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Hail to Coaldale’s new CAO

Posted on August 19, 2014 by Sunny South News

Hail to the chief — in this case, the Town of Coaldale’s new Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Larry Davidson, who has been busy settling into his new role, while getting down to business. A strategic planning session is one of council’s main priorities, Davidson will assist with.

“That’s one of council’s priorities, that they’ve identified during my hiring process, was to conduct a strategic planning exercise. We have one scheduled for Sept. 19 for council. We’re going to use the same consultant that they used back in January. I think that makes a lot of sense for continuity and such. She’s already familiar with some of the issues within council,” said Davidson.

From there — once council identifies what their priorities are, Davidson noted — through the management team, the action plans can be put in place and be carried out, according to plans.

“Once council adopts that, it’s my intent to roll that out through some kind of communication strategy and we’re still working on that. I definitely want a more interactive role with the community,” said Davidson.

Tentatively — what the town will be looking at, Davidson said, is growth issues.

“What our future needs are for the community, annexation and things like that. I’m sure that will be one of the conversations that council will want to consider.”

Economic development, Davidson explained, is a huge priority for Coaldale.

“There’s some exciting opportunities, as I see it, from coming in, having been in business and also doing economic development. We’re actively working on some of those files right now but we’re looking more to the long-term,” said Davidson.

A big item on tap for the immediate future, Davidson mentioned, is the town hosting flood debrief sessions at The Hub with municipal affairs in attendance. According to Davidson, an afternoon session will be held Aug. 26 from 2-3:30 p.m. and an evening session from 7-8:30 p.m. Another evening session is scheduled for Sept. 9.

“The intent of the sessions are first, to get people hopefully registered for any relief that the province of Alberta may have available. They haven’t confirmed anything yet, we’re hearing rumours that it’s coming but no confirmation. We’ll have a municipal affairs rep there to talk to the residents, specifically about what their program might look like. We’ll also have one station, I’ll be hosting that one, where we’ll get to hear first hand from the residents — there personal impact, as a result of the flood. We’re intending to have a wall map or something to that effect, with a few different coloured push pins depending on the type of flooding that they experienced — be it sewer backup, overland flooding or down through the alleys, for example,” he said, adding the town will use that information plus responses from response cards to validate some of the work the town is currently undertaking.

“Hopefully, mitigate some of the issues that were causing some of the flooding or at least try to alleviate some of it. Moving forward — we’re creating a long-term strategy, as to how best to, in the most economical fashion — try to create a long-term plan to address water flow through Coaldale,” noted Davidson.

After a regular council meeting held Aug. 11, Davidson is pleased to announce town council approved the motion to enter into an agreement with Shaw Cable to provide Wi-Fi networks at municipal facilities.

“For example, at the spray park, there’s one currently already set up,” said Davidson, adding the town is looking at potentially another eight locations throughout the community, which will be put into place over the next few weeks to better serve residents and visitors.

Davidson also offered his thoughts on the future of policing in Coaldale.

“Council had a meeting recently with some of the senior RCMP team for K-Division. Things are looking very positive. I believe in the long-term this is a really good news project for our community and I think once all the information is presented to the community that the residents will recognize that council was acting in everyone’s best interest,” he said.

Right now, Davidson noted he’s settling into the community, while the town is in the process of doing a number of things, Davidson is busy learning about the municipality.

“Since my arrival, my big focus is getting to know the organization and our staff but simultaneously they had started doing an organizational review in anticipation of my arrival. I’ve been doing a lot of sessions with individual staff. Identifying what their roles and responsibilities are, so that I can use this information to validate or to question the consultant’s report. I don’t like to accept things just blindly,” said Davidson.

Davidson said, as for the future, the town will be looking at making changes, which hopefully will be in the best interests of the organization  — streamlining and creating more efficiencies.

“Heading into budget, that’s a big issue. Trying to gain where changing some of the processes of how we’ve done budgeting in the past — streamlining operations. Hopefully, more accountability, that’s another big issue that I’m trying to deal with. We have to respect that we have only one taxpayer. We need to make sure that we’re using those dollars wisely. We’re all taxpayers, myself included. We can’t keep going out and asking more every year. When we have growth in our community, that creates some challenges in itself, and the public’s expectations obviously plays a distinct role,” Davidson explained.

Moving forward, Davidson said, some of the projects the town will be starting won’t happen until next year. “We’ll do some customer satisfaction surveys on the service levels for each of the different departments and that’ll help us to identify issues within the budget process — is it a resource issue or otherwise? Sometimes it may mean tough choices, as well, that council ultimately will make but that will help drive how the funding models go.”

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