September Newsletter: Coaldale Connection

This month’s edition of Coaldale Connection is now online.

See below for the full story on the Final flood Community Debrief Sept. 9 

Pleased with the turnout at the August Community Debriefs on the June flooding in Coaldale, Chief Administrative Officer Larry Davidson is looking forward to the final session, Sept. 9.

He appreciated that those in attendance at the afternoon and evening sessions on Aug. 26 were very respectful and responsive in their communication with the Town.

“They spoke, to me, not only about the financial impact to their home but also about the emotional impact to their family.”

The emotional toll, he said, is just as important to address as the financial impact of the flooding. Davidson said it was disheartening to see elderly residents in the community having to cope with water in their basement over multiple years.

“It’s important for residents to share their experiences.”

He felt residents in attendance at the debrief sessions were pleased to see the Town’s has plans in place for improvements to address flood mitigation in the future.

He understands the disappointment expressed by residents over the fact funding has not yet been announced by Municipal Affairs but he was pleased to see representatives from the province in attendance at the debriefs to speak with residents.

He was also pleased the Alberta Emergency Management Agency was also represented and provided helpful information to residents about the need to be prepared to be self-sufficient for 72 hours when an emergency situation impacts a municipality.

Davidson also expressed appreciation for the two deluxe 72-hour kits donated by the agency which were used as door prizes for the debrief sessions along with emergency preparedness kits donated by the Town of Coaldale.

Residents who attended the debriefs were encouraged to enter their names in a draw for the kits. Another draw will be held during the Sept. 9 debrief for two additional kits. The debrief will again be held at the Hub at 7 p.m. Childcare will be available on site.

“It was also beneficial to have council there.”

Having town council members in attendance was a great way for the elected officials to get a feel for the room and the concerns and issues expressed by residents, Davidson noted.

A wall of maps spotlighted the whole community, area by area and gave residents an opportunity to pinpoint exactly how and where they were impacted during the flooding. Davidson said once they placed their stickers on a map they were able to take a step back and see the larger perspective, how the flooding impacted Coaldale as a whole.

“It helped them to put it into some kind of scope.”

The maps will also provide the Town with an overall picture of the flooding impact which will be used, going forward, to plan for flood mitigation and infrastructure upgrades.

One issue of concern, Davidson heard from residents living in the older areas of the community, was the need to address older infrastructure upgrades. He said while residents understand the need for new residential development they also noted the Town needs to look at the older areas.

He acknowledged the need to review the Town’s infrastructure and develop a comprehensive plan for replacement.

He said residents understand the Town is not a “bottomless pit” when it comes to available funding for projects. Any improvements have to be done in a prudent manner. Finding the balance between needed improvements and available funding is the task of administration and council.

“We do have to address these issues.”

Davidson said the Town is investigating programs which could provide financial assistance to help with improvements including the backflow prevention program initiated in the City of Lethbridge.

While the Town of Coaldale may not be able to do the program to the same extent as the City it is looking into the potential for funding assistance.

With the final Community Debrief on the flooding set for Tuesday, Sept. 9, Davidson is hoping to have more information for residents on the possibility of recovery funding from the province.

“We’re expecting to hear a response from the minister by Sept. 3.”

(Continued from the published Coaldale Connection)

Once the Town hears from the minister they will be sharing the information with residents.

“The staff did a very good job of meeting with residents, showing compassion and making the debrief as painless as possible.”

Davidson said his approach to municipal administration is likely more consultative than residents in Coaldale may have experienced in the past. He is looking to host regular meetings under a format he calls a “community café” in order to provide residents with an avenue of consultation on Town issues.

Town Council will be working on the second phase of a strategic plan in the spring that will set the focus for the remainder of the current council term.

“We need to encourage residents to identify their needs and priorities, and balance that against any potential tax increase.”

Once the 2015 budget is finalized he would like to break it down department by department for residents to see what is in the budget. He is also looking to share the annual audit in a similar manner.

“We have an obligation to keep our residents informed.”

Moving forward he said economic development is a priority for council.

“Our goal is to attract services that are needed in the community, create jobs and balance the tax burden between residential and commercial.”