The Town of Crossfield is at a very real crossroads as it appears poised to undergo rapid expansion in the coming years.
As people look for more affordable housing options outside of local cities, many small bedroom communities like Crossfield are increasingly viewed as a great place to buy a home, grow a business, or start a family.
It not only reverses decades of local rural depopulation to the larger centres, but also comes with new challenges, said Mayor Kim Harris in a recent year-end interview.
“We are so excited for that (growth), and that is one of the main reasons why we're building our foundation now, maintaining what we need to maintain and setting aside some of that money to build for a future,” she explained. “In 2023, Crossfield has demonstrated resilience and strategic financial management. Council and administration implemented restrained spending practices and introduced sound budget policies.
“These measures have laid the groundwork for building a financial foundation. For Crossfield, there has been a notable positive left in both the commercial and industrial sectors experiencing an increase in additions, indicating growing economic landscape.”
Harris said council has been hyper focused on building the necessary financial and policy groundwork needed to help address growth, including establishing a deeper municipal reserve fund, so when major projects need to be completed the fiscal capacity is ready for them.
Crossfield town council has also created a strong policy framework in line with the best practices employed by other Alberta municipalities to bring strong order to local growth which could otherwise turn into chaos if badly managed.
“The challenge of Crossfield's significant growth includes our wastewater treatment needs and recreation infrastructure demands,” said Harris, by way of example. “Council has tackled these challenges by establishing a fiscal responsibility balance, implementing short term wastewater solutions that exceed Alberta environmental standards, and planning for a long-term solution through a feasibility study.”
“Additionally, a Recreation Needs Assessment has been conducted, and future recreation priorities are being planned to accommodate the town's growth through a five-year plan. And, in 2024, (we are) implementing a 10-year capital plan that will help out with this.”
Harris said her council and Town administration have also been actively leveraging co-funding and outside grant opportunities to lessen the burden on local taxpayers for major capital spending needs.
She gives the example of the recent ice plant replacement as a case study for what her council hopes to continue to do going forward.
“We partnered with Minor Hockey, who is eligible to apply for the CFE Grant, the Community Facilities Enhancement Grant,” she explained. “Estimated application was about $328,000 that we received through that grant to go towards our plant. In addition to that, we partnered with the County, whose residents also use our facility, and they contributed their 25 per cent towards that.
“And so, Crossfield ended up paying around 25 per cent for that new ice plant.”
Similarly, to help generate capital to offset wastewater treatment plant costs, Harris said the Town has entered into agreements with fracking companies, who purchase the Town’s treated wastewater to use in their operations.
These types of measures are great examples of the type of leveraging her council hopes to continue doing going forward to help fund growth and go more gently on taxpayers’ pockets, said Harris.
And let’s face it, said Harris, anything her council can do in that respect is important because many in Crossfield have been struggling over the past few years in an era of increasing inflation.
“(It) is disheartening to know that some Crossfield residents are facing financial challenges due to increases in inflation,” she said. “We have observed an increase in requests for the Christmas hampers this year.
“(But) I think we're resilient because, you know, one of the things that Crossfield does really well is that when somebody is in need, we do gather around each other and support each other, just like many small towns do.”