Mayor anticipates strong year for development
Lots of highlights in 2017, Muzychka says
Tuesday, Jan 02, 2018 06:00 am
TOWN OF OLDS
Mayor Mike Muzychka says there’s a good chance total building permits in 2018 will exceed those in 2017.
Muzychka says with all the development anticipated in the future, including a third marijuana production facility and a canola crushing plant contemplated by a group from India (reported on by the Albertan last month) he’s confident that will happen.
He notes as of late November last year, total permits in 2017 stood at nearly $19 million, up from about $14 million in 2016.
“We’ve got a ton of economic development permits on the horizon here. We’ve got some growth that is very, very exciting,” he said during a year-end interview with the Albertan.
Muzychka is hoping some progress can be made on efforts to rehabilitate the old Cipperley’s building on 51st Street at 51st Avenue.
He likes its rounded shape which stands out from other buildings.
“Well, we’re in negotiations,” he said with a small laugh. We’ve got brownfield (contaminated site specialists) involved and the owner involved and the heritage site involved because ideally, my thinking is if there’s any way that we can clean up that site and keep that building, that would be optimal.
“Now I don’t know if that’s going to be possible, but it’s such a unique building in the town of Olds I would hate to see it have to be torn down, but of course, there’s the environment we need to take care of, so we want to get it cleaned up.”
There were lots of highlights over the past year, Muzychka said.
One was the civic election in October. Muzychka was acclaimed as mayor when the only other contestant for the seat, longtime mayor Judy Dahl, withdrew her nomination. She had served the town for 27 years, 13 as mayor.
Also, two incumbent councilors, Harvey Walsh and Rudy Durieux were not re-elected.
Wanda Blatz and Heather Ryan were elected to their first terms on council, joining incumbents Mary Anne Overwater, Debbie Bennett, Wade Bearchell and Mary Jane Harper.
Muzychka said going into the election, he, like many others in the community, looked forward to cutting perceived waste in town operations.
However, once he got onto council and learned how everything works, he changed his mind a bit.
Muzychka still thinks some efficiencies can be gained, but not as much as he initially thought.
“Actually I was quite impressed. I kind of thought that too; that was one of the misconceptions I had coming in. I thought that we were a little bit bloated, but – we’re not. (I was) pleasantly surprised,” he said. “Not that we’re understaffed, but we’re very, very efficient.”
He said according to a study of similar communities throughout the province provided by the Alberta government, “we’re well below the average of number (of staff) and we’re right on the 50 percentile for wages and benefits.”
That said, Muzychka still thinks some efficiencies can be gained, but he doesn’t want to reveal them yet until he’s had more time to work on the idea. However, he says those efficiencies won’t result in staff cuts.
“Just sort of maybe re-educating some – not particular staff members, but staff as a whole – to look at this as more of a business than a municipality, I guess,” he says. “Customer service and attention to waste – things like that – all the way down.”
Muzychka says other highlights during the past year include fundraising for amenities for the Rotary Athletic Park, now under construction just north of Walmart. Consultant Jordan Cleland was hired by the town to raise funds to cover the cost for extras for the park, like enhanced batting cages, bleachers and concessions.
“They raised over $703,000 for that, including of course the $500,000 from the Rotary Club. But I didn’t realize they had that much more on top of it, which is fantastic,” he says.
He was also pleased with the fact that in November, a portion of the street that runs past the fire hall was officially renamed Memorial Way to honour local first responders and veterans.
Another highlight as far as Muzychka is concerned was the hiring of new town chief executive officer Michael Merritt, which he describes as “a steal and a find beyond belief.”
“The contacts he has and the knowledge he has are absolutely invaluable. I’m so excited to continue to work with him. For my full four years, I’m going to try and keep him. He’s only on a three-year contract, but we’ll talk about that in year two and three,” he says.
During the year, town staff managed to cut down the amount of water that leaks from the system.
“Early indications show that we’re from about a 39 per cent loss down to now sitting in the 20 per cent range, that we have to find. So we’re quite happy about that,” Muzychka says.
He’s also pleased that goldfish were eliminated from Winter Lake. The concern was the goldfish, deemed an “invasive species,” could eventually get from there into the province’s ecosystem, carrying disease and harming natural fish species.