Future visions and economic engines were two highlights to Mayor Ivan Brooker’s community update when he spoke to the Rotary Club of Cochrane Tuesday.
Brooker emphasized Cochrane’s success despite the economic downturn, pointing to The Quarry, which he suggested would be full by 2018, two years ahead of schedule. He also stated that tech giant Garmin is planning an expansion.
Garmin, which is one of the largest employers in Cochrane with approximately 100 employees, plans to build a new location that will double its workforce, Brooker said.
While the mayor recognized the success Cochrane has experienced over the past year, noting phenomenal growth that marked the town as the second fastest growing rural community in Canada, he admits it has not come without its challenges.
Top of mind to many residents is the traffic problems along both major highways running through the community.
Brooker is hopeful some of those issues will be resolved with the town’s realignment of Griffin Road, which should improve connectivity.
“Every south community can go into town quicker than taking Highway 22,” said Brooker.
That new connectivity will also open the area up to additional commercial and light industrial development, which Brooker said is something the town has heard is sorely needed.
He also noted the province is moving closer to upgrades of Highway 22 and Highway 1A. Highway 22 has a design plan ready and the province has moved ahead with requesting expressions of interest for construction, according to the mayor.
The estimated value of the improvements is $45 million and is currently part of the provincial government’s sunshine list, usually the first step before an infrastructure project is included in the capital budget.
While there are a number of concrete plans in the works, Brooker also has discussed a couple of visionary projects.
From a council perspective he discussed negotiations with Rocky View Schools over land the school board purchased for a new high school west of town.
That land sits within the adjacent gas plant’s emergency radius and can’t be used for housing development – a proposed school sits just outside the emergency radius.
The remainder the town is looking at for future recreation space. Included in those ideas are quad baseball diamonds, a campground and a possible project between the Ag Society and the Cochrane Lions.
“These two groups can’t wait to get together to create something special out there,” Brooker said.
Any plans for that space would go to public consultation if the town can negotiate a purchase agreement with the school board.
On a personal note, Brooker said – emphasizing it is a dream that has not gone to council – he would like to see a new public building incorporating a new library, arts and culture space and a community gymnasium along Fifth Avenue.