COCHRANE— The Town of Cochrane Council meeting was back online Monday (Oct. 26) after multiple council members and mayor Jeff Genung were exposed to COVID-19 at the Jack Tennant Memorial Bridge opening.
“We’re very relieved everyone involved was negative, however, I am treating this as a near miss and a reminder that we need to be more diligent in how we are in our day-to-day COVID-19,” Genung said. “We did everything correct we had all the protocols in place for our event, however, this is living proof of how quickly COVID-19 can disrupt the best-laid plans.”
During the meeting council discussed the creation of a parking authority, planned for the 2021-2023 budget, created a new advertising bylaw and adjusted plans for the Innovation/Transit Hub.
Searching for a Jumping Pound parking solution
The need to create a parking authority in Cochrane was up for debate as Council explored different ways to alleviate the parking congestion in the Bow Ridge area.
At the July 14 council meeting Councillor Morgan Nagel asked administration to explore the option to create on-street parking on the western end of George Fox Trail adjacent to Jumping Pound Common. To create the parking spaces the south bike lanes added to the road in 2019 would need to be replaced at a cost of approximately $11,000.
Council was given three options to resolve the parking issue— Allow on-street parking on George Fox Trail, approve no changes to parking or develop a residential permitting parking zone in Bow Ridge.
Nagel said he was in favour of creating parking along George Fox Trail. He noted creating parking permits for Bow Ridge would help residents in that area but would do nothing to help Jumping Pound where people are mobilized and frustrated.
Coun. Marni Fedeyko pushed for the creation of a Town parking authority as a way to alleviate parking congestion taking place across Cochrane.
“If we’re going to spend the money then let's do it Cochrane-wide,” Fedeyko said. “There are problems that exist everywhere— If we’re going to open up this can of worms then I think we need to open it up everywhere.”
After a fierce debate council voted in favour of no changes to on-street parking on George Fox Trail. Fedeyko voted against the motion.
As part of the resolution, Town administration will engage with the Jumping Pound Common Condominium Board to explore ways to ensure parking stalls at the development are fully utilized.
Genung said the creation of a parking authority could be explored sometime in the future, but would be a massive undertaking that is not feasible this fiscal year.
“This is a town-wide community by community issue that we hear a lot of,” Genung said. "I really think we need to slow down on this one, try option one, and really allow our administration to go to work and solve a problem on a private property that is affecting the public."
Public encouraged to check out the 2021-2023 budget plan draft
Town council set the plate for the upcoming 2021-2023 draft debate taking place from Nov. 16-18.
The budget will focus on transportation-related issues, creating an infrastructure renewal plan, delivering core services and managing the slowed economic growth of the Town.
The draft budget includes a proposed expenditure of $49.4 million in capital projects for 2020— $12.8 million on Centre Avenue and Highway 1A improvements, $23 million on a new protective services building, $4.3 million on the Transit Hub and Innovation Centre and $3.2 million to relocate utilities on Highway 1A and 22.
As part of the budget, Town administration is projecting a property tax increase of 1.27 per cent in 2021, 4.29 per cent in 2022 and 5.71 per cent in 2023.
The community is encouraged to provide input on the draft budget by visiting letstalkcochrane.ca/budget. Feedback can be provided until Nov. 12.
Council looks to the future of advertising public notices
The approval of bylaw 21/2020, known as the “Advertisement Bylaw” will change the way Cochranites are informed on public notices in the community.
Senior Communications Advisor Laurie Drukier said print is still viewed as a valuable medium and the new bylaw will augment notifications in the newspaper with an increased online presence by the Town.
“We’re looking to streamline and use more methods,” Drukier said.
With the approval of the bylaw, all notices for the public will be published in detail on the Town of Cochrane website. The Town can still choose to use local newspapers, Town of Cochrane social media accounts, other Town of Cochrane websites or other methods as may be directed by Town of Cochrane policy.
“It is time we look at doing things a little bit differently. Obviously, things are changing, social media has a large presence,” Genung said. “We need to find a balance between traditional media and the ever-changing world of ... Technical media.”
A key priority for Council has been organizational efficiencies, he added, and the new bylaw will give Council the ability to streamline processes by posting information on the Town’s website.
The new advertising plan will be a phased approach and will take time to implement, Drukier said. She added education will be an important component to the rollout of the bylaw to ensure people are aware of where to go to learn about Town notifications.
The Cochrane Eagle publisher Shaun Jessome addressed council during the public meeting, urging them to continue advertising in local papers.
“Traditional media in Canada is struggling, there’s no doubt about that. Community newspapers are often the only recorder of a small communities day-to-day history,” Jessome said. “I would not want news to diminish because the newspaper became a minor source of relevant detailed town information. If residents are deprived of news and information I believe we all suffer.”
Coun. Patrick Wilson was the sole councillor to vote against the bylaw citing the damage it could cause to local newspapers.
Newspapers are third party verifiers and the keepers of archives, Wilson said, and is concerned if everything is going in-house to reach the public for Town notifications some people will be uninformed.
“My gut is that the extra cost here and the speed efficiencies are not outweighed by the fact that these things should be in print,” Wilson said.
Innovation/Transit Hub Building given the go-ahead with major changes
The economic fallout of COVID-19 has altered plans for the Town of Cochrane's Innovation/Transit Hub.
To adapt to the changing economic realities Council voted in favour of proceeding with the development and construction of a single-story Transit Hub facility.
The 7,700 square metre facility is expected to cost $4.85 million with construction beginning in 2021. Construction of the facility is expected to be completed in 2022 using no tax-payer dollars.
The building is expected to cost $55,000 annually to operate. The project will be built simultaneously with the planned CP Pedestrian Crossing.
The hub has been in the works since 2011 when the Town received $9 million through the Alberta Green Transit Incentive Program for the creation of a local transit system.
The transit System model created by the Town has the Transit Hub located at the Old Esso Bulk Station, which was purchased for $1.9 million in 2016.
Genung said he has been a supporter of the Innovator/Transit Hub since it was first conceived, but noted prudent spending is needed during this time of uncertain economic fallout.
“We have an opportunity perhaps to grow into the vision that we had had previously,” Genung said. “This allows us to do so in a way that is fairly risk-averse.”
Nagel noted it is great to see the Town investing in the technology sectors because there has never been a better time.
As the tech centre grows it will bring jobs into the community, he said, and help grow Cochrane’s economy as the Innovation/Transit Hub gains momentum.
“This is really an economic development program— There is a huge potential upside,” Nagel said. “I’m ambitious to support something that is moving forward with a more optimistic future.”