The journey toward a new and more focused strategic plan for the town is coming to a conclusion.
Consultant Brian Austrum presented council on Sept. 5 with what was supposed to be the final draft of Bashaw’s strategic plan — a document designed to provide guidance on future planning.
However, due to a couple minor wording changes during council’s review, a vote to accept the document was delayed until their next meeting on Sept. 19.
On the whole though, council was very receptive to the 15 priorities laid out that provide a roadmap for a better and hopefully more prosperous community. Each priority includes two to three strategies to help achieve the stated goal.
“What it really comes down to is what is it that you really want to do,” Austrum said.
“The challenge comes in looking at what you are willing to spend and willing to do. There are a lot of things in here that aren’t expensive, but lots of blanks in terms of dollars because that isn’t known yet.”
Involved in nearly each one of the priorities is significant upgrades to the town’s website. From increasing marketing to providing better information to supporting and promoting the region, its programs and volunteers, Austrum explained that is the single biggest issue that needs to be addressed.
“The big thing is looking at the website and what you can do to have up the information you need on it, because we all know it’s lacking,” he said.
To start with, the website should become part of a coordinated marketing strategy because, according to Austrum, researching areas and communities on the Internet is one of the first things people do when they want to travel or are looking to move.
Next is generating an up to date list of local and area businesses within its space on the website, followed by better promotion of the community’s recreational and cultural facilities and activities.
“Bashaw is the only artificial ice arena in Camrose County, outside the City of Camrose,” he said.
“And you have some very strong cultural happenings — theatre, plays, art shows — so working with people to support and promote those will help.”
To add to that, having a sign near the town’s entrances or close to the highways showcasing the available residential and industrial lots for sale would be beneficial as part of the economic and social priorities.
“It’s amazing the number of people that drive around then see what’s available and wind up moving to a place. By giving those people a reason to get off the highway and go through town, that will have a big impact in terms of getting people a look and maybe they see what they can do,” added Austrum.
One priority that council is likely to get right to work on is the updating of a few bylaws, including the one on unsightly premises and adjustments to the traffic bylaw regarding residential parking of commercial vehicles along with ones that are unregistered.
The plan also focuses on strategies to maintain and improve the community’s infrastructure and various services, all of which may well depend on what the provincial budget brings or takes off the table next month.
“Sadly, the biggest issue facing small rural municipalities is where is the funding at and what is going to happen after the budget,” stated Austrum.
“You really can’t do much on the capital side without knowing what the funding is.”
He added that Bashaw will need to continue working with all of its municipal partners and others in order to keep its facilities and services operational while it works to secure funding for infrastructure project.
“Secure funding from the provincial and federal governments is key because small towns like you don’t have the local tax resources available to tackle those kinds of projects,” said Austrum.
One other priority, which he said will help at least maintain the infrastructure, is keeping up with assessments on the condition of the town’s various assets and working on plans to maintain them as well as energy audits to ensure savings are made where possible.
Work on creating the plan started back in May 2018 and included public open houses and various meetings with council and administration, which helped develop and narrow the list of priorities.