Chestermere Mayor Marshall Chalmers highlighted the significant milestones that the community hit in 2020.
“Chestermere, we did it. We made it to the end of 2020. This year certainly did not go as we expected, yet I’m so thankful and proud of all that we’ve accomplished in the past 12 months
That applies to both our pandemic response and to our regular operations,” Chalmers said.
“Even though we were apart, and our buildings were closed to visitors, we were hard at work to make Chestermere a better place for you,” he said.
When council was elected in 2017, they had two main priorities, taxes and Chestermere Utilities Incorporated (CUI).
In 2018, council reduced a pre-approved tax increase from two per cent to less than one per cent, cut taxes by two per cent in 2019 and 2020, and over a one per cent tax cut in 2021.
“We have worked hard to find efficiencies so that you, our residents, could keep a little more money in your pockets, especially during the unexpected challenges of 2020,” Chalmers said.
In 2020 council held the line with a zero per cent increase in utility rates, which Chalmers announced will also apply for 2021.
Since 2017, council has made changes to city hall such as hiring a new Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), developing a new vision to be amazing, improving efficiencies, reorganizing departments, and setting a Council Code of Conduct.
“That work has been instrumental, not only in giving us the ability to tackle taxes and CUI but in helping us navigate Chestermere’s response to the global pandemic. I’d like to thank all of the staff, committee members, and volunteers who have made those changes possible,” Chalmers said.
“The work to improve efficiencies is still underway and I am pleased to let you know that substantial progress has been made on the city’s service level review project in 2020,” he said.
In 2020, seniors housing, adding transit, improving economic development, and recreation were top priorities for Chestermere City Council.
Council approved a land-use redesignation in order for the Best Western Hotel to be converted into Chestermere’s first seniors’ specific housing facility, and a land-use change for a property in Kinniburgh, south of East Lake School, that is planned to be a 55-plus senior living development with the potential for bungalows and duplexes.
In 2020, the City of Chestermere asked the City of Calgary to enter into formal negotiations regarding the possibility of transit.
“We are in talks about what exactly it would look like to extend the MAX Purple line into Chestermere,” Chalmers said.
“We anticipate those negotiations will wrap up soon and look forward to offering a transit link to downtown Calgary sometime in 2021,” he said.
In 2019, council announced that they would offer a tax break for new non-residential development to help developers pay for the upfront costs of servicing.
“These smart changes helped set the stage for new development in our community, and we are pleased to see the new commercial building in Kinniburgh and the commercial building across the street from City Hall break ground in 2020,” Chalmers said.
“We are also thrilled to see progress happening on Dawson’s Landing, Chelsea, Waterford, and eagerly await work to begin on the non-residential components of those new communities as well,” he said.
The city also began working with MAGNA Engineering and Eco-Growth to initiate a pilot project for wastewater processing.
“If successful, this project could change the way municipalities across Canada process their sewage, and we are proud to be part of that innovative work,” Chalmers said.
When Rocky View County (RVC) closed the recreation centre in 2019, the City of Chestermere offered to purchase the existing recreation centre land from the county.
“They declined our initial offer, which was the assessed value. Negotiations are still ongoing with the county and we have big plans for recreation in Chestermere,” Chalmers said.
“In November, we announced that we had taken all of the studies, research, and work of the past several years to create a plan for a new recreation facility. This new civic centre will include a fieldhouse in the first phase and community rooms, walking pathways, sports fields, arenas and potentially a pool in the future phases,” he said.
Adding, “Construction is planned to begin in 2021, and residents could be watching and enjoying playing indoor field sports like lacrosse, soccer, football, ultimate frisbee, cricket, and lawn bowling in the new facility as soon as 2023.”
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Chestermere continued progress on capital projects, such as upgrades to Township Road 240, and the installation of signalized crosswalks and speed monitors.
“We’ve been hearing complaints about the condition of 17 Ave transitioning into Chestermere Boulevard and I am pleased to let you know that in 2020, we got that project to the top of the to-do list for the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board. Our 2021 budget includes funds to start widening our portion of that road, so your travel into Calgary should become smoother very soon,” Chalmers said.
Adding, “These are just some of the improvements and progress you would have seen in Chestermere over the past year, and I would like to thank you, our residents for your continued communication with us throughout the past twelve months.”
When council was first elected, one of their main concerns was improving communication with residents.
To ensure communication remained open council began Coffee with Council opportunities, held in-person meetings, participated in the Mayor’s Breakfast with the development community, and increased accessibility to the mayor’s office.
“Over the past year, it has become increasingly challenging to stay connected, but we’ve tried to find new ways to connect,” Chalmers said.
“I want to say thank you to everyone who has reached out to stay in touch with us during this year. Even while we are apart, we appreciate your comments and your encouragement along the way,” he said.
In 2020, there were over 450 local confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chestermere.
“We have not had any deaths in our community, and for that, I am extremely grateful,” Chalmers said.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Emergency Command Centre (ECC), was open for more than 100 days, while CAO and Emergency Director Bernie Morton followed updates to determine the best ways to support the community.
“It has been distressing to me to watch our case numbers rise this fall. But as I have said from the beginning, Chestermere is an amazing, resilient community and we can do this Chestermere. We can keep our cases down, and we can keep each other safe. Please continue to stay home when possible, wash your hands, wear a mask, and do your part,” Chalmers said.
“I am so thankful that vaccines and the end of this pandemic are on the horizon for 2021. But I know that we still have a long way to go. Thank you for your patience, your efforts, and your support as we continue to tackle this situation,” he said.
As many events and fundraising opportunities were cancelled due to COVID-19, on Dec. 1, the Family and Community Resource Centre hosted the first-ever online Giving Tuesday Fundraiser.
“What is even more amazing is that our community came together to support the fund with over $30,000 in donations, the most the fund has ever received. In one of the most challenging years, our community has virtually come together to support each other, even while we are apart. To me, this situation is just one of the many symbols of hope that together, we can do it,” Chalmers said.
Adding, “As we look forward to 2021, on behalf of council, I wish you the happiest and healthiest new year. We look forward to continuing to serve you together, even while we are apart.”