Okotoks population keeps on growing

Census: Water remains high priority as population nears passes 27,000 mark

By: Roxanne Blackwell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 10:38 am

Okotoks grew at a rate of 3.8 per cent this last year welcoming another 1,012 residents since June 2013, putting the total population at 27,331
Okotoks grew at a rate of 3.8 per cent this last year welcoming another 1,012 residents since June 2013, putting the total population at 27,331

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As Okotoks’ population creeps closer to 30,000 the town is still working on finding a long term solution for water, and more importantly, how to fund it.

Okotoks gained another thousand residents in the last year according to the results of the 2014 municipal census presented to council on Monday, putting the total population to 27,331 residents.

The growth rate is at 3.8 per cent, which is down from last year’s 5.1 per cent, but Mayor Bill Robertson said he was happy with the numbers, and feels that Okotoks is progressing at a strong pace.

“It's still desirable, I think two per cent is a healthy growth rate, so we're still at a very healthy growth rate, people still want to come here to live and experience and participate in all the amenities we have here,” he said. “We've certainly had seven, eight, nine, ten per cent growth rates in the past, but 3.8 per cent might give us a slight ability to catch up, we certainly have a lot of work to do in this town to accommodate new people who want to come here.”

While a federal census is conducted every five years, Okotoks conducts it’s own annual census due to the rapidly increasing population size and the potential grants the town is eligible to receive based on the number of residents each year.

Census information was received from 9,461 households as of June 27, 2014, but 88 households were missed even after multiple efforts were made to collect information from them. At an average of 2.6 people per household, this likely puts Okotoks’ population closer to 27,500. Robertson was disappointed the Town won’t be able to use that number officially.

“We miss out on the per capita amount for those 220 individuals and it’s not a great amount but we would like to be as cost efficient as possible if we are eligible for grant dollars and have the people, but unfortunately we miss out on those grant dollars,” he said. “But, kudos to town staff and the census takers because that number certainly could be a lot higher and has been a lot higher in the past so I’m pleased overall but still it's unfortunate that there's even one household that wont report.”

Any extra funds would certainly help, as the town nears it’s former population cap number of 30,000. With the removal of that cap two years ago and annexation plans underway, the Town still needs to come up with a long-term water supply.

Council received information on Monday shedding more light on what it will, cost to build a water pipeline to Calgary and a second line to send wastewater back to the city.

Both projects come at a price tag of $40,000,000 each and construction could start within the next five years.

“With removal of the growth plan, there were two projects that hadn’t been included – a water solution and a waste water solution, because you can bring it in but you have to take it back out,” said Rolland Russell, Okotoks Financial Services Manager

The Town is currently working on a plan to build a water pipeline from Calgary. However, until a final agreement is signed, the Town can’t apply for provincial funding.

For now, Robertson said water is a top priority for the Town and said it has a plan in place.

“We have water for about another 2,000 people and we are proposing of course to do some temporary transfers. We have a water agreement with the City of Calgary and we're then going to propose to the provincial government for some temporary licence transfers perhaps from other municipalities,” he said. “That will give us growth past what we have right now, but everything has to come together. We're progressing on a number of fronts but there are challenges as with any municipality.”


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