By Philip Buisseret
1. What was the biggest accomplishment of town council for 2019?
Mayor Kilpatrick: I think our biggest accomplishment was catching up with the backlog of procedural paperwork required to be completed by town council. Its not glamourous work but we are required to be up to date with submitting plans and setting priorities such as the Inter Municipal Development Plan (IDP). This work eats up large amounts of our time but must be completed. In 2020 we will be completely up to date with this.
2. What major ways has the change in provincial government affected Redcliff?
Mayor Kilpatrick: The town relies on funding assistance from the government for example the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funds. These funds help pay for infrastructure projects within the town, the grant has been cut from $1.2 million to $700.000 with more cuts expected going forward, this is an unconditional and fairly easy to use grant. With other Provincial cuts this means that effectively 20% of our income has been removed. These cuts affect us directly and are tied to water/sewer/roads and sidewalk maintenance. The government has also eliminated the Student STEP program so that it will be difficult for us to hire summer students.
3. What was the reason for the delay in the Rectangle parking project?
Mayor Kilpatrick: This was our fault (the town) we tried to save costs by doing some of the preliminary work “in house” and of course our town employees have other things to do and were pulled away sometimes, for other duties, there were also some unmarked underground utilities that caused delays. By the time the general contractor got started the project was already behind schedule, then with early bad weather in September and associated water issues the whole renovation got completely backed up. It was no fault of the contractor though.
4. What are the top two complaints that you received during 2019?
Mayor Kilpatrick: Well firstly its bylaw issues, residents see something wrong and want something done, secondly it is the costs of utilities, especially water. I see yards not being watered in the summer and that bothers me, however our water rates are certainly comparable, our residential rate in 2019 was $1.03/per cubic meter whereas take Lethbridge for example at $1.25, so we are in the ballpark with our rates.
5. When people see you on the street or out in the community without a formal event, what do they usually say to you? More praise or more complaints?
I think a few of each but mostly it’s a friendly “hello” this is a small town!
6. What is the most challenging part of budgeting for you?
Mayor Kilpatrick: During these tough economic times I know that people are hurting, and we have to practice fiscal restraint, less provincial money with the change in government means less money for the town, squeezing us. Fiscal responsibility is vital to me as mayor, a recent survey showed that 30 per cent of our population is $200.00 away at the end of each month from insolvency. I know that stress levels are very high out there. We have to look carefully at new projects and the services we provide to residents, we have to do what we feel is best for them.
7. What is the most frustrating part of your job?
Mayor Kilpatrick: I think the time it takes to get things done. From the start of a project it takes up to 5 years to be completed, during this time grant structures sometimes change, the project is approved on the Municipal level early in the process, but we end up with a funding shortfall due to the change. The government approval process is very frustrating.
8. What is the most surprising thing that you have learned while being the mayor?
Mayor Kilpatrick: After serving as town councillor for 28 years I haven’t had any big surprises, I am a little surprised at the personal time commitment required to be the mayor. One thing that has saddened me is the use of Social Media, people making comments just don’t do the research, Town Council meeting minutes are available on our Town website, sometimes they react without the proper facts or thought before making comments.
9. If you received a $1 million dollar grant to use for the town any way that you wanted, what would you do with it and why?
Mayor Kilpatrick: I would hire an economic development officer for about 10 years. At present we share this task with the County of 40 Mile and Cypress County but to have our own dedicated development Officer would be good for the Town. It is difficult to justify regular taxpayer dollars for this duty but is very important to try to attract more business.
10. Are there any plans for affordable housing in Redcliff?
Mayor Kilpatrick. Our Director Protective and Community Services Derrin Thibault and Council have looked at this, and will continue to look at it, however we do contribute funds to the Cypress View Foundation. Perhaps with a minority federal government there may be a “softening” attitude towards providing grants for such things. Oftentimes affordable housing is initiated by private developers.
11. What infrastructure projects are planned for 2020?
Mayor Kilpatrick: For Capital projects there is some overlay paving planned for Third and Fourth street. The lift station upgrades will continue, to address water infiltration issues. We will build the first phase of the new skateboard park adjacent to the Redcliff Rectangle, renovations to the splash park adjacent to Lions Park will be done, and upgrades to the baseball diamonds completed. Installation of a water service to parts of the River Valley area is scheduled, at present they do not have municipal running water or fire hydrant coverage, we will start with the older area of that development first. For the future we have to look at the Redcliff Rectangle, it is a 30 year plus facility and will need an upgrade within two to five years, then we will be faced with the big decision to re-furbish or build new?
12. What is the municipal tax rate increase for 2020?
Mayor Kilpatrick: I can only speak for the Municipal portion, there is a zero increase in taxes this year which is good news, we have cut back on infrastructure projects and we will only be proceeding with items that have already been funded. Our Municipal mill rate of 5.3 per cent is low in comparison to others and we want to hold it there. Next year will be very difficult for us as we budget for even less provincial assistance, the government budget with regards to funding municipalities will determine our response regarding tax increases. We could have raised taxes a little this year to soften the blow for next year but decided that given the economic climate we would wait and see. Taxes in Redcliff are still very reasonable compared to our neighbours and our per capita debt ratio is only 30-40 per cent of the maximum permitted by the province so we are in good financial shape.
13. Do you have a particular goal in mind for your next two years in office?
Mayor Kilpatrick: We want to continue on the same path especially regarding infrastructure. We want to encourage economic development which is very tough at the moment and make more land available for the eastside area of Redcliff. We should look at setting aside an area for industrial development as currently there is nothing available. We want to remain fiscally responsible and not go into debt over our heads.