Improving the lines of communication will be a priority in 2018 in Black Diamond – between the Town and residents and in the online world with fibre-optic Internet.
Mayor Ruth Goodwin, who was elected mayor in the October municipal election after serving one term on council, said the public has plenty to look forward to the next several months with some hard work ahead for new council.
“We’ve got three brand new councillors and it’s really important that we have the opportunity to get to know one another and start the discussion of what we’re looking at doing,” she said. “It is going to be a steep learning curve. There is going to be some interesting things happening next year.”
Goodwin said 2018 holds a lot of promise for both residents and merchants.
Earlier this fall, Telus announced that it is connecting Black Diamond, Okotoks and Turner Valley to its fibre-optic network. Work is expected to begin in the spring at no cost to the Town.
Goodwin said it’s an achievement council has been working towards for years.
“For three years we’ve been working at trying to figure out the best course of action in bringing fibre to Black Diamond,” she said. “It’s not something that you just want to jump right into without knowing the facts. It changes so quickly you want to make sure you’ve got all of the facts and you’re able to see into the future with as much background information as you possibly can.”
Faster uploading and downloading speeds in Black Diamond is a great selling feature for the Town, Goodwin said.
“All the feedback that we accumulated over the last three years from residents, newcomers to Black Diamond, realtors and developers is fibre is a big deal,” she said. “We may be able to attract other businesses to our town base.”
In the upcoming months, council will work on creating a public engagement strategy as mandated by the Modernized Municipal Government Act, said Goodwin.
“You’re dealing with bylaws and policies that has to be completed by July,” she said. “We have our first meeting coming up that starts the discussion of what we want to see. We have to have a core strategy in public engagement.”
Council will be working with the Sheep River Regional Utility Corporation (SRRUC) to provide better education and communication to residents about the Town’s water situation.
“SRRUC is working on a communication piece for 2018,” she said. “It will be something council will look at how to engage people with regards to the responsibility we have for maintaining conversations and being environmentally responsible.”
Currently, council is concentrating its efforts on the 2018 budget process.
It recently approved a maximum one per cent increase in operating costs for the new year, and is faced with an increase in the cost of living and carbon tax.
“We are trying to stay within our one per cent increase for operating costs, then having a look at what we can and cannot do with regards to our capital costs,” Goodwin said.
Another challenge council and administration will face in 2018 is the upcoming legalization of marijuana.
“We are waiting for the laws and regulations to be put in place and then the Province follows through and the municipalities will follow through,” she said.
Though it’s not high on the immediate priority list, council will also look at how it will deal with potential amalgamation discussions with Turner Valley. Goodwin said the new council has to determine how to set a course in deciding how to proceed.
With 2017 coming to a close, Goodwin has taken the time to reflect on the successes of the past 12 months.
Water leaks were repaired last summer and earlier in the fall that accounted for half of the town’s water use. Savings in July and August alone totaled about $17,000, she said.
The water and sewer lines were scoped with cameras to determine problem areas, Goodwin said.
“It was really important to identify where the problems were and be able to work through in dealing with those big issues,” she said.
The Town also signed an agreement with Fortis Alberta to convert its streetlights to energy-efficient LED heads, an initiative that will save the Town about 1,600 annually and didn’t cost the Town a penny.
The On-It commuter bus service had its first year anniversary in October. The bus provides regional transportation to Black Diamond, Turner Valley, Okotoks, High River and Calgary.
Since the program was established, the service was reduced from four trips a day in Black Diamond to two, Goodwin said.