New strategies to be discussed by town council next month

Town council, at its Sept. 22 meeting, got its first peek into a downtown sustainability strategy developed by the town’s CAO.

Town council, at its Sept. 22 meeting, got its first peek into a downtown sustainability strategy developed by the town’s CAO.

The strategy was presented to council for information at Monday’s meeting, but Mayor Rick Pankiw said the matter will be discussed in depth at the Oct. 10 committee of the whole meeting.

The draft report includes a number of suggestions which CAO Lucien Cloutier has brought forward to council to discuss and, perhaps, implement.

His draft report states the first order of business to get the sustainability strategy off the ground is to form an advisory committee.

Terms of reference would then need to be developed to clarify the mandate of the committee.

Once the terms were established, the committee would work within these guidelines to provide advice and recommendations to council on activities and programs designed to promote and enhance the downtown.

Cloutier has also suggested that, with the help of a professional planning consultant, an area redevelopment plan for downtown should be developed in 2015. Provisions for maximizing parking, improving signage and traffic lighting and enhancing public safety should be included within the area development plan.

A five-year financial plan earmarked in the budget for downtown improvement is important, Cloutier said.

“The amount to allocate and the nature of the improvements will be established over time through the work of the committee in concert with the council,” he noted in his report.

Money for downtown improvements can be accessed from a number of sources, the CAO said.

Provincial/federal/corporate grant programs, local improvement levies or increasing the municipal tax rate will produce added revenue. Direct allocation within the capital budget with monies taken from reserves, corporate sponsorship or support from community groups are other means of accessing dollars.

Cloutier noted grant incentives are available. These incentives can include improvements to the exterior of existing buildings including the standardization of facades, awnings and building signage. They can also include renovation of existing vacant buildings to accommodate new businesses and the development of vacant lots for new buildings.

Exploring social media opportunities such as the creation of a Rimbey Facebook group is another option council could consider, Cloutier said.

“Such a group would have to be moderated to ensure relevance and mitigate liability,” he said. “Rules would need to be established.”

He noted that social media offer virtual meeting places where downtown businesses can advertise in a manner that is cost effective and instantaneous.

Working with the Chamber of Commerce or CAEP could be beneficial, he noted.

Exploring the feasibility of developing a downtown Rimbey website and carrying out a rebranding activity for Rimbey are other suggestions included in the report.

“While such an activity addresses a need for Rimbey as a whole, downtown, as a significant community stakeholder, stands to benefit from the results of this process,” Cloutier said.

Corporate rebranding can take the form of adopting a new town logo and, potentially a new tagline which provides a message.

“Who are we?” What message do we wish to convey about ourselves? For example, are we ‘a community for all ages,” or are ‘we in the heart of industry’ or are we ‘fun and family friendly’?

“A tagline provides a message about what we stand for and what we value. Such messaging can have an impact on downtown sustainability.”

Mayor Rick Pankiw said Lucien Cloutier was asked to develop the downtown sustainability strategy when he was hired as CAO.

“It is a plan to help Rimbey move forward,’ he said.