May 26th, 2020

Coaldale Site A decision irks group

By Kalinowski, Tim on June 12, 2019.

Tim Kalinowski

Lethbridge Herald -coaldale

Despite providing over 600 pages of information at Monday’s Town of Coaldale council meeting justifying their choice of “Site A” for a new joint-use recreation facility and school on the town’s north side, Mayor Kim Craig, town councillors and CAO Kalen Hastings couldn’t escape accusations of deception, lack of transparency and railroading.

Coaldale resident Kyle Frache led a delegation of concerned citizens to Coaldale’s last public council meeting on May 27 where he says he was reassured by the mayor and fellow council members they would be open to considering another site, and had asked for detailed information on all options. Frache, who was also present during Monday’s council meeting, said that turned out to be a “lie.”

“At that time (on May 27), the council members as well as the mayor agreed they were going to hold off on Site A and look at other potential areas selected and what other options they do have,” Frache explained. “Unfortunately at Monday’s meeting the mayor admitted he lied to us, and they have already decided without any public input. They did give a lot of information in regard to Site A, but they did not present any negative data or opposition data to Site A as far as other sites go.”

Hastings disagreed with Frache’s interpretation of what council had asked his staff members to provide. Hastings said Monday’s information session was intended to provide greater context why Site A was the best choice among those considered, not as a reconsideration of Site A’s ultimate suitability.

“Council made a resolution at that council meeting to ask staff to bring back an information report that provided an overview of the history and logistics involved with the joint high school-rec centre, including the site (A) location that was determined as well as the other options analyzed,” stated Hastings. “It was a staff report delivered in partnership with Town administration, the fire department, CP Rail . . . we had information from the RCMP as well that looked at the emergency response aspects and the safety infrastructure upgrades planned, response times. CP Rail talked about train numbers, lengths, the protocols they follow, as well as the safety infrastructure upgrades they have been working with us on to implement, and the funding sources to help cover the costs of those upgrades.

“The biggest take away is the site selected was the most economically and financially feasible location compared to all the other sites analyzed. It provides an opportunity to add an educational and recreational amenity to the north side of Coaldale, which has a population of close to 2,000.”

That’s not what Craig told him, said Frache, and he invited the public to view the video record of the May 27 meeting, available on the Town of Coaldale website, if it wants the truth.

“I asked Mayor Craig directly the question: ‘Is Site A a go, no matter what?’ And he said, ‘No, and they were going to look into it.’ And now the CAO has said to media outlets: ‘Why should they ask the public’s opinion when they have already decided?’ Or words to that effect.”

Hastings said what citizens should get out of the information provided Monday is reassurance that safety concerns around future highway and rail crossing from the south to the north side are being addressed.

“We looked at 45 other communities in the province of Alberta that have rails and highways that pass through it – along with residential and corresponding recreational and education amenities on both sides of the railway and highways. Coaldale is not exceptional in the sense that it has a railway and highway running through it, but it is exceptional in the sense you have large population mass on one side with no amenities, and the selected site for the joint-use facility helps balance that out.”

He pointed to a proposed safety fence around the rail where it runs through town and the upgrades to intersection crossings from the south to the north side for the sake of students going to the new school. Hastings said these upgrades would be done concurrently as the new facility is being constructed.

Frache said he and many other citizens concerned about this project are not reassured.

“There is no safety infrastructure budget for the next three years for that project, and there isn’t even yet an architectural design for the school or the rec centre,” Frache said. “We are already paying $120 levy fee for a hypothetical rec centre and we have no idea what this safety infrastructure is going to cost. So is it a $38-million school? Or closer to a $50- or $60-million school? We don’t know that because of the lack of numbers given to the citizens.”

Frache said his next step will be to lead a delegation to Associate Minister Grant Hunter and other local UCP MLAs to ensure they are made aware of the shortcomings of the Town’s plans for Site A before the provincial government cuts any cheques for a new school on Coaldale’s north side.

“Maybe the new government needs to be informed about what is going on in our municipality,” he said simply.

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