Mayor has faith in 2017

By Geoff Lee

January 10, 2017 10:32 AM

Mayor Gerald Aalbers

Lloydminster Mayor Gerald Aalbers is starting off the New Year with his cup half-full of optimism for the local economy.
“I would like to say we turned the corner from what I hear from people,” said Aalbers in a late year-end interview.
“There’s some positiveness, the price of oil has come up a little bit, people are feeling a little better about things.”
Aalbers bases that on a recent $1 billion investment announcement by Husky Energy to build three more thermal heavy oil plants in the region, along with the rising price of oil.
“I think people in the oil and gas industry are hearing positive things and may even be experiencing some positive things,” said Aalbers.
“That’s always good news.”
Husky will also make a decision this year on the status of a potential expansion of the Lloydminster Asphalt Refinery that would double the capacity to 60,000 barrels a year and generate employment.
“Until the ground is actually broken, there’s always a little hesitation,” said Aalbers.
“I think everybody realizes it’s definitely a step in the right direction for the community and they all eagerly await the final announcement and the commitment from Husky to go ahead and proceed with the project.”
The planned turnarounds at the asphalt refinery and at the Lloydminster Huksy Upgrader in the second quarter of 2017 are helping to create a positive sentiment in the community.
“Like any other business, if there’s optimism, people will maybe invest or reinvest in their business, and consider borrowing money if they need to borrow some money to do some capital (spending),” said Aalbers.
“The oil and gas industry is driven by investment.”
Aalbers said 2017 will be an interesting story, and he expects the price of oil will have more power than his crystal ball to foretell how the economy will unfold.
“I can’t make any predictions because I don’t know where oil is going to finish, but that will have a huge impact on our city I believe,” he said.
“If agriculture can have a great year in 2017, it will be very rewarding.”
The first civic priority for Aalbers and council will be to approve the 2017 budget that received interim approval on Dec. 12.
Aalbers said he hopes they have it done by the end of January. If not, in early February when all of their budget questions to administration are answered.
Council’s top priority for the year is upgrading the $94 million wastewater treatment plant.
“So there’s many steps to that project,“said Aalbers.
“We’ve got some work being done at the city—we have an application going to the federal and provincial governments looking for assistance with funding through the grant program that the federal government is offering.”
Aalbers said the city will also need to seek an extension from the Ministry of Environment in Saskatchewan for the wastewater regulations that are coming into effect in July.
He said the second priority is for council to set the priorities and strategic agenda going forward for the city from this council’s perspective.
Aalbers takes exception to the idea the five new councillors elected along with him in the Oct. 26 municipal election need to get council motions and processes down pat.
“I think people expect very good debate and discussion and I believe that’s what been happening where there is more requests for information being sent back to administration,” he said.
He noted there are people on council that are asking questions, always seeking a little more information because more information usually means there’s questions.
“We want to make sure that all the questions are fleshed out,” he said.
Seeking answers from administration was Aalbers promise as mayor when he announced he was running for office on April 7, months ahead of the fall 2016 election.
“I want to make a difference in the city,” he said that day.
“I want to provide clear and open and transparent answers to you as your next mayor.”
Aalbers won the election in a landslide with 4,081 votes, with his closest competitor, Jason Whiting, getting just 1,791.
Getting elected was Aalber’s personal highlight of the year,  leading him to give up his former job as a corrosion and integrity specialist for Tervita.
“It’s definitely a huge change and very enjoyable, but to the same token, I never know what’s coming at me in the next day,” he said.
“Things are fluid in the mayor’s office and in city hall from the perspective that somebody always has something going on.”
He said he’s looking forward to getting settled into a routine and getting to know his fellow mayors and neighbouring reeves in 2017.
“I am looking forward to the cooperation that I hope we can continue to build on with our neighbours and watch the city unfold in 2017,” he said.

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