BOYLE — Village of Boyle mayor Colin Derko is excited about what the New Year will bring for him and his fellow councillors.
The past year produced an upgraded downtown core including things unseen, like pipes, and things seen like new light standards and banners, and a new chief administrative officer (CAO) for the village in Warren Griffin, a former Athabasca County councillor.
“The thing I like about this council is anything we've ever done, anything we've ever discussed, anything past, present, future has never been because of self-interest or self-preservation,” Derko said in a Jan. 5 interview. “I've never heard, not once from any councillor, where we'd better do this because we have an election coming up. It's always been in the best interest of the village as a whole.”
Around the council table there are business owners, parents, volunteers, and they are all focused on helping the entire community from newborn to senior.
“I've enjoyed working with every one of them so much just because they’re aligned with exactly the way my thoughts are,” he said. “Makes it real easy as the mayor; I'm not trying to herd chickens or something.”
Another high point for Derko has been how well the three municipalities of Athabasca County, the Town of Athabasca, and the Village of Boyle work together.
“I think something that I'm most proud of is the way that the three municipalities have been working together and it just gets better and better all the time,” said Derko. “So, I'm really looking forward to making sure that we keep those lines of communication open, and that we're all focused on the greater good of the entire county.”
By working together, Derko is hoping to attract more industry to the area and feels the greater Athabasca region is well situated for growth.
“I'm really excited about the future for Boyle and for the county, because I think we're in a good spot geographically,” he said. “I think Alberta is going to be very busy for the next few years and northern Alberta even more so and I think there's going to be some good opportunities for our county as a whole.”
He’s cautious about exploding growth though, it’s a substantial difference if Athabasca County gets 50 new residents versus Boyle getting 50, so any growth needs to happen sustainably.
“I don't want to see exponential growth because with that, sometimes comes problems,” said Derko. “I want to see it grow responsibly and so far it's looking like that's the case.”
Healthcare attraction and retainment is another top priority and Derko has pointed out to government officials if there are 400 doctors in Edmonton and 200 of them leave, there will be panic. Boyle also lost 50 per cent of its doctors when one left and it led to the emergency room being shut down for hours or overnight several times over the summer until a replacement arrived.
“I'm really excited about the doctor retention group with our three municipalities working together,” he said. “If there's no doctors in Athabasca, suddenly the doctor Boyle becomes a necessity and vice versa so doctors in our area are a huge thing.”
Then there was the infrastructure work done in downtown Boyle, something Derko is particularly pleased with as the timing of it saved the village a lot of money.
“In the last little bit of the last term with all of the infrastructure, there was some pretty big projects done, and that was just our council taking advantage of COVID and pricing and availability of product,” said Derko. “I'm not saying that's going to happen again but if we're faced with another situation where we can get stuff for basically 50 per cent off, we will take advantage of it.”
At the time, being the start of the pandemic, contractors were desperate for work and income, so project manager Sterling Johnson leveraged the situation and saved the village a pile of money.
“I don't know if you heard when, when Sterling was here, he said, ‘Steak is on sale right now, so don't go shopping for chicken and vegetables.’”
And when the construction was going on downtown all the old concrete was stockpiled then crushed and now the village is sitting on piles of aggregate as well as asphalt grindings.
“All our alleys downtown and a bunch of problem areas in town have all been done with asphalt grindings but the stuff that's sexy is the lights and stuff you can see,” he said. “But I would say with the whole project we saved a ton of money like to the tune of probably at least $250,000 for the same amount of work just doing it the way we did it.”
If the same work was done today, it would cost twice as much as the original budget Derko said.
“We'll be focusing on wherever money is going to get us our biggest bang for our buck. We've talked about it in front of (provincial government) ministers in the past and said, ‘If you guys want to see $1 turn into $10, just give it to us, we'll do it,’” he said. “Our goal is to stretch our dollars to make sure that our taxpayers are getting as much as we possibly can out of every dollar."
The major stuff, outside of a water main break or something else unexpected, is part of an ever-evolving plan started under interim CAO Robert Jorgensen and continued under Griffin.
“Over the last four years we've been working on a plan so that every year we can work on it, potholes, different infrastructure things whether it be fire hydrants or roadways or back alleys or building maintenance,” said Derko. “It's a living working plan, so we know what to work on put together by our public works and consultants and CAO.”
Now the biggest project is out of the way so the council will be getting down to the nuts and bolts of running the village reviewing and updating policies and bylaws.
“We would like to know that if the five of us don't come back and they need a new CAO, the policies and everything that's in place were done properly," said Derko.
His other project is to make sure every single government official he speaks to knows about Boyle as he feels they forget the engine of Alberta is rural, not in Edmonton or Calgary, but the people in the towns and villages, in the fields and on the highways.
“My focus is going to make sure rural Alberta as a whole gets looked after but more importantly that we as the county and town and the village are looked after in this corner of the world,” he said. “I want to make sure that MLAs and the ministers, for sure the premier, know where Boyle and Athabasca and Athabasca County are. That's my goal, to make sure every time they see me, they know they're going to hear the word ‘Boyle’ come out of my mouth every second frickin word.”