Happy New Year!
In this year-end video, Mayor Chalmers covers the work done to make Chestermere an amazing place in 2020 including:
0:56 - Tax Cut for 2021
1:24 - 0% increase to utility rates
2:40 - Service Level Review Project
3:03 - 2020 Priorities
3:25 - Progress on Seniors' Issues
4:12 - Transit coming in 2021
4:45 - New commercial and residential developments
5:28 - New Sewage Pilot Project
5:50 - Recreation Progress & New Civic Centre Announcement
7:10 - Road Work
8:05 - Park & Lake Project Updates
8:47 - Updates on innovative bylaws & policies
9:45 - New communication efforts
10:53 - Chestermere's response to COVID-19
13:05 - Gifts of Kindness Update
Check out the full video below:
Chestermere, we did it. We have made it to the end of 2020.
This year certainly did not go as we expected, yet I am so thankful and proud of all that we have accomplished in the past 12 months. That applies to both our pandemic response and to our regular operations.
Today, I’d like to take a few moments to walk through some of the highlights from this year, and revisit a few of the activities that happened over the past few years to make the successes of 2020 possible. Even though we were apart, and our buildings were closed to visitors, we were hard at work to make Chestermere a better place for you.
As you know, when we were elected in 2017, we knew that we had two main priorities, right out of the gate: Taxes and CUI.
Right away in 2018, we reduced a pre-approved tax increase from 2% to 0.9%, cut taxes by 2% in 2019, cut them again by 2% in 2020 and we just recently announced a 1.1% tax cut for 2021. We have worked hard to find efficiencies so that you, our residents, could keep a little more money in your pockets, especially during the unexpected challenges of 2020.
As for CUI, you will remember that we dissolved the company in 2019, reduced rates by 8%, added black carts and improved service levels. In 2020, we continued that work by holding the line steady at a 0% increase for utility rates, which I’m happy to announce, will also apply for 2021.
I want to take a moment to acknowledge all the behind the scenes work that has made these accomplishments possible. Since 2017, we made some major changes at City Hall including hiring a new CAO, developing a new vision to be amazing, improving efficiencies, reorganizing our departments, setting a Council Code of Conduct, and putting a stop to ineffective ways of doing business. That work has been instrumental, not only in giving us the ability to tackle taxes and CUI, but in helping us navigate Chestermere’s response to the global pandemic. I’d like to thank all of the staff, committee members and volunteers who have made those changes possible.
The work to improve efficiencies is still underway and I am pleased to let you know that substantial progress has been made on the City’s service level review project in 2020. That project, to categorize and rank the City’s municipal service offerings, will be incorporated into the budget process in 2021 and will help us do an even better job of tracking and evaluating the services we offer to you.
In addition to the progress we made on taxes, CUI and internal efficiencies, we have had some major goals to bring seniors housing to our community, adding transit, improving economic development and addressing recreation.
I am so pleased to tell you that 2020 was a big year for progress on all of those priorities.
Early in the year, we approved a land use redesignation so that the Best Western Hotel could be converted into Chestermere’s first seniors specific housing facility. We also approved a land use change for a property in Kinniburgh, south of East Lake School, that is planned to be a 55-plus seniors living development with the potential for bungalows and duplexes. In addition, we appreciate the hard work of the Seniors’ Task Force that was, and is, instrumental in advocating for seniors’ needs in Chestermere. There is still work to be done, and we look forward to making more strides for seniors living in Chestermere in 2021 and beyond.
Regarding transit, we began looking into feasible options for bringing transit into Chestermere in 2019. In 2020 we asked the City of Calgary to enter into formal negotiations with us. They agreed to do that on December 10th and we are in talks about what exactly it would look like to extend the MAX Purple line into Chestermere. We anticipate those negotiations will wrap up soon, and look forward to offering a transit link to downtown Calgary sometime in 2021.
2020 was also a major year for improvements to economic development. In 2019, we announced that we would offer a tax break for new non-residential development and found a new way to have developers pay for the upfront costs of servicing. These smart changes helped set the stage for new development in our community, and we are pleased to see the new commercial building in Kinniburgh and the commercial building across the street from City Hall break ground in 2020. We are also thrilled to see progress happening on Dawson’s Landing, Chelsea, and Waterford, and eagerly await work to begin on the non-residential components of those new communities as well. We also made major news by working with MAGNA Engineering (based right here in Chestermere) and Eco-Growth (a Calgary company) to initiate a pilot project for wastewater processing. If successful, this project could change the way municipalities across Canada process their sewage, and we are proud to be part of that innovative work.
Another major priority was taking a hard look at recreation. When Rocky View County unexpectedly closed the Rec Centre in 2019, we knew it was time to take action so that decision about local recreation could be made locally. In early 2020, we offered to purchase the existing recreation centre land from the County. They declined our initial offer, which was the assessed value, but negotiations are still ongoing with the County and we have big plans for recreation in Chestermere, complementing the hard work of the CRCA. In November, we announced that we had taken all of the studies, research and work of the past several years to create a plan for a new rec facility. This new civic centre will include a fieldhouse in the first phase and community rooms, walking pathways, sports fields, arenas and potentially a pool in the future phases. Construction is planned to begin in 2021 and residents could be watching and enjoying playing indoor field sports like lacrosse, soccer, football, ultimate frisbee, cricket, and lawn bowling (to name a few) in the new facility as soon as 2023.
In addition to working on those priorities, 2020 was also a year we made some excellent progress on other capital projects. At the very end of 2019, we opened the upgraded Township Road 240 and put the finishing touches on it this year. While we’re on the topic of roads, we also installed several new signalized cross walks and speed monitors to help keep our streets safe. We had also been hearing complaints about the condition of 17th Avenue transitioning into Chestermere Boulevard and I am pleased to let you know that in 2020, we got that project to the top of the ‘to do’ list for the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board. Our 2021 budget includes funds to start widening our portion of that road, so your travel into Calgary should become smoother very soon.
In 2019 we also completed some park improvements including the off-leash area and Cove Park. While we didn’t open any new parks in 2020, we’re making great progress on a lake safety plan. Two years ago, we launched this project and initiated a pilot project in the summer of 2019. Over the course of 2020, we refined some of the regulations and launched the next phase of public engagement about the draft lake use bylaw. We hope you had a chance to participate and look forward to seeing the bylaw brought to Council in 2021 so that our lake can be a safer place for everyone all year round.
2020 was also the first full year for the implementation of the Anti-Bullying Bylaw, which was used by our peace officer team to address several situations about bullying in our community. We recognize that it was a very stressful year, but bullying has no place in Chestermere and we are committed to addressing it. Another 2019 policy that was fully implemented in 2020 was the Inclusion and Diversity Policy. Even though we had to find new ways to celebrate during the pandemic, this policy has helped bring attention to important cultural and diversity conversations and kept us learning about each other, even from home.
These are just some of the improvements and progress you would have seen in Chestermere over the past year, and I would like to thank you, our residents for your continued communication with us throughout the past twelve months. One of our main concerns when we were just newly elected was to find ways to improve communication with you. To do that, we offered Coffee with Council, held new in-person meetings, participated in Mayor’s breakfast opportunities with the Chamber and development community, and created a more accessible Mayor’s office at City Hall. Over the past year, it has become increasingly challenging to stay connected, but we’ve tried to find new ways to connect with more videos on our social media channels, sending out more Voyent Alert notices via the smartphone app, adding more signage, sending information flyers to your homes, and soon, you will receive the very first community guide. I want to say thank you to everyone who has reached out to stay in touch with us during this year. Even while we are apart, we appreciate your comments and your encouragement along the way.
We appreciate them especially because we have needed, more than ever, to virtually come together to tackle COVID-19.
As you’ve heard throughout this update, we have accomplished amazing things in 2020, but we have had to do them against the challenging backdrop of a global pandemic.
Not only did the pandemic affect all of us, but we had an active role to play in supporting our community and I am very proud of the work that was done to protect our citizens. While we had over 450 local confirmed cases of COVID-19 this year, we have not had any deaths in our community, and for that I am extremely grateful.
Our Emergency Command Centre (or ECC), led by CAO Bernie Morton, was open for more than 100 days and worked hard to follow the updates, determine what we could do to protect and support our community, and communicate the regulations to you. Even after the ECC closed in June and we wound down operations, we have continued to support you with regular updates and communication about the provincial requirements, and the actions you need to take to keep each other safe.
It has been distressing to me to watch our case numbers rise this fall. But as I have said from the beginning, Chestermere is an amazing, resilient community and we can do this Chestermere. We can keep our cases down and we can keep each other safe. Please continue to stay home when possible, wash your hands, wear a mask, and do your part.
I am so thankful that vaccines and the end of this pandemic are on the horizon for 2021. But I know that we still have a long way to go. Thank you for your patience, your efforts, and your support as we continue to tackle this situation. We will continue to keep you updated. Please continue to follow the City on social media, watch the website for updates and download the Voyent Alert app for the latest information about the pandemic’s impact in Chestermere.
I’d like to end our year in review by mentioning an event that has been a great encouragement to me. On December 1st, our Family & Community Resource Centre hosted the first ever online Giving Tuesday Fundraiser. Like so many things this year, the organization team had to be creative and nimble as they worked to find a way to hold an online, completely virtual fundraiser. But they were able to put together some incredible stories and video updates to share about the work they do through the Gifts of Kindness Fund – an emergency fund that helps our neighbours in need. What is even more amazing is that our community came together to support the fund with over $30,000 in donations, the most the fund has ever received. In one of the most challenging years, our community has virtually come together to support each other, even while we are apart. To me, this situation is just one of the many symbols of hope that together, we can do it.
And so, as we look forward into 2021, on behalf of Council, I wish you the happiest and healthiest new year. We look forward to continuing to serve you together, even while we are apart.