The City of Lacombe is feeling good about wrapping up the year of 2023. Some of the highlights of the past year include completing administrative tasks, maintaining and preserving the City’s budget, and seeing Lacombe residents participate in the community through committees, volunteerism, and special events.
“It was just such a positive year from my perspective for the festivals and the parades and starting a major project with public works, there's just a lot of really positive things over this last year,” reflected Mayor Grant Creasey.
“The mess of the story of 2023 was kind of a lack of bad news. We see that happening around the province of communities really struggling with significant community issues that in many cases are as close as possible to unsolvable...And in Lacombe it was business as usual with some really positive growth,” added Matthew Goudy, Chief Administrative Officer of the City of Lacombe.
Feeling prepared to handle challenging economic circumstances
“In 2023, we had a significant surplus at the end of the year. We’ll have the same for 2024 and we've been able to maintain tax rate increases below inflation in a time when many households are struggling and many communities are struggling to actually keep their necessary increases in line with inflation,” said Goudy.
In 2024, the residents will see their taxes increase by 3.75 percent and although no one likes to see a tax increase, the City is happy to keep the increase below the Consumer Price Index.
Part of the increase in stable funding is due to the profit of Lacombe’s new lagoon project. Vesta Energy is a local oil and gas company that has repurposed the lagoons into revenue-generating properties that store water for hydraulic fracturing in the area. Vesta Energy Contributes $100,000 per year for the use of the lagoon on top of their regular applicable property taxes.
The City of Lacombe has also formed strong relationships with local developers and there has been collaboration in the community and in return, more opportunities for local residents and businesses. In 2023, the City of Lacombe brought in the offsite levies bylaw and worked with developers on local projects.
“We also partnered with a developer here to put in an accessible playground at our new apartment buildings that went in. While one playground may not seem like a big thing again for us, it's nearly half a million dollars for one of these playgrounds, which is a significant expenditure for a city the size of Lacombe,” explained Goudy.
New events and opportunities in Lacombe
A new funding model opened up opportunities for new events.
“This was also the first year of the Council’s expanded Community Builder Fund. They put $100,000 a year into community granting for local groups to start new initiatives that might not otherwise come to the community. This year we saw some E-Gaming, there was the central Alberta Pride weekend, as well as the Lacombe Days Concert,” said Goudy.
More recently, the City of Lacombe approved the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex for a Pan Continental Curling Championship qualifying event in September of 2024. Which will bring 40 curling teams to the area. The event has been spearheaded by Lacombe’s Canadian Mixed Champion, Darren Moulding.
Award-winning projects and other achievements
This year, the City of Lacombe has received three awards one for the City’s Lagoons project and two for the Heart of Lacombe Project.
“[With] awards and accolades I don't know that they're necessarily a thing to measure the community by, but it's still pretty special when you consider there's several hundred municipalities that in theory, would be eligible for those types of awards across the community to be selected,” said Creasey.
Lacombe saw two heritage designations this year which included the Denike Block and the Flatiron Building. The Flatiron Building is now designated provincially and municipally.
“We had such a tremendous group on that Heritage Resource Committee who put together a tremendous overall, package about potential designations and was successful in doing so,” said Creasey.
The mayor says many of the City’s successes can be attributed to a dedicated community. The City of Lacombe is full of dedicated volunteers, committee members, and donors. These people are believed to be the driving force behind many of Lacombe’s successes including Lacombe Days, Light Up Lacombe, and even projects such as the Heart of Lacombe project which was led by the community members involved in the Downtown Area Redevelopment Committee.
“It is a proven well-documented fact that the giving in Lacombe is consistently and has been for many, many years not just top in the province, but in the nation. There’s a lot of generous people who do some pretty great things both in our community and beyond, overseas too." said Creasey.
"We’re an outcome of it, not the pushers of it,” added the CAO.
Things to look forward to 2024
One of the things the City is most looking forward to about 2024 is seeing the new Operations Parks and Recreation Building completed in the industrial area of Lacombe.
“While it's a big commitment, a big financial pill to swallow, to put forth a building like that, will serve Lacombe for over half a century... The development of that overall area there I think is well situated because there is both room to grow and there's substantially more room than there is here to house, not only those departments, but materials,” explained Creasey.
The new building will be constructed on twelve acres, which is almost double the size of the current area. Additionally, moving the building will eventually open lakefront property near Cranna Lake and close to City Hall.
“Sometime down the road, having that centrally located piece of land in the middle of the city is going to be really valuable for the community,” added Goudy.
The City is also looking forward to making more progress on the new Firehall in 2024.
“We’ll be starting land preparation and getting plans together for the new fire hall which will be coming up in 2025,” added Goudy.
This year, the City will be purchasing two new large pieces of fire equipment including a tower truck and a main engine to a tune of $3 million.
In 2023, the City of Lacombe and Lacombe County finalized a new fire services agreement that will be put to use this year as well.
“There was some conflicts between the wording and some very convoluted agreements over the years that may have suited the purpose of a small portion of the agreement between the two municipalities. To have basically erased them all and come up with one that pleases both parties equally I think will result in a better overall service for everyone in the area. It is a big win for everybody,” added Creasey.
The Downtown Area Redevelopment Project Committee is also gearing up to create a major plaza space in the downtown area which will bring even more activity to the City’s core.