Conversation with Mayor Colberg | DrumhellerMail
Last updateMon, 15 Apr 2024 1am

Conversation with Mayor Colberg

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The Mail ended 2023 with a conversation with Mayor Heather Colberg, who provide an update on projects undertaken in the passing year as well as what to expect in 2024.
1. Overall, over the last year, what do you see as the council’s greatest achievement?
I love this question however it cannot be answered with one achievement as there is so many things happening. Rails to Trails in progress, completion of plaza, flood mitigation program, continuing to work on beautification, addressing derelict buildings, lobbying efforts were successful on highway 838, parks and recreation master plan in place, new seniors housing at Sunshine lodge and centennial park. These are just a few of the exciting achievements in 2023.
2. There has been great progress on the flood mitigation file. Can you give a brief update on the status of the projects? How far along is the total project? What deficiencies are there to make up for?
As of this year there are now berms in Willow Estates, Midland, Newcastle, Grove place, part of East Coulee and the Downtown Riverside berm. There is still some landscaping to be done on some of these berms. This project is approximately 50% completed. The contractors are responsible to monitor the landscaping of the berms for 2 years which includes the grass and trees. We did not get a lot of help from mother nature last year so hopefully this summer we get some rain to help these areas.
3. Housing appears to be an issue throughout the province, if not Canada. While much of the development of new homes is up to the private sector? What efforts can be made, and are being made to increase inventory, particularly with rental accommodation? Do short-term rentals play into this?
We have created a housing strategy which is required for many grant applications. We are continually looking for financial support at all levels of government to help with housing possibilities. As well we have created a “Build Here” pamphlet to share with developers. This pamphlet shows the lands available, incentives we have initiated, housing strategy and more. We will be passing a short-term housing by-law to put a cap on short-term rentals to help with the lack of long-term rental market, which is not unique to Drumheller. To address the influx of summer employment we are working with Community Futures on the Happipad program. More information is to be released early January 2024 by Community Futures.
4. Municipalities are facing a tough budgeting year. While everyone is feeling the pinch of inflation, what other pressures do we see on the operating budget? What can residents expect from this upcoming budget? What will be council’s priorities?
We are still working on the budget. We want to find ways to continue to move our community forward with as little pressure as possible on our businesses and residents. At this time, we know there will be a 1.6% increase in the RCMP budget which we will have to address as well as an increase in the library budget. Our main priorities are to finish what this Council and the previous Council started and complete these over the next 2 years. Those include, flood mitigation, rails to trails, housing shortage, beautification, and many other small projects.
5. On the capital side, through the council’s discussion, it appears that over the next few years, there are plans for significant investment in infrastructure. Can you explain some of the largest concerns?
There are many water and wastewater projects that are being addressed in this year’s budget. We are thankful to previous councils and administration for creating a self-funded utility for water and wastewater and these projects will be funded by some of these reserves. Due to excessive pricing last year and many projects, we decided to do 2 years of road and sidewalk work this year. We are hoping for better pricing and the ability to get more work done with the same amount of money. There are also projects that we are completing that are outside the scope of the flood program but will be completed at the same time to save time and money.
6. Is there any update on the connector road planned to build another access into downtown?
We will continue to investigate this project. We are working with the landowner and CN to negotiate the purchase of this land. We showed the possible view of the project a few weeks back to see how it was received. It was suggested as part of the downtown and area revitalization project (DARP). It seems most are excited to see this project continue to move forward. There will be more discussion on this in the New Year.
7. Rails to Trail appears to continue to gain momentum. What has been completed? What is next on the radar?
First off, we are grateful for the support of the donors, this would not be possible without them. So many have contributed financially or with in kind work. The trail is now usable from Rosedale to 5th Avenue East. In 2024 our goal is to pave from 5th Street East to Highway 9 which will complete the centre of town. With the help of in-kind work by Gallagher trucking we want to finish the gravel trail from Dollarama to the Midland bridge. Finally, we will be getting more information on the bridge early in 2024, and we will keep the community updated on this.
8. One issue that got the public’s attention last year was paid parking. Can you tell me the rationale behind the project and how you will safeguard people maybe live outside the town, but use it as a place for business and recreation?
We are truly grateful for tourism within our community. It helps our businesses and creates employment opportunities for our residents. As council we are continually trying to find a way to offset the cost of tourism to our 8000 residents. We are very lucky to have approximately 4000 property taxpayers but they cannot afford to carry the load of infrastructure costs such as roads, sidewalks, water, sewer, by-law, garbage, etc. when some of these costs are due to tourism. Drumheller sees almost one million visitors per year to our valley and we thought if we could find a way to receive $1.00 per visitor it would help offset these many costs that are attributable to them. This is why we did the pilot project of parking and will implement the full program this spring. As far as those in surrounding municipalities, we are working closely with the Reeves of each County to find a solution. We will continue these discussions in early 2024.
9. The Drumheller Aquaplex continues to have issues. In light of the new recreation plan, what are the plans for keeping a pool in the community?
The recreation plan states we need to plan for a new pool in the future, which we are all aware of. We are one of few communities who try to operate an indoor and outdoor pool, a splash park and fountain/wading pool which are all very costly. Funds are continually put into reserves for infrastructure costs however things like the pool are costing into the multi millions which 4000 property taxpayers cannot carry. We are continuing to watch for grants through the federal and provincial government. In most cases there is a contribution required from the municipality, a percentage of donations, etc. similar to how the BCF came to fruition.
10. Aside from some of the issues identified above, what do you consider the biggest challenge facing the community in 2024? What are you most looking forward to?
We have been challenged with the cost of projects over this past year. It seems everything is going up and up, and we are hoping this will level out soon. We have tasked administration with a lot of work over the past few years and I am looking forward to seeing many of the projects completed this year. We are so grateful to everyone who works for the town, they are truly the heroes of the organization.
Watch for further updates from surrounding villages and municipalities.

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