It was a year of accomplishments in Olds, mayor says
Everything from improvements to intersections to expanded recycling
Tuesday, Jan 12, 2016 06:00 am
TOWN OF OLDS
A lot of good things happened in Olds in 2015, according to Mayor Judy Dahl.
For one thing, she says local doctors created a maternity team at the Peaks to Prairies Primary Care Network.
“It seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? It was always in the works but the team was actually formed this year,” she says.
Dahl says a major accomplishment was getting lights and lanes at the junction of highways 27 and 2A altered so that drivers have the option of going straight west on Highway 27 or turning onto Highway 2A.
“That was very contentious within the citizens of the town; very confusing with visitors,” she says. “Finally we got a compromise by changing it into what it is today which is the straight-through and/or turning lane.
“It took us a very, very long time to get that organized, I want to say. We finally organized it,” she adds with a laugh.
She also notes that Olds was one of the five communities in Alberta accredited for the Alberta Main Street program.
“That was pretty huge for Olds,” Dahl says. “It was the foundation that helped the Uptowne Olds committee and Olds Institute.”
Also during the year, Olds High School students restaged the Battle of Olds, the confrontation between Olds residents and Canadian Pacific Railway officials when the CPR decided to eliminate a railway crossing at 49th Street.
Dahl was pleased and amazed at the way in which everyone worked together to stage the play.
“The students learned a lot; everybody did,” Dahl says.
“We learned that the history book has an error in it for the population. The history book said the population of Olds was the population of Alberta at the time. We’re not even there yet,” she says with a laugh. “I’m going, ‘there’s no way that could be right.’”
Dahl notes the public input phase of the process to create the new Community Standards Bylaw began last year. It combines several bylaws into one, focusing on public behaviour, traffic and parking, dogs and cats and care of property.
Work on the bylaw began in October 2013. Dahl hopes initial steps to make it into law will begin this fall.
Another 2015 highlight, Dahl says, was the Alberta Student Leadership Conference hosted by Olds High School. Six hundred and fifty students participated from across Alberta, many of whom were billeted in the homes of Olds residents.
“That was huge. They came from across Alberta and people opened their doors. That’s because Olds is just a caring community,” Dahl says. “We have a very good community when it comes to volunteers and people opening their doors for billeting for special events.”
Dahl notes in 2015, Mountain View Power brought in its first revenue. Also, Mountain View Gas was created.
“We’re very excited about what they’re doing. Revenues are coming very strongly,” Dahl says.
She notes that Mountain View Power and Mountain View Gas are under the umbrella of the Olds Institute (OI), so their profits go back to the community via OI.
“So when you think about it, the people of this community who are a part of these utilities, they’re keeping every penny of their money that they spend in this community – it’s going right back to them,” Dahl says.
“That’s pretty strong and it’s getting better every year as we go on, so we’re hoping to be not so dependent on future grants that may not exist anymore.”
Dahl cites the opening of the 16-acre off-leash dog park as another highlight of 2015.
“I believe there has been a lot of talk about helping building trails in there and adding some fun stuff for the dogs or animals. So that’s been very exciting, working with Mountain View County and allowing us to be able to put that access in there. That was great,” she says.
Dahl notes the grand opening of the splash park occurred in July 2015.
“(It’s) something the community has built and wanted to build for probably the last six years, and they did it and we’re so proud of them,” she says.
“Of course the operating costs will fall back on the town, but this year is the real official year to see the usage because it didn’t open until July 11,” she says.
In 2015 upgrades were undertaken to equipment at a Horizon School playground. Horizon School employees work with people who have special needs.
“It’s an amazing park. A lot of people don’t even know it exists,” Dahl says.
Dahl says Olds has a great reputation for providing good services and facilities as well as work opportunities for people with special needs.
In the fall, for the first time, Olds hosted the Pathways to Sustainability conference.
Dahl says this year, the town hopes to work on ways to obtain more revenue via sustainable initiatives and “work on water loss.”
The town wants to create more public art.
To that end, the first benches under the legacy bench program were created and installed in the town. More will be installed later.
Dahl also says a painting by local artist Elsie Archer that depicts heritage homes in Olds has been commissioned.
In 2015 sewage from Olds began to be pumped to Red Deer for treatment via the South Red Deer Regional Wastewater Commission pipelines.
“That has been a long going project, so that was key,” Dahl says.
She admits it’s expensive.
As the Albertan reported earlier, council passed steep sewage service rate hikes which took effect Jan. 1.
“Is it going to be cheap? No. We are going to end up paying for it for sure,” Dahl says.
“It’s difficult for any taxpayer because utilities in the future are somewhat out of our control – anybody’s control really,” she adds.
“You have commissions that set rates like the water and wastewater and we have to reflect that on to our taxpayers and it just makes it hard for us to budget as a town.”
During 2015 the town added about 1.2 kilometres of trails along Highway 27 to the new commercial area on the west end.
Dahl says those extra kilometres of trails were added for the safety of people who are working and walking in town “because we’ve had such an increase of people who do bike and walk and it was a priority for us to do that.”
Also in 2015, the number of items that a recycling contractor will pick up and recycle was expanded.
Dahl says now all plastics can be recycled, from numbers 1 through 7.
She says that’s convenient for Olds residents.
“People don’t have to try to guess anymore. They pretty well know now any type of plastics you can put in there and it makes it much easier,” she says.
“I don’t like the fact that they put glass in, but that’s just the way it is. I’ve put my word in as far as I’m concerned but they’re not too concerned about it.”