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Coalhurst reflects on 2023 with an eye on the new year

Posted on January 11, 2024 by Sunny South News

By Heather Cameron
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

According to Shawn Patience, Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of Coalhurst, “2023 was a very positive and productive year for the community.”

“As a CAO I believe we should always aspire to improve and grow and find more efficient and effective ways to serve our residents, but overall, I was very pleased with our organization’s performance in 2023 and look forward to even bigger and better things to come for Coalhurst,” said Patience.

Patience says that the Town continues to try and improve services and have made significant departmental and policy changes to achieve that goal, with more to come.

“Our main goal as an organization was to further the strategic priorities and vision of Council that was created in 2022,” said Patience. “They included increasing community engagement by creating a Community Services Department to focus on social and cultural life within Coalhurst and increasing engagement with community members using new and creative tools and technology and promoting events to connect with citizens, businesses, and community groups.”

The Town, Patience says, has aimed to provide Coalhurst residents with exceptional service and to ensure the Town’s service levels meet community needs while keeping budget in mind. 

“We recently conducted a community satisfaction survey to determine which Town programs and services are meeting resident needs and were very pleased with the results,” said Patience. 

In addition to conducting the survey, Patience says, the Town provided important feedback to K Division of the RCMP regarding local issues related to property crimes along with contributing to the advocacy efforts of the municipal government association (AB Munis) with the provincial government. On top of that, Patience says, the Town made a point to improve their communication with residents by enhancing their social media presence and improving their monthly newsletter, and by updating their community website. 

“We also recently held an open house to discuss the upcoming budget, revisions to offsite levies and to introduce our newly-approved committees of Council to go along with a budget and satisfaction survey which garnered 93 participants,” said Patience. “The survey results were very positive with fire, garbage, planning, community development and parks and recreation all receiving satisfaction rates above 75 per cent.”

Additional goals that the Town worked on in 2023, Patience says, were to create a welcoming environment where businesses are encouraged to build and expand and to create a plan and a space for light industrial development in the community in addition to creating spaces for people to gather within the community by extending walking paths, biking trails, and gathering places throughout the town. 

“We continue to plan for further business development in a central area where residents and businesses will be drawn and to develop infrastructure that meets community needs in addition to making the town an attractive place to be.” said Patience.

Further developments within the Town, Patience says, included two members of Town Council taking roles on important boards including Deputy Mayor Scott Akkerman joining the Economic Strategy Committee and Mayor Montina joining AB Munis’ Safe and Healthy Communities Committee. Patience says that the Town also had a significant change in the administrative staff in 2023 with the loss of their Development Officer and with the hiring of a new Chief Administrative Officer and Community Peace Officer, and the filling of the new Legislative Services and Community Development Director positions.

Along with the staff changes, Patience states, the Town is aspiring to complete a total replacement of their Health and Safety manuals along with HR manuals, and continue working towards a complete revision of their policy manual along with a review and updating of major bylaws. 

“We will be upgrading our organization’s financial software, facility booking software, looking at website and app upgrades and welcoming our first municipal intern into our finance department in May,” said Patience. “We will also be exploring options for technology upgrades and room redesign for our council chambers to allow better public access and functionality. We will also be working for our new committees to explore options for community events, advancement of seniors and affordable housing, community beautification and enhancement of our public spaces. We will also be working to complete our infrastructure management plan to guide our long-term capital program.”

Council, Patience says, also recently created several new committees to allow residents the opportunity to help shape the town’s future and to address their strategic goals. Those committees include the Business Engagement and Retention Committee, Community Celebration Committee, Community Enrichment Advisory Committee, Community Housing Advisory Committee and Wetlands Advisory Committee.

Patience says that the completion of the main phase of the Town’s 45-acre Wetlands Project, while created as a storm water facility, will also serve as a beautiful new public access and recreation area when fully complete. The Town, Patience says, also completed a major addition to their public works shop and began a beautification program by installing planters in public facilities and adding street banners along 51 Avenue.

Several events were held in the year as well, Patience says, including a very successful Canada Day and Miners Days celebrations with large crowds, beautiful weather and great participation from both groups and residents. The Town’s Parks and Recreation Society and FCSS also sponsored numerous successful events including Santa’s Gone Looney, Holiday Craft Night, Turkey Bingo, Christmas Market, Halloween Party, Movie Nights, Black Lights for Books among many other events to bring the community together, Patience says.

As far as 2024 goes, Patience says, the Town will be exploring planning and infrastructure options for expanding their light industrial and commercial bases and will be completing their Recreation and Culture Master Plan which will guide the use and development of their recreational and cultural programming and facilities far into the future. In addition to that, Patience says, the Town will be working on the next phase of their storm water master plan and the addition of public use amenities in their new Wetlands area. Other projects the Town will be pursuing, Patience says, include planning for a major sanitary sewer lining program, street and sidewalk rehabilitation, the fire department’s pursuit of a new bush buggy to assist with grassland fires, the creation of a new community garden, and exploration of water conservation programs.

“We believe that even in challenging times there are successes to be had if you are willing to work hard and change in order to achieve them, success lies in endeavour,” said Patience. “I believe most people don’t realize that Coalhurst’s population now sits at approximately 3,000 and while having direct access to higher education, recreational facilities and commercial amenities in the City of Lethbridge, we are proud to maintain that small town feel and community spirit that makes Coalhurst special. A progressive council, great location, committed staff and great volunteer core make Coalhurst a community with a very bright future.”

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