An update with District of Sparwood Mayor Cal McDougall

The Free Press caught up with the Mayor for the District of Sparwood Cal McDougall, to see what is going on behind the scenes at City Hall.

As the District of Sparwood prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year, their Mayor and Council have been busy working to organize committees to commemorate and celebrate the occasion.

The Free Press caught up with the Mayor for the District of Sparwood Cal McDougall, to see what is going on behind the scenes at Sparwood City Hall.

50th anniversary celebrations

The District of Sparwood is planning multiple events and celebrations in honour of the semicentennial occasion. Mayor McDougall says the bulk of the celebrations coincide with the Coal Miner Days festival in June and he hopes to see many people return to Sparwood to celebrate.

“It should be a lot of fun. They decided to tie it around the Coal Miner Days, which should intensify the amount of folks that are able to come,” said McDougall. “The roots are pretty deep. We are anticipating a lot of those folks coming out.”

A committee has been assembled to organize events and McDougall says the committee is working well together to bring their ideas to fruition. On Mar. 7, City Council approved a recommendation from the committee to commission a memorial statue of a miner. The statue’s estimate cost is $58,000, and the city is accepting donations to see its construction through. Any donation over $30 will be eligible for a tax receipt.

“It’s in commemoration of the Bomber North disasters that took place and we hope to have that all in place by this summer. I think it will be a very nice memorial for those that lost their lives in the mines over the years,” said McDougall in regards to the statue.

McDougall said he is excited to be a part of the celebrations.

“There are a lot of different things happening with it,” he said. “It’s exciting to be a part of the 50th birthday and anniversary.”

Working with businesses

Sparwood has been hit by the recent economic downturn. In the fall, both Finning and Teck announced layoffs that have affected the town. Despite this, McDougall says that council is doing what it can to ensure stability through the economic downturn.

“We’re really watching our budget numbers,” he said. “We have been really reviewing our budget numbers this year and we are working hard to keep those in line so the tax increases are limited.”

The District of Sparwood is also talking to local businesses, such as Teck and Joy Global to discuss the appropriate time for highway developments.

“With development, Highway 3 and 43, we are in discussions for how we can modify or postpone whatever we may have to do with that intersection. We do have some commitments to Teck and to Joy Global but we are talking to them because both of them have made comments that they are not going to develop right away. They are waiting to see what the economy does and fair enough, that makes sense,” McDougall said. “We don’t want to start doing a lot of that infrastructure work if in fact it doesn’t have to be done for some time. We are working with business to move forward at a pace that is equal to the business development.”

New park development

There have been murmurs of new parks to come to Sparwood, including a skate park and an off-leash dog park.

“We’re researching both of those. The skate park, for example, is something that has been identified by the community as something that is very important to the community,” said McDougall. “We are doing what we can to work with that organization to keep it alive and moving forward.”

McDougall credits the Skate Park committee for their fundraising efforts, as the park may cost upwards of $500,000.

“The group is out fundraising, they’re doing things, they are applying for grants and we are working with them wherever we can.”

As for an off-leash dog park, City Council has received a request to share the ball fields with a park of this type, but there is currently no commitment to that idea.

“There was a request for sharing ball fields for a dog park and we didn’t really want to do that but we did commit to exploring other avenues for a potential open dog park. No commitment but we are looking into it.”

Baldy Ridge Expansion

McDougall attended the Baldy Ridge Expansion Open House on Mar. 10, and says he was pleased to see so many local residents also attended the event.

“It shows that people want to know what is going on, they’re curious, they want to make sure the expansion is done, but done correctly, and I think that is the key to it all,” he said. “We all know that we are a mining community, we want mining to continue but we also live here and want to make sure that where we live is safe and pleasant.”

He believes the main concern for local residents is the amount of dust the possible expansion could create and how Teck plans to moderate the issue.

“The biggest concern that I’m finding is that people are really concerned about the dust – what is going to happen with the dust? Again, we all know that we live in a coal mining community but we want to make sure that Teck is doing their absolute utmost to keep the dust down and keep our community clean.”

Communication methods

McDougall says the District of Sparwood utilizes multiple communication methods to inform the public of Council’s activities.

“As far as communicating ideas or policies, there is no favourite way. You have to do it in a whole bunch of different ways – you have to do it in the paper,  you have to do it on the radio, you have to put it on bulletin boards, you have to put it on Facebook and we do all of that,” he said. “A lot of it is word of mouth. We keep our website very current as far as upcoming events.”

To communicate directly with him, McDougall said he returns all calls and messages he receives.

“As far as one-on-one, I would say phone me. That’s the best way, through the office or what not, I will get back to anyone who leaves a message.”