Elk Valley Mayors talk about the year it’s been

Elk Valley Mayors are taking a look at what kind of year it’s been, and a glance into the future

It’s been quite the year in the valley.

After 12 months of challenges and growth on a number of levels, the mayors of Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford are taking a look at what kind of year it’s been, and a glance into the future.

Fernie Mayor Mary Guiliano says that the City of Fernie experienced trials and tribulations over the year, but ultimately, came out strong.

The municipality grappled with a hotly contested short term rental bylaw, and a number of housing developments.

It was a record year for housing developments in Fernie, with the city seeing over 28 new detached homes being built.

She says the City made major accomplishments, like the installation of the James White Park river crossing, as well as the recently announced incorporation of West Fernie.

The ammonia leak at the Fernie Memorial Arena was an incredibly painful experience for not only the staff of the City of Fernie, but the entire community, said the Mayor.

“That was challenging for me as a mayor,” she said, when asked about the most difficult times she faced in 2017. “It was such an emotional response.”

As Fernie mourned the loss of Wayne Hornquist, Lloyd Smith and Jason Podloski; a donation from the Calgary Flames Foundation gave the city an opportunity to focus their grief and mourning.

“That was the shot in the arm that everyone needed,” said Giuliano. “To put their sadness into a project.”

The mayor says both local government and the community stuck together during the difficult time.

“It was like losing part of your family,” she said. “It was just such a painful thing for everybody.”

She says that as a mayor, it showed her that she is stronger than she ever knew and so is her city.

“We always overcome, we are always able to pick ourselves up and move forward,” she said. “I love Fernie the way that I love my own family.”

In Sparwood, Mayor Cal McDougall is excited to get a number of projects off the ground in the new year. His staff just announced they have awarded the tender to majorly overhaul two intersections in the community, at Highway 3 and Highway 43.

Earlier in the year, McDougall said he felt some real pressure when faced with the $7 million bill for the project, however, he and staff gave a collective sigh of relief when the provincial and federal governments came through with a $5 million grant.

“That was very stressful times when we didn’t have that grant guaranteed,” said McDougall. “We were going to be pretty tapped out.”

When the grant came through, he says his email inbox lit up.

“We were all pretty ecstatic,” said McDougall.

He says the year started off with economic uncertainty in Sparwood, with Teck Coal weathering low commodity prices.

“I know Teck was better prepared for the downturn this time,” said McDougall. “There was no layoffs with their people. Everyone just kind of hunkered down.”

He says now the town is back on an upward swing.

“I’m looking forward to a positive 2018,” he said.

In Elkford, mayor Dean McKerracher says that the completion of the district’s helipad was a major highlight of the year.

On a personal note, the trip he and CAO Curtis Helgesen took to Colombia to work with municipalities on mining relations was a major learning experience.

“I hope it’s beneficial to Colombia,” he said. “We learned a heck of a lot.”

As chair of the RDEK Hospital Board, McKerracher says that he’s looking forward to a number of projects coming online next year.

“Our next goal is to work with Interior Health,” he said, to make upgrades to oncology and dialysis services at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital.

All in all, McKerracher says it’s his government’s approach to teamwork that allows for the successful completion of projects.

“We do disagree on occasion,” he said, explaining that there is debate and opposition in council sessions, but once a decision is made, representatives respect it. “We work well as a team.”

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