Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Setting the Record Straight - Down on the Farm

I imagine by now I/We have upset some 'local' farmers. This week's edition of the PACKET has reported correctly that the Community Development and Communications committee of Council, which I am the Chair, turned down a request to take part in a buy local campaign for farmers. (see The Packet Down on the farm - Dec 12, 2013 Edition).  We did indeed turn the opportunity to participate in the campaign down, not because it was a bad idea, but rather because it was a much better project for our farming oriented neighbouring towns of Musgravetown & Lethbridge.

There are no farming businesses in the Town of Clarenville
I am a firm believer in building on strengths and the fact of the matter is that farming is simply not one of the Town of Clarenville's strengths.  It is strength for the Musgravetown area - they know the farmers, the farms and the area, and as a result they would be much more informed, credible and supportive player in the initiative.

As as Town, our job must be to focus our limited resources of time, talent and treasure into things we do well.  We made a conscious and calculated effort to focus our efforts on helping our local business sector.  By helping to ensure their success, they in turn, will be able to help regional industries, such as farms located in the Musgravetown area, prosper.
So Farmers, our decision not to participate in the Buy Local initiative was by no means meant to diminish the value of the/your efforts - rather we felt that your voice channeled through a farming region would be much stronger and much more credible.  We only have limited resources, so we'd prefer to focus our efforts on developing Clarenville's strengths - that in turn will help grow your markets and help ensure your future.

Recording Christmas 2013 in Clarenville







Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tribute to Mayor Best in MNL Newsletter

Municipal News is the monthly publication of Municipalities Newfoundland & Labrador.  This month's edition features former Mayor Fred Best on the occasion of his retirement.  I have included the article here, the full newsletter is available at   http://www.municipalnl.ca/userfiles/files/MNEWS%20Dec%202013%20low%20res(1).pdf



Wednesday, December 4, 2013

GottaLoveOurWinter.ca - Boosting Clarenville as a Winter Destination



This past weekend, Clarenville's tourism community celebrated two significant milestones.  First, White Hills Resort launched its new season with an open house in the beautiful main building at the Resort.  2014 marks the 25th year of the resort and with newly appointed manager Jason Crawford, coupled with some major events planned for the resort over the winter, it is shaping up to be a great year for the Resort's Silver anniversary.  Take this opportunity to see a short video of the event here:



Second, the Resort, the Town and their Partners launched a "one-stop" web space that will be promoted to tourists and residents alike. GottaLoveOurWinter.ca reflects the fact that there is a lot to love about winter here in Clarenville and we want to share its joys with others. Below is a video of the launch.  Be sure to check out the website at http://gottaloveourwinter.ca/.




Historical White Hills Resort

The Resort operated as a private business for many years but, on the verge of being dismantled, in December 2000 it was bought by the Town with the help of the Province and key members of the local business community for $400,000.  

Even though the Town of Clarenville is the owner of the Resort, a long term operating agreement is in place with Alpine Development, an independent volunteer management board that manages the Resort. For the past 14 years the Resort has been self-supporting.  In fact, the loan for the Town's ownership 20% share was paid by the Resort from funds generated by the Resort's operations. 

Through revenues and partnerships with funding partners, ACOA and the Provincial Department of Innovation, Alpine has made investments in the Resort of over $4 million over the past 14 years.

You can see some early pictures HERE

What White Hills Resort means to Clarenville

  • In excess of 14,000 skier visits in 2012/2013 - and that number is growing annually
  • Increased Winter Tourism spending in our community
  • 42 Seasonal jobs
  • Clarenville has one of the two ski resorts on the island and we are closest to the largest market in St. John's
  • Clarenville's White Hills serves as a feeder hill for Corner Brook's Marble mountain
  • Helps to attract and retain people in Clarenville
  • Promotes healthy living
  • Host site for the 2014 NL Winter Games
  • Integral to the Clarenville Winter Tourism Strategy
Cross Country, Snowshoeing and Snowmobiling as Well!

The resort has grown largely because the product offering has grown to make it much more than a Down Hill Ski facility.   40 km's of groomed Cross Country / snowshoe trails as well as dedicated Snowshoe and Cross Country trails all contribute to a great winter experience.  This coming year, snowmobilers will join in the Resort's offering as trails are being built to allow for snowmobile access from the Resort to the Trailway and backcountry!









More:
See THE PACKET story "A Mountain of Potential"

Here's looking forward to another excellent year!








Thursday, October 31, 2013

Santa Claus Parade is Coming to Clarenville - Be a part of 50 years of Lion traditions!


After 50 years as a Club, the Clarenville Lion's Club has many traditions that have contributed to making Clarenville what it is today.  One of these traditions is the annual Lions Santa Claus Parade.     

If you're new to Clarenville, a lifelong resident, or a kid or a kid at heart,  you should never miss out on the opportunity to take part in the annual Lion's Santa Claus Parade. This year's parade will be held on Saturday Dec. 7th. 2013. 2013 marks the 50th year for the Lions Club and they are looking forward to making this parade the best ever. To take part please contact Ches Stanford at 466-2520 or Roy Fisher at 466-2514.

Through the dedicated efforts of many volunteers in the Lions Club and participating organizations the parade creates a new set of memories each year.  

You have a month to think about how you can be a part of the parade, build a float, or be a Mummer in it - try it - be a part of  50 years of traditions!

 I've included some notable parades from years past below as well.  



The 2012 Edition

  The 2011 Edition


The 2010 Edition


The 2009 Edition



The 2002 Edition


The 2001 Edition

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

More Awards for Water Based Engineering at Clarenville High

Clarenville High school's award winning Robotics team has added boat building and driving to their repertoire of engineered capabilities. Despite this is the first year CHS has taken part in the competition, the 8 student team rocketed their way through the zig-zag course at Memorial University's Marine Institute with their winning entrant - the E.S. Minno (Electric Ship!)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Swearing in of the New Clarenville Town Council


On October 8, 2013 Clarenville's new Town Council was sworn in at a public ceremony held in the Clarenville Events Centre.  Outgoing mayor Fred Best officiated the event.  Please click the video to start.




Council Sub-Committees

Community Development and Communications
Tilley/Avery/Monk

Finance and Administration
Smith/Tilley/Avery

Public Works
Bailey/Harris/Smith

Recreation
Harris/Monk/Bailey

Helicopter Clarenville

Ever wonder what Clarenville looks like from the air? Here's a bird's-eye-view that gives you an idea of just how great we look and how much we're growing. Thanks to Newfoundland Helicopters!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Random Age-Friendly Communities Computers For Seniors


Looking to help out in Clarenville?  There are plenty of volunteer opportunities that can help you get to know people and help you in your career. One such opportunity is a program called COMPUTERS FOR SENIORS.  

This initiative is run by the Random Age-Friendly Communities group and the goal is to train seniors in the use of computers.  Over the past number of years Computer training volunteers have instructed over 150 seniors of Clarenville and the surrounding communities in basic computer usage. 

Random Aged Friendly and its partner, College of the North Atlantic, is currently recruiting resource persons to assist in the delivery of our next class which will run from October 22 to November 21 on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7 – 9 p.m. at Clarenville campus.

The training to be offered to seniors will be very fundamental, so it is not necessary for resource persons to have extensive training in or instructional experience with computers.  As a resource person, you should have a comfort level with basic computer usage and you will be working with a team to assist in facilitating this training.

If you have just one, two, or even ten nights to spare and would like to share your computer knowledge with our seniors in this important community initiative, please contact Brenda Reid at 466-2870. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

HELP WANTED - PEOPLE NEEDED

“Help Wanted” signs adorn our town.   If you're a teenager, and looking for a job, odds are you’ll be in luck.

What’s good for youth and for people looking for retail type jobs however is not so good for the businesses that are busy trying to recruit for them.  Last week’s edition of THE PACKET told the story of how a shortage of retail labour in Clarenville is challenging some businesses, and how one business has taken advantage of the Foreign Worker Program to hire staff from the Philippines (Local businesses recruit foreigners to fill the gaps Sept 26) .   This situation is not unique to Clarenville.  In Happy Valley-Goose Bay over 200 foreign workers are employed in the fast-food/retail industry. 

These stories come as a prelude to the Province launching a Discussion  road-show to discuss the challenges being faced by communities and business as baby boomers retire/die while and fewer young people enter the workforce/communities to replace them.( See : http://www.gov.nl.ca/populationgrowth   In fact, the Province estimates that there will be more deaths than births and there will be an estimated 70,000 job openings in NL by 2020, of which 7,200 will be new jobs - there just won't be enough people to fill towns and fill jobs. (The Road Show will be holding a Community Workshop Discussion Forum on Tuesday, October 15 at  St. Jude’s Hotel from 6:30 – 9:00 p.m. )

It sounds like a situation for the folks coming out of our schools but the reality is painting a different picture for them and us.   With increasing debt loads and higher expectations (Alberta and off-shore money is the gold standard) these students are simply not willing (nor are they able) to work for wages hovering around the minimum wage.   Many thousands of these folks are simply voting with their feet and moving to the “big” jobs leaving local businesses crying out for workers and towns such as ours, seeking youthful citizens.   You can’t blame our youth for leaving for greener pastures – they are simply being economic maximizes

The scary thing is that as youth move away they may never come back.  Our province’s, and Clarenville’s, biggest export has always been our people and that is challenging our future success. 

The good news is that many of the people who leave still call this place “home”.  I know this because after years of running the Our Town Facebook page we see a lot of them regularly in their comments and in the usage statistics.  40% of the 1100 people on the page don't live here.  

The Challenge for us as a community will be to create the opportunities for our youth to stay, stay in touch with them if they do go and make sure that they always what to come back when the opportunity arises. The Province's Discussion Forum's are nice, but talking about the problem just won't solve the problem.  The solution is "simple" but probably too politically difficult: Higher wages; better, longer term job opportunities and a "nice' place to live and raise a family will be key to retaining livers and attracting newcomers.


OUR-TOWN Facebook - Where people live. (of 1,167 fans)

Clarenville, NL, Canada
626
St. John's, NL, Canada
141
Shoal Harbour, NL, Canada
32
Fort McMurray, AB, Canada
19
Halifax, NS, Canada
16
Calgary, AB, Canada
13
Port Blandford, NL, Canada
11
Toronto, ON, Canada
9
Musgrave Town, NL, Canada
9
Ottawa, ON, Canada
8
Edmonton, AB, Canada
8
Corner Brook, NL, Canada
7
Grande Prairie, AB, Canada
7
Marystown, NL, Canada
7
Mount Pearl, NL, Canada
7
Lethbridge, NL, Canada
6
Bonavista, NL, Canada
6

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Clarenville Candidate Forum


Over 100 residents came out to the Clarenville Chamber of Commerce sponsored Candidate Forum on Tuesday, September 17.   10 of the 11 candidates for council spoke for 7 minutes each on what her/she could contribute to the leadership of Clarenville over the next four years.

Frazer Russell has been acclaimed the Town’s new mayor, and he was also in attendance.






Forum Chair: Susan Hollett

Timer: Adrian Power
Photo/Video: Harrison Tille


Representing the Chamber:  Richard Power


The Candidates: Candidates were assigned their turn in the order by draw


 Jill Russell-Monk


    
David Harris





Rod Nicholl




Heber Smith




Ashling O’Mahony Avery




 Bill Bailey




Paul Tilley




Brian Smith




Graham Bursey



Add caption




 John Pickett


Candidate Jeff Bursey was unable to attend the forum
Election Day is Tuesday, September 24 – PLEASE VOTE! 













Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Impact of Oil on Clarenville


It was a nice presentation that demonstrated the the potential impact of the next generation of oil developments on our east coast.  There was lots of information, but no audience. Very few people came to the AMEC sponsored information session held Wednesday evening at Clarenville inn to see and hear it and voice their comments.

Here are some background links

Open House Session Information 
Press Release - Article in The Packet


Here's a virtual tour of what they had to present.
















Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Clarenville - We're Growing Thanks to the "Great Unrooted"

The official 2011 Census population for Clarenville was 6,035.    This represented an increase of 14.4% since 2006 (6,035 in 2011, up from 5,275).  That's one of the highest rates of community growth in the Province (We are the highest growth area outside of greater St. John's).
That's good right?

Well, aside for the issue of how we can better manage that growth, it certainly means that our town is becoming a place people come to live. But how can we do a better job at making it a place to call home?.  

Where is this growth coming from? 

We really need to look at the numbers a little more closely and consider where the growth is coming from and how it can be sustained.  The Province keeps a great website called Community Accounts (www.communityaccounts.ca).  This site, among other things, presents the population data for all NL towns.

If we look at the numbers for Clarenville we can see that only about 1.5% of our population growth came from "inside" Clarenville. The "Natural" population growth between 2006-2011 (The difference between births and deaths) was a relatively small 80 people - which accounts for 1.5% of the increase.   The other 13% of the growth came from people immigrating to Clarenville.  The good news: We are a magnet for people and younger families!

Clarenville 
200620072008200920102011  TOTAL
Births555570556545345
Deaths403550404555265
Population increase1520201520-1080

Looking at the numbers even more closely we see that that 13% increase by immigration was made up in large part by  younger families.  In fact, in 2011 Clarenville's median age is 40.7 years - a full 3 years younger than the provincial median ( see:  HERE   )

Into the Future - Rooting the Great Unrooted

As we move into the future, these immigrants will be the people who make you Clarenville's workers, parents, and volunteers.  They will also make up the tax base to pay for the things that we collectively want in this town.  

The challenge for us here is to KEEP these new people.  Clarenville must be more than a place to live - it must become a HOME.   Considering that such a high proportion of residents are "unrooted" the task will be to help make Clarenville their home - they need to become "rooted". This also applies to our kids.  As they move off to school and work, we must work hard to make the opportunity here so, if they choose, they can once again make Clarenville their home.

 Our community's future success truly depends on this happening. 

Building a Rooted Community

Clarenville has a strong and committed base of seniors.  Like the newcomers of of today a great majority of them were the immigrants of the 70's.  They built the services and fellowship of community that made Clarenville home to them.  The Ski Resort, Trails, local Businesses, Service Clubs, the Co-op are all products of their vision to build a rooted community. Clarenville is the regional hub that it is today because of  their vision and their efforts.

This new generation's job is to replicate that success by exercising a similar vision. This generation of unrooted newcomers value (and are willing to pay for) things like curbside recycling, the Events Centre, Recreational opportunities like Running groups, Snowshoe groups, Ski groups, Book Clubs, Fitness Clubs,  Swimming pools, Progressive design and development, municipal transparency through excellent communications, family friendly play areas, splash pads, skate parks, high speed internet, and great schools - they all help "root" people. 

We can imitate the success of the past generation for our future generation by doing and having more of these things and making Clarenville a community to call home for more people.   

   








BE THE FUTURE YOU WANT TO SEE: PARTICIPATE & VOTE

On September 24 you will have the opportunity to vote for candidates in the 2013 Clarenville Municipal Election. 

Between now and then you have the opportunity to take part in the discussion around forming a vision of what we want our town to be.

On Tuesday, Sept. 17, come to the Clarenville Events Centre beginning at 7pm for the Candidate's Forum. 

Please participate in the discussions and then VOTE!


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Towards Making Clarenville More “Affordable”

We are in the middle of some boom times in eastern Newfoundland and Labrador.   With Hebron and Vale in full swing and on our doorsteps, the demand for housing has shot up in Clarenville and prices have risen as accordingly.   This has meant that far too many people who have limited financial means are getting squeezed and squeezed pretty hard. 

We know there is a real problem because volunteer organizations, like the REACH Board (Regional Action Committee on Housing) have been formed to help address some of the problems associated with affordable housing, and the demands on the Clarenville food bank have never been greater.  These should be natural and powerful partners with the Town in addressing the problem of affordability.

The Town officially acknowledges its role in helping to provide affordable housing in its Municipal Plan (p7). Towards this end the Town has adopted some low maintenance,but equally low effect, measures towards addressing affordable housing.   Seniors & Low Income Families have a longer period of time to pay their ever increasing town taxes, interest free and property owners making a household income of less than $20,000 a year are eligible municipal tax reduction of up to 40 per cent.  (I challenge you to find a family in this town with an income at $20,000, significantly below the poverty line, who owns their own property and who could take advantage of this tax reduction).   Although this is good in principle, the gap between optics and action is just too great to have any meaningful effect.

Clearly more “real” initiatives are required to address the issue of affordability.   

The Town has a significant role here by making our town as accessible as possible.  There are a lot of great initiatives out there already and the Town, through CARA (Clarenville Area Recreation Association) has done some great work in making it possible for every kid to play.  CARA’s summer program is second to none, the Jumpstart initiative means a lot more kids can play organized sport, and we have some great playgrounds for a town this size.  Communicating the programs and places, especially to people with limited means and to newcomers, can  be improved.  The School system is the natural partner to make this happen but broader public awareness is critical as well. 

The Town can also free up land for development of lower cost, more affordable houses within new developments.   Under existing legislation the Town can require developers to dedicate land for ‘public’ purposes within a subdivision.   The traditional thinking has been that these lots are set aside for play space, but if more community play areas are built/enhanced, this land could be used for infilling smaller homes that in turn could be set aside for lower income families.  (This concept exists in Ontario and has worked well). Acting with partner organizations (the REACH Board / Service Clubs / NL Housing / Building suppliers / Developers) these homes could be built and be sold at a price that in more within reach.   Further assistance could come from Habitat for Humanity, as they have already expressed an interest in partnering to build homes in Clarenville.  

Developers too could be incentivized to build affordable housing as part of their subdivision agreements with the Town. 
Finally, there are lots of other towns that have developed successful initiatives to make housing more affordable.  Corner Brook, for example has the workings of a potential model for Clarenville.   That city provides non-profit organization’s affordable housing tax relief (see below)....this an in idea that might just work here as well. 





Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Systems: Clarenville needs a A 3-1-1 system Telephone/web Job Order System


It may have worked okay 20-30 years ago, but getting Town assistance by calling the Mayor or Councillors out of bed when an incident occurs during the night is no longer a suitable approach for a modern town.   As we have grown and as experience has shown, situations occur time-to- time, day and night, where citizens need to contact the town in order to address a situation.   As we witnessed many times over the past few years, if a water line breaks overnight, few people would have any idea who to call – while time is important.  The non-emergency telephone number 3-1-1 exists in larger municipalities in Canada and the United States.  

Dialing this single number would allow a resident to obtain important non-emergency services through a central, all-purpose phone number quickly and effectively.

The implementation for Clarenville could be relatively simple.   We can either contract the existing 24/7 fire call service or we can contract a call centre to take the calls.  The Call information would then be documented and routed to the contact assigned for that night/day.  

We could also set up a Clarenville311 email / website / twitter address, so people can contact the town in more ways than phone.

Such a publicly accessible system would document issues and create a clear workorder for the Public Works Department - which in turn could publicly "close" the issue when the issue was addressed or the work was done (this would add highly to accountability and build public engagement)

For the system to work effectively, the system number needs to be well communicated.  Significant effort needs to be put here. 

There's an App for that!

Here's an example of a popular piece of 311 software used in many municipalities across North America called SEECLICKFIX. It's easy to use - click to see it/download it








Tuesday, September 3, 2013

People - The most important Investment we need to make

Clarenville has seen unprecedented growth in the past 2 decades.  The existing town based systems that may have worked adequately in the 70’s and 80’s are now failing us.   Growth however is not the problem; rather it is our inability to manage that growth that is problematic.  The time has come to make the needed investments in people and policies to better deal with growth.     I feel we can and must integrate modern and proactive strategies that increase our ability to better manage a modern town. The good news is that we've already started this!  The citizen-led Strategic Plan the Council adopted in 2008 and the Municipal Plan adopted last year are roadmaps - now we just have to drive. The actions proposed in these documents are designed to ensure that growth is managed and that the natural beauty of our town – the stuff that is truly valuable – is preserved. 

People underlie the success of these plana - we need to focus more strongly on our staff to help them do their jobs better.  Here are my thoughts:

Investments in Staff:

Hire an Engineer Planner / Contract a Planner  

This Council and the previous council have acknowledged the need for a better managed approach to development.  The Town needs a planner with engineering background to guide the vast array of projects that are underway.  We have the guidelines in place but there are paper tigers without a better degree of Town supervision to ensure that the regulations are followed.  A professional planner will not be cheap, but compare that with the cost of continued chaotic type development that is now more the norm than the exception.  In the near term this problem needs to be addressed immediately by contracting a planner; however the goal needs to be to get a person on staff.

Plan for Recruiting - focus on retention

Many of the key people on the Town's staff, who have dedicated their lives to working for and building this town are within 4 years of retirement.  Each of these people posses invaluable knowledge that will be hard to capture, and each of these people will be difficult to replace.  It is imperative that the planning for this eventuality needs to take place now. 

With numerous projects on our doorstep, some current employees may be tempted to leave for more lucrative jobs.  The Town must be sensitive to this and work to ensure a work environment that workers value.

A stronger commitment to staff training

The Council needs to evaluate its goals relative to the skills of its current staff.  Where gaps exist there needs to be provisions put in place to narrow the gap.  This could include training, hiring or early retirements.  By training and appropriate hiring, we could improve the effectiveness of Council staff, develop a learning centred work environment, improve citizen service and, most importantly for staff, improve the work environment. 

 Better Municipal Enforcement

Clarenville has a host of rules on its books that, on paper at least, speak to the progressive intentions of our town.  It’s the kind of regulations that speaks loudly to younger families.   No smoking on Town properties, appropriate signage, and subdivision development regulations are just a few examples.  Unfortunately, without public education and enforcement rules ring hollow and add to public cynicism.     We need to invest more heavily in education and enforcement.  The Town has seen fit to hire a Municipal Enforcement officer but we now need to take the effort further.  That individual needs training and enforcement powers. The rest of the Town's outside staff must also be aware of their role is supporting enforcement. 











Saturday, August 31, 2013

A GOOD SIGN...my exploits in "Electionsigneering"

Join me in this light hearted placement of election signs around Clarenville...I call it Electionsigneering


Crosswalk Action

I was glad to see Town workers painting the crosswalk on Huntley/Harbour intersection this past week – just in time for school.   There are several key crosswalks on high traffic roads in Clarenville and in this past week’s Council meeting I see that there was a decision to add another on the heavily travelled Memorial Drive route as it runs past the Seniors gathering centre. (listen to the Aug 22 meeting on THE PACKET's website at http://www.thepacket.ca/media/flying/1208/cville_council_130820.mp3 )

Noble for sure, but even Council admits that these crosswalks give a rather false sense of security seeing that most drivers in Clarenville seem to be oblivious to them -and the pedestrian's ready to use them - as they zoom past.  

We really need crosswalks that work better.

If there is an admission of a problem – as indicated in the Council discussion – then measures must be taken to solve that problem before someone is hurt and before the town is held liable for negligence.

In other pedestrian focused jurisdictions, several things are being done that we could do here – at a minimal cost.  
  1. Help reduce speed with larger sized signage
  2. Ensure the Crosswalks are marked by monitoring painting the lines regularly. As well, ensure that giant X’s are painted on the road well before to the crosswalk
  3. Cut the trees and remove visibility obstacles before the crossing so drivers have a clearer line of view.   This is a real problem on Harbour Drive and Huntley Drive.
  4.  Install road embedded reflective markers around the crosswalks.    These markers may not work well in our winters but the other 9 months of the year they will be beneficial.  http://www.ennisprismo.com/product-list/road-studs
  5.  Light the crossing with warning lights.  There are specific lights for crosswalks that can be either conventionally grid powered or solar powered.  As we move into the dark season the benefits of these become even greater.  The installed cost of these is about $6,000 per set but they are effective and relative to other infrastructure installations they are inexpensive.

These type crossing lights have been installed in other
jurisdictions across
atlantic canada by Clarenville based SWEnergy
















As a driver, I know it’s quite easy to go faster than I should, so the goal must be to ALERT drivers to their driving situation.  The measures I'm proposing here are not rocket science and neither are they budget breaking.  But, they might just save a life.