May 28, 2015

Welcome To SAP And Good Morning!

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Pull up a chair, grab a cuppa hot coffee and spend a few minutes to start your day with St. Albert's only daily news site.

Not from St. Albert? Not to worry, there's plenty for you too. A great way to put a smile on your face before you begin your day.

Have an opinion, gripe or grin to share? Use our Live Discussion Forum to share it with other readers. Try our frequent recipes. Give our puzzles a whirl or a game of hangman. Check out our outstanding linked photos. Got a story or photo to share? Want to wish someone happy birthday or anniversary? We love your stuff from any location. Go ahead, send it in. We dare you!

Enjoy and please, tell your friends. And be sure to check back often each day as the site can be updated as events occur. Don’t forget that all non-profit and community groups can advertise free here.


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Forum Is Suspended Until After By-Election

Today I took the unusual step of suspending the reader discussion forum until by-election day.

I did so to avert the name calling and sniping from some anonymous posters that seems to prevail during every municipal election. Frankly, I am tired of having to monitor and edit the volume of posts that would surely have appeared.

That is not to say that I have curtailed your freedom to comment on the election, but since there are no anonymous candidates, there will be no anonymous commenters this time around.

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We will gladly publish as many letters to the editor as submitted on the subject, provided they are signed with your proper name and address. If circumstances are such that commenting may affect your job status or some other valid reason, names can be withheld by request if they meet that requirement.

Unlike other local media, candidates are also welcome to submit letters during the campaign expressing their views on matters of interest or issues for the benefit of local voters to know their respective positions and platforms.

Thanks for your co-operation.

SINC SAYS: - And thanks to the many readers who have taken the time to call or email their support of this decision. It is good to know I am not alone in my thinking with this policy.


St. Albert Leader Closes Up Shop

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Leader owner Rob Lelacheur posted this brief announcement today on Twitter which led me to his formal announcement on page 8 of today’s final edition.

Read the reasons why for yourself
here.
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A Hot Day On The Banks Of The Sturgeon

Local resident Elke Blodgett sent along theses shots of a group of people planting trees along the Sturgeon river last weekend. The project was a joint effort of the city and NAIT with BLESS assisting.

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Letters, We Get Letters:

Resident Claims Utility Rates Are Fair

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Hi Don,
 
There has been much discussion surrounding St. Albert City Councils decision to remove Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) grants from subsidizing utilities of the city. While this is a very controversial issue, I thought that I would take the time to cut through the rhetoric and examine the issue at its core.

MSI is a provincial wide per capita grant that was instituted to provide municipalities with sustainable funding for capital projects. Such project include (but not limited to) Roads, Bridges, Transit, Emergency Services, recreation and sports facilities, libraries, public works and community and culture centers. Prior to October 2014, St. Albert allocated 70% of its MSI funds to Municipal projects and 30% of the MSI funds to utility capital projects. In October, City Council voted to phase out the 30% allocation to utilities and direct 100% into municipal projects.

At the heart of this issue is the reality that St. Albert has had a significantly underfunded utility capital program for decades. Previous councils made the easy decisions to keep utility rates falsely low by ignoring a growing capital deficit as opposed to addressing the problem and providing long term stable funding to ensure the sins of our past are not forced upon the future. In St. Albert we have had significant (10%+) utility rate hikes year over year for the past several years. Even with those increases we are still “average” in utility rates for the capital region and well below Edmonton’s utility rates. That, in and of itself, should be an indication of how underfunded our utilities are.

Utilities are a commodity and the infrastructure designed to deliver these commodities should be paid for by the rate payers. By using MSI funds to decrease the capital requirements, we are taking money away from other needs like roads, libraries and fire stations and using said funds to offset utility rates. We do not have mechanisms in place to fund fire halls by charging by the fire, we do not toll roads in St. Albert, we do not toll walking paths in St. Albert. There is no mechanism for these infrastructure costs to be recovered aside from property taxes. When we use MSI to fund utilities, we put an extra burden on the municipal property tax to fund this deficit.

Now, while some members of council will tout this move as a shift toward an independent utility program, council has failed to remove the public art levy on utility capital projects. If you truly want an independent self-funded utility program, you need to remove the levies associated with municipal operation. I would encourage council to consider removing this levy to further move utilities toward independence.

Other members of council declare that MSI was set up for utility projects and that the majority of municipalities in Alberta use MSI for utility capital projects. Well, I decided to do some research and check for myself. In 2013, 88 municipalities utilizes MSI grants for a total of 151 utility projects. There are 357 current municipalities in Alberta, therefore; only 24.6% of all municipalities utilities MSI grants for utilities. Further to that, there were a total of 1031 MSI projects in 2013 of which 151 were utility projects. Again, this points out that only 14.7% of all projects for MSI are utilities based. The total dollar value of all MSI projects for 2013 was $583,065,292 with $55,274,368 or 9.48% being used for utilities. These facts highlight to me that use of MSI to subsidize utilities is really an exception not the norm.

Also important to note is that of the 88 municipalities that used MSI for utility projects, 40 of them had a population of less than 1000. St. Albert and Calgary were the only cities that used MSI for utilities and only 6 municipalities (including St. Albert and Calgary) had a population of greater than 10,000. This indicates that cites of size are not relying on MSI for subsidization of utilities. It is smaller communities with small populations where the per capita project assessment would be unaffordable.

MSI is a zero sum game. Any dollar used on utilities is taken from municipal funding and defacto not available for roads, bridges, fire halls, etc.

All that being said, the policy moved by city council and the utility rate models certainly has is flaws and pit falls. For example, using a fix capital contribution rate like we have is regressive and punitive. Logically, the more usage one has, the more demand and stress placed on the system. I would strongly encourage City Council to link capital contributions to usage so everyone pays their fair share. Currently, any multifamily dwellings are assessed as a single utility account holder. That means that a 50 unit complex is assessed the $9.00 a month just like a single family home. That needs to change to better reflect a balanced approach.

Finally, while I am not enjoying the new higher utility rates in St. Albert, I can tell you I take comfort knowing that the utilities are now being properly funded and increases in rates should be relatively stable and benign on a go forward basis. We can rest assured that if / when MSI grants are discontinued by the province (which they can be at any time) our stable funding model will protect us from the whims of the provincial government.

Dana Popadynetz
St. Albert




Questions We’d Like To See Answered

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Why do some members of St. Albert city council have such a low opinion of the intelligence of the residents of St. Albert? Regards, HWM, St. Albert

Got a question you would like to see answered? Send it to us at mybirdie@telus.net.
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Visit Our Discussion Forum
Our Forum, which can be accessed via the link on the top left side of this page or here, is a vibrant and active community filled with local opinion and ideas. Why not join the discussion today? Please note that you DO NOT have to join or register to read the Forum, it is open for all to read.

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The Things That People Send Us

Patriots Super Bowl rings . . .

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The Daily GIF

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Now That

Was Scary!

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TU Delft - Ambulance Drone

Each year nearly a million people in Europe suffer from a cardiac arrest. A mere 8% survives due to slow response times of emergency services. The ambulance-drone is capable of saving lives with an integrated defibrillator. The goal is to improve existing emergency infrastructure with a network of drones. This new type of drones can go over 100 km/h and reaches its destination within 1 minute, which increases chance of survival from 8% to 80%! This drone folds up and becomes a toolbox for all kind of emergency supplies. Future implementations will also serve other use cases such as drowning, diabetes, respiratory issues and traumas. Thanks to Richard Wear of the city for pointing out this video to us.


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Playing Tonight At LB's Pub

Thursday Open Stage:Rob1
Playing Tomorrow Night At LB's Pub
May 28 Tour of Hope1
Upcoming Performers At LB’s Pub
May 28 Tour of Hope1 copy May 29 The Ramifications1 copy
June 4 : 15 The Tomatoes  copy June 5 : 15 Darrell Poster1 copy
June 12 : 15 Mike Will1 copy June 17 : 15 Aaron Goodvin:1 copy
June 19 : 15 Jeremy Dallas1 copy June 25 : 15 Amie Weymes1 copy
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Wine Not The Only Drink That’s Good For You

Wine Not The Only
Interview with a 101-year-old lady.

Reporter: “Can you give us some health tips for reaching the age of 101?”

Lady: “For better digestion I drink beer. In the case of appetite loss I drink white wine. For low blood pressure I drink red wine. In the case of high blood pressure I drink scotch. And when I have a cold I drink schnapps.”

Reporter: “When do you drink water?”

Hattie: “I've never been that sick.”

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WEBBITS

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A roundup of bits from the web.

* The 5,000-calorie dessert made with four giant waffles and 12 scoops of ice-cream that's FREE if you can finish it in 45 minutes.

* The celebrity haven nobody has heard of: Why supermodels and Hollywood stars are flocking to a fishing village in Uruguay.

* California getting 'second-hand smog' from Asia, researchers say.

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When Detroit Was In It's Full Glory

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Why Yes, We Can Move That For You!

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Top 7 Most Fuel-Efficient Cars To Save You Money

Top 7 Most
Get more for your money at the pump. These fuel-efficient cars will get you the most drive time on and off the highway.

Gas prices are climbing and there is no better way to save at the pump than getting the most out of your mileage. Next time you’re out car shopping, look for these fuel-efficient cars to get from A-Z without breaking the bank.

Details on Wheels.ca.

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Links To Today's Outstanding Photographs

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Mount Ngauruhoe, New Zealand

Shyok River Delta, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

Fillmore Glen, Moravia, NY

Himeji Castle, Japan

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Today's Activity Corner

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Spelling Bee
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Match each word in the left column with its synonym on the right. When finished, click Answer to see the results. Good luck!

 

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