The past year showed promise for Stettler, Mayor Dick Richards said in a year-end interview with the Independent.
Richards is encouraged about what he describes as a revitalization in the commercial and industrial sectors in Stettler.
He believes that the town doesn’t need major changes, despite a stagnant population.
“We just need to stick to the same path,” said Richards, who remained mayor after he was unopposed in the October municipal election.
“We’ll continue to provide above-average facilities and service for below-average taxes.”
In the past year, Stettler has managed to maintain property taxes and utility fees that have been below the median per capita, the mayor said.
Recreationally, the town produced multiple teams that became provincial champions and “put Stettler on the map,” Richards said.
A new town council was formed this fall, with three newcomers joining the veteran councillors.
“Replacing half of any council is a big transition,” Richards said. “We’re really pleased with the way things have pulled together … it’s nice to get the injection of three new and energized members of council that bring different points of view.”
Multiple projects were completed in Stettler in 2013. The most obvious ongoing improvement is the renovation of the Stettler Recreation Centre (SRC).
Richards is excited that, come February, “we’ll be able to enjoy a new, revitalized facility.” The revamped SRC includes an expanded library and a newly paved parking lot.
Among the new parts of the new-look Rec Centre is an updated seniors’ centre.
The upgrades cost an estimated $2.3 million. The town received a $250,000 federal grant to help with the renovations, during which the main entrance to the arena/pool/fitness centre has been blocked and the library moved to temporary quarters downtown.
Otherwise, regular winter features, such as skating, hockey, swimming and fitness, have continued at the SRC, as patrons navigate around the construction areas.
In addition to the SRC overhaul, Stettler managed to secure funding for other purposes in the past year.
The town received a $10,000 donation from TransCanada for beautification initiatives and tree planting in the new Stettler Sport Park.
As well, the town received a $75,000 grant that has been earmarked for a new skatepark, which is expected to be built in the new year across the street from the current park.
The town completed an infrastructure rehabilitation project with full funding from Alberta Transportation.
The project improved a section of Highway 56 between 57 and 53 streets.
The town purchased a cement grinder that in the past year allowed town employees to finish double the number of repairs for half the budgeted amount, Richards said.
The mayor said the one goal that wasn’t achieved in the past year was improvements to Stettler’s health-care facilities.
“It has been council’s No. 1 priority for a number of years and we haven’t been successful with dealing with Alberta Health Services, as far as getting a plan in place,” Richards said.
He believes that Stettler is a health-care hub for the region, and it’s of “dire importance” to modernize the facilities, and the town plans to continue to pursue that goal in 2014.
Overall, the mayor is confident that Stettler is “on the right pathway,” as the region continues to build on its foundation of oil and gas and agriculture.