Award-winning District of Elkford has big plans for 2013

The District of Elkford has been recognized over the last few years for many accomplishments

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The District of Elkford, home to about 3,000 residents, has experienced a lot of success over the last couple of years—and with the way things are going, the beautiful Rocky Mountain town in southeastern B.C. will be achieving a few more milestones.

In 2012, Elkford was recognized internationally for its rebranding. It took home three awards at the 18th Annual Summit International Awards for creative excellence. Twist Marketing, a Calgary-based company that the District of Elkford works with to create its unique branding, was awarded a gold medal for the District of Elkford’s community website, as well as two silver medals for Elkford’s summer and winter promotional videos.

A place of excellence

Elkford was also recognized at the end of last year at the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention for its new Community Conference Centre. On September 27, the District of Elkford was awarded the 2012 UBCM Community Excellence Award (Small Community) for Leadership and Innovation in recognition of Elkford's conference centre, as the building addresses environmental concerns and regulatory requirements. The Community Excellence Awards program is an opportunity to showcase municipalities and regional districts that "lead the pack," take risks to innovate, establish new partnerships, question established ways of doing business and pioneer new customer service practices.

Dean McKerracher, the mayor of Elkford, also accepted a Community Recognition Award on behalf of the District of Elkford from Wood Works! BC for the use of wood in the construction of the conference centre. Elkford was recognized for demonstrating leadership and vision by embracing wood innovation.

Some major attractions will see renovation

Now in 2013, the District will be undertaking some major improvements to its arena and pool—both huge attractions for locals and visitors.

McKerracher said the project consists of two parts: a new ice plant for the arena and an energy retrofit for the aquatic centre and recreation centre.

"Just like the ski hill and golf course, it's an attraction for tourism and also an attraction for mines to bring employees in when they have all these facilities that are available to them," said McKerracher. "People choose to live in Elkford because of everything we have, and we want to ensure the health and welfare of our people."

McKerracher said the current ice plant at the arena has served the District well but it's now on its last legs. The estimated cost of the project, the new ice plant for the arena and the energy retrofit of the pool and rec centre totals $1.3 million. The District's budget for the arena is $750,000, and the budget for the pool and rec centre is $550,000.

Worthwhile projects

Curtis Helgason, CAO for the District of Elkford, said that the FCM=Green Municipal Fund Grant/Loan Program is a $66,667 grant provided the District takes a loan for $333,333.

"The District will be and has been applying for other grants to help offset the other $900,000," said Helgason. "We intend to borrow the funds for a minimum term of five years, to receive the grant. We are currently debt free and would not borrow otherwise."

McKerracher said the District wants to take the heat from the ice plant to heat the arena, curling rink and the pool itself will take heat from the pumps that pump the water throughout the system. The plan is to also circulate the inside air with a purifier that cleans the air before it comes back in.

If there's enough money in the budget left over, the District would like to install closed-circuit solar energy panels on the roof of the pool to heat the pool. McKerracher said there is a pool in Okotoks, Alberta, that has been doing that for about 11 years now and the savings are huge. The original estimate when they did the study three years ago was $60,000 a year for natural gas. He said it would be a 10-year payback—which would be great in the long run for the municipality. This would result in utility costs going down tremendously.

Encouraging wellness for residents

When it comes down to it, above and beyond the grants and loans and funding, the District of Elkford is ensuring health and wellness for its community with this project.

McKerracher said Elkford now, after a negotiated contract with the District's union, offers a free health and wellness package to all municipal employees.

"We settled a four-year agreement which allows all District of Elkford employees to use any of our recreation facilities for free, such as the pool," said McKerracher. "They can take part in exercise classes, if there are openings, and their families can use all the facilities free of charge as well."

According to McKerracher, the mines in the area also give out $1,000 to their employees for health and wellness, and this money can be spent anywhere the employees choose.

The new ice plant for the arena and an energy retrofit for the aquatic centre and recreation centre are slated to begin in the summer of 2013, and the District hopes the project will be completed by the end of September 2013.

Karen Kornelsen

Karen Kornelsen, a writer for Kootenay Business Magazine, has a degree in jounalism. She enjoys finding and reporting the news from the business community. View all of Karen Kornelsen’s articles

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