By TREENA MIELKE / Ponoka News
The new year has arrived, bringing with it a whole new set of challenges, goals and resolutions for individuals, organizations and all levels of governments.
In Ponoka, Mayor Larry Henkelman looks ahead with confidence and optimism. He is proud of his town and its history, and looks forward to being part of its future.
Henkelman noted that the historic Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain injury will celebrate its 100th year of operation, and the Ponoka Stampede will celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2011.
“It will be an exciting year,” he said. “A year of celebration.”
Keeping Ponoka residents informed about council decisions, policies and bylaws and addressing any concerns individuals may have is of primary importance to its mayor.
“We (council) plan to maintain transparency and open communication with the citizens of Ponoka in 2011,” he said.
Open houses, coffee with council, and meet and greet gatherings are to be implemented in the new year, he said.
“They will be totally informal. Consideration is being given to alternating them between evening and day (sessions) to accommodate everyone,” he said. The first of open houses is to be held Feb. 15 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Kinsmen Community Centre.
Making sure Ponoka maintains its small town feel while providing the best possible services for its residents and keeping taxes in line is a challenge, but Henkelman is pleased with this year’s budget which he believes reflects prudent spending and common sense restraint.
“We reviewed revenues and expenditures extensively to cut what we could and put forward a five-per-cent tax increase.”
The mayor said the tax increase will generate $222,000 of revenue and result in an $81 increase for a property assessed at $300,000.
“The 2011 budget has very few increases in revenue in other areas due to the economy in the areas of interest revenue and permits,” he said.
Henkelman said although spending on capital projects is down by about $3 million, provincial funding will allow for the completion of several major projects, including upgrading the sanitary lift station that was at risk during the heavy rains in 2010.
“The smaller capital budget will allow us to consolidate our position financially while we plan for the next 10 years,” Henkelman said.
The completion of the 50th Street rehabilitation from downtown out to Highway 2A, made possible by a $1.6 million grant from the federal and provincial governments, will be one of the major projects undertaken next year, he said.
The expansion and upgrading of the arena complex and the completion of the new $12 million agricultural events centre in June or July, are capital projects Henkelman is looking forward to seeing completed in 2011.
He is also pleased that major documents such as the intermunicipal development plan and the municipal development plan will be updated in 2011.
The annexation of close to one thousand acres of county land is also anticipated next year, he said.
“Hopefully we will hear from the Alberta government in March if it is approved,” he said.
Henkelman is pleased to live in a welcoming and friendly community and wishes everyone here a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.
“Good things truly do come in small packages,” he said. “Ponoka is a place where agriculture, industry and commerce unite. And because we are strategically positioned in the heart of central Alberta between the major centres of Edmonton and Calgary, no matter which way you go you’re halfway there.”