.”

The meeting, hosted by Rocky View Gravel Watch, featured a panel consisting of Division 2 resident Janet Ballantyne, Bearspaw residents Doug Rosholt with experience in the oil and gas industry and retired litigation lawyer Bill Corbett, as well as Division 9 resident Keith Koebisch, with experience in bylaw enforcement.

In the same week, Rocky View held an open house in Beiseker and another in Springbank, to explain its draft Aggregate Resource Plan. Two more open houses will be held on Jan. 16 and 19. (See information below).

Ballantyne said a policy for gravel extraction could be a good thing, however the way it is drafted could make approvals easier than in the past.

Resident Janet Ballantyne speaks at a Jan. 11 residents' meeting in Bearspaw. Photo: Enrique Massot

Resident Janet Ballantyne speaks at a Jan. 11 residents’ meeting in Bearspaw. Photo: Enrique Massot

 

“If this policy is approved as written, who is going to be able to stop it?” she asked.

Div. 8 Coun. Eric Lowther said he trusts the County process and asked the residents for patience.

“We have to give the process a chance,” he said. “There are areas where pits may work.”

Lowther said in the year he has been a councillor he has learned to trust his peers in Council.

“Everybody is engaged on this,” he said. “Everybody representing the community the best they can.”

Corbett, however, did not share Lowther’s optimism.

“This plan is so fundamentally flawed, it’s difficult to trust the process,” he said to the audience’s applause.

Div. 8 Coun. Eric Lowther speaks at a Jan. 11 residents' meeting. Photo: Enrique Massot

Div. 8 Coun. Eric Lowther speaks at a Jan. 11 residents’ meeting. Photo: Enrique Massot

 

Reeve Greg Boehlke and Coun. Bruce Kendall attended the meeting.

The ARP was criticized for emphasizing the importance of safeguarding the gravel resources.

“This needs to change—people are more important,” said Wright.

Wright added the policy draft puts significant emphasis on mitigation of harmful effects, some of which include dust containing crystalline silica, a known carcinogenic.

“The basic problem is to assume that the harm can be mitigated,” she said. However, she added, “mitigation is not elimination.”

Corbett said Rocky View’s municipal development plan—the County Plan—contains a particular exclusion in relation to feedlots.

“That could be done for gravel as well,” he said.

A veteran of gravel fights in Bearspaw, Mike Edwards speaks at the Jan. 11 residents' meeting. Photo: Enrique Massot

A veteran of gravel fights in Bearspaw, Mike Edwards speaks at the Jan. 11 residents’ meeting. Photo: Enrique Massot

 

Rocky View initially hired consultant Golder and Associates for its policy-writing process, however let the consultant go after its links with the gravel industry were revealed.

When people choose to live in a place such as Rocky View, they do so with reasonable expectations, for example, that a country residential area will remain as such.

This social contract, Wright said, is broken if subsequent decisions of the municipality allow for encroachment of heavy industrial uses that alter an area’s character.

Resident Mike Edwards said this is why gravel used in the City of Edmonton is transported by rail from a site near Fox Creek, nearly 200 km away.

Gravel Watch says locating close to markets reduces the gravel companies’ costs. The group questions why Rocky View should be intent on fostering private profits and to put on hold development on lands where gravel sits underneath.

Retired litigation lawyer Bill Corbett speaks at a residents' meeting Jan. 11. Photo: Enrique Massot

Retired litigation lawyer Bill Corbett speaks at a residents’ meeting Jan. 11. Photo: Enrique Massot

 

Koebisch said the industry is smartly working through the municipality to get what it wants.

“They use the County to do the dirty job,” he said.

______________________________________________________

The group has compiled an Info Package-RV Gravel Watch summarizing issues with the ARP policy.

Rocky View County is still holding two more open houses to present the draft Aggregate Resource Plan (ARP) to the public and receive feedback. The open houses begin at 6 p.m. with a presentation at 6:30 p.m. and each open house covers the same content.

  • Monday, January 16
    Rockpointe Church
    255024 Lochend Road, Bearspaw
  • Thursday, January 19
    Weedon Pioneer Community Hall
    42299 Weedon Trail, SW junction of Highways 22 and 567

In addition to taking feedback at the stakeholder events, County planners are taking comments and questions on the draft document until February 24. Feedback forms must be sent to planner in charge of the project Dominic Kazmierczak at dkazmierczak@rockyview.ca.

Gravel group holds information meeting

Rocky View Gravel Watch reminds residents of its information meeting on a proposed gravel policy Wednesday, Jan. 11.

The Rocky View County’s Aggregate Resource Plan (ARP) will become the County’s foremost policy document on gravel.

Gravel pitIt will determine where gravel pits can be located in the County.

As it stands, it has a clear industry bias and is not favourable to residents.

Setbacks are almost non-existent and policy language is extremely weak.

Gravel dust has numerous adverse health effects and the impact of trucks on the safety of our roads will be enormous.

Quite simply: Gravel pits and people do not mix.

If you don’t want to have a gravel pit in your backyard you need to get involved and make sure your opinion is heard. This is an issue that impacts us all!

The meeting takes place Wednesday, Jan. 11 at 7 p.m.

Where: Bearspaw Lions’ Hall – 25240 Nagway Rd – site of the Bearspaw Farmer’s Market

Gravel setbacks insufficient, resident says

By Enrique Massot
The County News Online

A long-time Bearspaw resident says a proposed policy for gravel extraction operations would allow for industrial uses to encroach into heavily populated areas.

“Gravel and residences don’t mix,” said Mike Edwards in a telephone interview.

He is not alone. Many residents filling up feedback questionnaires in open houses did not find any positives with gravel pits, but instead pointed to impacts on quality of life, loss of property value and health effects that such operations have on near residential areas.

Most gravel extraction operations operate crushers, which produce noise. Intensive, heavy traffic may impact local roads, and dust can reduce air quality and impact health. Operations can also have an impact on water tables in nearby areas.

However, Rocky View’s draft policy recently released states that through “performance standards and the guiding of aggregate development towards appropriate locations, the potential for conflict with adjoining landowners will be minimized.”

The policy proposes a 500-metre separation requirement between gravel extraction operations and residences.

“Rocky View will support environmentally sensitive and sustainable aggregate development to meet local, regional, and provincial resource needs,” the proposed policy reads on page 4.

Rocky View will be holding a series of open houses to gather input on the policy this week. Residents will hold a meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 11. (information at the bottom).

Edwards said the proposed 500-metre setback favours the industry and it’s a slap in the face of existing residents.

“I do not know where the County came up with that setback distance,’ said Mike Edwards. “Five hundred metres is nothing when they are crushing gravel—it’s not setback at all.”

Edwards said Rocky View residents strongly resisted gravel operations in the 1990s and requested instead a two-mile separation between gravel operations and residences.

In 1993, over 1,600 Bearspaw, Springbank and Symons Valley residents requested, in a letter to the Council of Rocky View, to “preclude resource extraction in the vicinity of existing country residential type developments.”

In 1994, as many as 2,500 residents sought to overturn approval of a 480-acre application that the Council of the day approved.

“This was before Church Ranches, Silverwood and other developments were approved,” said Edward. “Given recent experience with gravel, I think this request for two-mile setbacks is still relevant.”

Edwards said at that time, the Bearspaw population was much less than it is now. Since the County chose to support country residential development in the area, it should now protect the lifestyle it allowed in the first place.

“When we approved Church Ranches subdivision, we basically disapproved gravel,” he said.

Adding insult to injury, Edwards say, the proposed policy contains provisions to put on hold residential development for lands located on top of gravel deposits.

“We really need to question why Rocky View is paying money to develop a ‘gravel map,’” he said.

Edwards has written a comments-from-a-bearspaw-resident document. To retrieve it, click on the link and then click again on a document icon.

Rocky View County’s engagement events to discuss draft ARP and gather feedback.

  • Tuesday, January 10
    Beiseker Community Hall
    410 – 5th Street, Beiseker
  • Thursday, January 12
    Springbank Heritage Club
    244168 Range Road 33, Springbank
  • Monday, January 16
    Rockpointe Church
    255024 Lochend Road, Bearspaw
  • Thursday, January 19
    Weedon Pioneer Community Hall
    42299 Weedon Trail, S.W. junction of Highways 22 and 567

All events will begin at 6:00 p.m. with a presentation at 6:30 p.m. Each event will cover the same content.

Rocky View Forward: Deadline extended

Deadline for submissions to the draft Aggregate Resource Plan (ARP) has been extended to Feb. 24
In addition to taking feedback at the stakeholder events, Rocky View County is also taking comments and questions on the draft document. A feedback form can be retrieved by clicking here.
Please address your feedback to Dominic Kazmierczak at dkazmierczak@rockyview.ca.
While it isn’t what we requested (we were hoping for a month), we are grateful for the extra two weeks so that we can engage and encourage as many residents as possible to write in on this matter.
Even if you aren’t an expert on gravel, we encourage you to attend the open houses so that you can become an informed party on what the draft ARP entails and how it could potentially impact you, your health and your property. The County needs to hear from its residents and numbers really do matter – the more people who show up to the open houses and send in written submissions the greater the impact.

Rocky View Gravel Watch meeting

On Wednesday, Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. at the Bearspaw Lions’ Hall, Rocky View Gravel Watch will host a meeting to present their findings on how they believe you can have the most impact on the draft ARP.  Once available, we will also share their findings on our website, so please check back periodically.

Rocky View Gravel Watch will hold an information meeting Wednesday, Jan. 11 at the Bearspaw Lion’s Club at 7 p.m.

Address: 25240 Nagway Rd – site of the Bearspaw Farmer’s Marke

Here is a link to the County’s draft ARP

 

Opinion: County misses opportunity to show transparency

By Jerry Arshinoff
Div. 2 Councillor, Rocky View County

Re : New Finance Committee in the Works for RVC, Rocky View Weekly, Dec. 27, 2016

Re: Council defers decision on financial committee, County News, Jan. 5, 2017

Jerry Arshinoff (2)On Dec. 13, Council could have established a long, long overdue finance committee—immediately.

By a 6-3 vote, Council did not totally reject the committee, but did only agree to a rather diluted version.

Subject to administration’s recommendation, such a committee may be established—but even then not until October, that is, 10 months away.

The advantages of a finance committee should go without saying—its cost is minuscule and the amount of work required by administration or Council to establish such a committee is close to zero. It would incorporate a financial expert and would improve accountability by having councillors and residents as members.

Conversely, an external committee could bring financial advantages to the County because it would be looking for efficiencies that may have escaped Council and/or administration. In addition, if the committee did not work out favourably it could be disbanded at any time. What’s the problem?

Claims that “Council as a whole acts as the audit and finance committee” are, at best, only theoretically true.

However, even if such claims are gospel, why would there be so much reluctance to obtain an opinion from a knowledgeable, third-party source?

Rocky View does have an annual audit, the major purpose of which is to ensure funds have not gone missing and are properly accounted for.

However an audit will not recommend better ways to use those funds, whereas a Finance Committee will do just that.

Council and Administration’s claims that such a committee is unnecessary flies in the face of what has become standard practice for business and government organizations.

Near us, municipalities such as the M.D. of Foothills, the City of Calgary, Mountain View County and M.D. of Bighorn have adopted some form of finance or audit committees.

Once again, Council was handed the opportunity to clearly show that Rocky View finances are transparent and open to scrutiny. Once again, Council clearly showed transparency and scrutiny are not in the cards in Rocky View, at least not until October—after the next election.

 

 

 

 

Council defers decision on financial committee

By Enrique Massot
The County News Online

A long-serving councillor was concerned by an initiative to create a committee scrutinizing Rocky View’s financial accounts.

“I feel that this is somehow a blatant attempt to get some people in here to dig around in order to find something,” said Coun. Lois Habberfield.

Habberfield said the County’s current information channels work well enough.

“Our finances department works very diligently to meet Council’s requests for enhanced information, more transparency,” she said. “Whatever we ask for, I believe we get.”

Coun. Jerry Arshinoff was taken aback by the opposition to his proposal to create an audit-finance committee overseeing the County’s financial and budgetary matters.

“Governments and businesses have been doing this for years and years…looking for efficiencies,” he said. “What’s the harm in that?”

Councillors, residents and an independent financial expert making up the committee would provide the County with a powerful mix of financial expertise, independency and accountability, according to Arshinoff’s motion discussed during the last Council meeting of the year, Dec. 13.

“They would meet approximately every three months, write a report (and) put it on the Rocky View website for anybody who might be interested,” said Arshinoff. “And then it would be up to Council and Administration to decide if they want to do something about it.”

“A good financial advisor is worth its weight in gold” Reeve Greg Boehlke

Coun. Margaret Bahcheli said the County’s financial information is difficult to understand for the non-initiated.

“We have audited financial statements and every year we come up with some new way to label or re-categorize it…so you can’t compare year to year,” she said. “We were undercharging for our services (and) improperly calculated how to charge for the water and wastewater allocation.”

Reeve Greg Boehlke supported considering Arshinoff’s initiative.

“I do like to give it a chance,” he said. “A good financial advisor is worth its weight in gold and if we can get a different direction or different ideas to come up I do not really think it is a bad idea.”

But Habberfield said motions by individual councillors introduced extra work for administration.

“My issue is, we have these motions that send Administration scurrying off, doing work that isn’t in the strategic plan or the work plan,” she said.hwy-8-view

“I believe financial stability is part of the strategic plan,” retorted Boehlke.

While Arshinoff’s motion proposed to start steps to form the audit-finance committee immediately, Administration recommended deferring a decision to 2017, prior to October’s organizational meeting.

“If Council chose to start an audit committee…I can assure you we’ll bring this report back in advance of that, so that we could advertise and do all that for the committee,” said General Manager Kent Robinson.

Coun. Eric Lowther, however, attempted to kill the initiative on the spot.

“Let’s just carry on the way we’re doing it,” he said. “We (Council) are functioning as an audit committee already”

Manager of Business Services Barry Woods agreed and said the County assigns significant recourses to ensure financial matters are kept in check.

“We do have external auditors coming review our records for accuracy,” he said. “We do have five designated accountants on staff, so we feel we have expertise in house.”rvc-debt-per-capita-2

Coun. Margaret Bahcheli disagreed.

“Accountants aren’t there to tell you when you are making wrong business decisions, if there is a better way of information or that your interface with the public is broken,” she said.

Lowther’s motion was defeated after only Lowther, Habberfield, and Coun. Rolly Ashdown voted to support it.

Coun. Liz Breakey said she would support Administration’s recommendation to reconsider the committee before October.

“We can always be better and I think sometimes having an objective point of view can help us,” she said. “I know Foothills, Wheatland, Calgary, all these areas do have. The finance committee part is genuine.”