By Trevor Busch
With a strong focus on economic growth Taber enjoyed a successful year in 2017, seeing new building permits jump significantly over 2016 figures.
“Overall, I think we had a pretty good year. Economic growth is the focus here, and I believe that was very successful over the course of 2017,” said Mayor Andrew Prokop. “We actually had roughly 50 new businesses open up, anything from a home small business, other numbered companies, and retail, there’s quite a variety involved. Just to put that into perspective, regarding building permits compared to 2016 — we had $13.5 million worth of permits for 2016 — and $20.8 million for 2017. That’s basically a 50 per cent increase. So that’s huge — there’s obviously opportunities out there, and people are making them.”
Prokop is an advocate of making infrastructure investments when they are needed rather than postponing projects until deterioration has advanced and the cost has escalated significantly.
“Infrastructure is always important, for upkeep and upgrading requirements there.Road repair is one big one that’s always high on the priority list for the public, and town council and administration as well. It’s one of those things, it’s a very pricey fix in some cases, but you have try to keep that up on a reasonable basis. The unseen infrastructure underneath the roadways is also very important, water, sewer, that’s got to be upgraded as well, and they’re doing that as well as they can on a priority basis. It’s time, I think. There’s certain things that you just can’t put on hold. It’s happened in the past, and I understand councils of the day sometimes making those decisions, but really for the most part when something is needed you should deal with it sooner rather than later, otherwise it will end up costing you more down the road. That’s been proven.”
With a new contingent of councillors following the October 2017 municipal election, Prokop admitted there is always a learning curve.
“We’ve been termed as a proactive council, like to get things done yesterday, and I believe there was a lot of success with the previous council, and I expect good success with our current council as well. We’ve just been at it the last few months with our new council, but things are going pretty well with that, we’ve got some new people — we’re all still learning, you never stop learning in the municipal world.”
Local fire departments’ efforts in battling the conflagration that consumed the Flexible Solutions facility in Taber’s industrial area in 2017 are to be commended.
“Both the town and the M.D. both were able to coordinate and work together extremely well, both in dealing with that fire, and probably saving Hostess-FritoLay from further issues there as a result of being very close to that fire,” said Prokop. “Charlton and Hill, just north, they actually put out a small fire on the roof there. They caught that, and were able to deal with that. Had they not seen that, it could have been another disastrous situation. But the Flexible Solutions fire overall, a lot of credit needs to be given to the Taber and M.D. fire departments did a great job with that.”
Other successes for the community in 2017 include upgrades to the town’s lagoons and effluent irrigation system, provincial recognition from Communities in Bloom for the second consecutive year, the ongoing implementation of the town’s three-cart solid waste initiative, a financial award for the town, and festivals such as the Taber Pheasant Festival and Cornfest. In 2018, Prokop hopes to see more extensive utilization of the Cornfest Stage in Confederation Park.
“Economic growth and recreational opportunities are the two key focus points I like to look at. That’s not the only thing, but those are some focus points for me,” said Prokop. “Economically-speaking, 2017 was a very positive year, a very successful year. That’s happened, and I believe it’s going to happen mores in 2018. We’re going to enhance the walking trail and Trout Pond.”
The community should also be looking forward to Taber’s hosting the 2018 Southern Alberta Summer Games, added Prokop.
“That’s going to be an exciting event. It’s a lot of work to put it on, too, but it’s a major event for the community, and another win-win scenario for all the businesses that are going to benefit as a result of that event going here.”
The Town of Taber’s Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) contract has expired in 2018, and town officials will soon be moving into negotiations for a new contract.
With Taber’s population slowly closing in on city status in Alberta, Prokop is encouraged by the numbers and hopes to see this milestone achieved for the community under his tenure.
“I’d like to see this 10,000 population figure. I believe they’re looking to do a census this year sometime, so we’ll see exactly where we’re at. I think the guesstimate is that we may be at around 9,000 range right now, but that’s just a guess. If that’s the case, I believe 10,000 for that magic number to become city status isn’t far away, and I’d like to see that pursued further. It’s back to economic growth and recreational opportunities for families, quality of life, that’s what keeps people here, and that’s what attracts new people here.”