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August 2016 Mayor's Column

​​Pride in our community

Living in Lethbridge means there's always lots to proud of. We know that, but it's also nice when others recognize what a great city we live in. Recently, the popular travel website, Expedia, named Lethbridge one of the six must-stop locations on an Alberta road trip. We hope our tourism industry will continue to grow. A big part of that success is thanks to our residents who are wonderful ambassadors for our city and friendly hosts to visitors from around the world.

One event that is sure to draw many visitors to Lethbridge is the Tour of Alberta. This world-class cycling event will be held on September 1. We're excited to be hosting great community events leading up to the race as well as a festival in Galt Gardens on race day. Thanks to local sponsorship, this means lots of free family entertainment and activities. Visit www.lethbridge.ca/tourofalberta for all the details.

Whoop-Up Days, our signature summer event, is just around the corner – August 23-27. It's always great to see residents and visitors enjoying events across the city including the parade, pancake breakfasts and of course the many activities taking place at the Exhibition grounds.

I would like to give special recognition to our local Olympians whose amazing performances at the Rio games have made not only Lethbridge proud but all of Canada. Congratulations to swimmer Rachel Nicol, hammer thrower Heather Steacy, javelin thrower Liz Gleadle (who trains at the U of L) and of course Ashley Steacy for her bronze medal performance in rugby. You've demonstrate dedication to your sport that is inspiring to us all. The fact that we can have such a strong group of athletes from our small city is a testament to the amazing training facilities and the supportive and knowledgeable sport community we have here in Lethbridge. Congratulations!

The grand opening of the Henderson Pool at the end of July was wildly successful, including my personal victory as I beat Councillor Carlson in a race down the waterslides. This facility is great fun and even though we haven't had the most cooperative summer weather, visitors are still flocking to enjoy the pool. Since it opened we've received many great compliments. From the friendly staff to the outstanding amenities and the affordable prices, there is an amazing buzz about the pool that's building our community pride even more.

It may not be quite a flashy as a new swimming pool but the addition of a new west Lethbridge electric substation is also something we are very proud of. This addition has been five years in the making and will provide long-term electric capacity and reliability for homes and businesses in the fastest-growing area of our city. This is just the second electric substation in west Lethbridge. The area has been served by only one substation since 1978.

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The City continues to move forward with the planning process for the 2018-2027 Capital Improvement Program or CIP. This plan identifies upcoming capital projects, provides a planning schedule and identifies a financing strategy.

A portion of the CIP is dedicated to supporting community projects. To help community groups understand the City's different capital funding sources and application processes (including the CIP), City staff will be hosting upcoming information sessions. The sessions are open to the public and will run Tuesday, August 30 at 1 p.m. and Wednesday, September 7 at 5 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall.

I strongly encourage groups to attend one of these sessions if you have any future CIP needs. Being prepared and proactive is something City Council will be looking for when deciding on CIP projects. Securing additional financial support from other sources, having planning and research in place and showing how you have engaged the community are all important pieces to have when you get to the stage of presenting a project to Council.

For those familiar with the CIP, it's worth noting that things look much different than they have over the last several CIP cycles. The City relies heavily on provincial and federal grants to fund the CIP and grant money is not as readily available, particularly in the next four years. For this CIP, we have just under $5 million in unallocated CIP funds for future community projects.  

The City will continue to seek additional funding sources such as grants and have projects ready go if new dollars become available. One additional way to increasing funds in the CIP is a tax increase. It is important for the community to understand that each $15 million in capital funds requested would result in a 1 per cent tax increase, if approved.

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Earlier this year, Council was briefed on the European Elm Scale outbreak happening across Lethbridge. This insect is threatening approximately two-thirds of the city's public elm population. To protect this valuable resource, City Council provided additional funding to launch an aggressive campaign that would treat approximately 3,600 public trees, rather than 600 as originally planned.

I'm happy to report that those efforts are nearing completion and in the last eight weeks more than 3,100 public elm trees have been injected with the natural insecticide, TreeAzin.

City staff will continue to monitor elm trees going forward and we are asking public to do the same. It is important that trees on private property are also treated to stop the spread of Elm Scale. Our combined efforts will help us maintain the wonderful urban forest we all enjoy.

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Our reputation as one of Canada's top cities for business investment was enhanced this week by Richardson Oilseeds decision to invest $120 million to upgrade and modernize their Lethbridge operations.

Congratulations to Tyson and Audy Leavitt who started an exceptionally successful small business – Charmed Playhouses. Their work is the focus of Playhouse Masters, a new program premiering August 23 on TLC at 8 p.m. Kudos to the Leavitt's for their entrepreneurial spirit and their decision to base their business in our city.