By Cole Parkinson
Strategic opportunities in the town of Vauxhall has continued to be a topic of interest for council.
The town’s three-year strategic plan was first brought forward in 2017 and wraps up next year but council had the plan in front of them during their regular meeting on Sept. 3 after a letter from Vauxhall and District Chamber of Commerce president Joerg Klempnauer was delivered.
The letter was originally sent to council during their July 16 meeting but council brought it back to their first September meeting and invited Klempnauer to attend the meeting during discussion.
One of the letter’s points to council was exploring the opportunity of holding town hall meetings to keep residents better informed of what the town was planning.
“Retention of people living and businesses operating in our town is very important and can only be achieved by being open,” stated the letter. “New citizens and businesses will only be found if they are clearly informed of what their fiscal obligations are before they move here and how this compares to other towns.”
Klempnauer also further touched on enticing people to live in the community, whether they be entirely new to the area or people returning to the area.
“We have all seen our children move away to get their education and develop the necessary skills to find good-paying jobs elsewhere. We are doing very little to even get a small percentage back to our town in later years,” stated the letter.
He also listed several amenities that could potentially attract people to Vauxhall which included living costs, affordable housing, available jobs, reliable daycare, schools, banking and public transportation to larger cities among other things.
“If more and more people leave and not many come into the town, where will we be? I built a house, not in town but right outside, I want to live here for the next 30 years so I want the town to flourish and be good. That’s why I am on the chamber and the ag society, to promote this but it is very difficult and can only be done with work. It seems like finding the people willing to put the effort forward and volunteer is one of the hardest things to find. Anyone who has the money can hire the people for the right amount and say do the work but this does not work in the ag society or chamber where we all volunteer,” said Klempnauer to council.
The letter also went into how the VDCC feels some people may not be comfortable in bringing their issues forward during regular council meetings.
The Town of Taber has also gone in this direction by hosting Coffee With Council which allows a more informal setting to discuss issues with councillors.
Council was more than willing to host a few open houses to try and get residents a way to express and concerns they may have.
“We don’t tend to get a lot of people coming out when we have open houses or public meetings but that doesn’t mean we can’t try,” added Mayor Margaret Plumtree. “My opinion is if you try it three, four or five times and nobody shows up, you know something is wrong. Either it is the meeting or the people that are in town,” replied Klempnauer. “It’s easy to complain and judge you people sitting here while they are sitting at home.”
The VDCC is also hoping to assist in any way they can to better inform Vauxhall residents on council decisions.
“I don’t want to insult council or management because I know you are doing the best you can but what I feel is there is a lack of making decisions. If I look at my company as a privately own thing, every day we have to make decisions. I have made wrong ones in the past but they have to be made, you cannot just drag them on,” added Klempnauer.
Council agreed the need for further collaboration between the two parties would be beneficial.
“That’s why we think the relationship with the chamber is so important. Working together for the same common goals instead of each other doing our own thing and duplicating and getting nothing done,” said Plumtree.
While collaboration between the town and local chamber of commerce was seen as critical by both sides, the VDCC also sees the need to bring in further partners.
“The Alberta chamber is very strong, I think the strongest in all of Canada. I think if we can get the board there on our side, it may help us. Like the $200,000, $300,000 you guys didn’t get the last two years for capital funding. We all pay taxes into the federal and provincial budget but if nothing comes back here or not enough and it all goes to the big cities, then we are on the end of it,” continued Klempnauer. “If we don’t fight for ourselves, we are lost. This (letter) is easy to write and those papers (strategic plan) are easy to write but to do something and make change is a day to day and a big effort.”
Even though the VDCC is a relatively new endeavour after shifting from the Vauxhall Business Society in June 2018, the group has made major strides in that short term.
One of their initiatives they have continued to progress on is backing the town and trying to continue the betterment of the community.
“I don’t know how we (VDCC) can be helpful in it but I have discussed this with my board and we are fully behind the town and we want it to flourish. We want to do everything we can to help you guys. We know we all have different opinions and we may fight on other ends but when it comes to the town, I think we need to stick together,” continued Klempnauer.
While people may focus on the lack of amenities such as shopping malls or nightlife in small communities like Vauxhall, administration noted they also didn’t have many issues that bigger centres have to deal with.
“I see the same thing in other communities like in Vauxhall. It’s like a cloud and people don’t see how good they got it in ways. They don’t promote how Vauxhall is beneficial compared to say, Lethbridge,” explained CAO Cris Burns. “We don’t have a meth clinic in Vauxhall so we don’t have that problem. We have noisy mufflers and that problem but that is a common problem everywhere. We don’t have a 7-11 at every corner but we also don’t have things that the city has, which people aren’t very happy about right now.”