City of Dreams – Lacombe gains city status

Matthew Walker didn’t feel any different when he woke up Sunday — but he was thrilled to realize he’s now a city slicker.

Lacombe residents are hoping their city doesn’t lose its small town character.

Lacombe residents are hoping their city doesn’t lose its small town character.

Matthew Walker didn’t feel any different when he woke up Sunday — but he was thrilled to realize he’s now a city slicker.

“That’s wicked. That’s just awesome,” said the young Lacombe gas pump attendant, upon learning his town had officially become a city on the weekend.

Walker believes Lacombe’s newly attained status will benefit the whole community of nearly 12,000 people because of the new opportunities the designation will bring.

“It would be nice if there was a little more for people my age to do,” said Walker, who would like to get a movie theatre in Lacombe, as well as more recreational options. “It would be nice to be more self-sufficient, so we don’t have to drive into Red Deer.”

Other Lacombe residents were also happy to count themselves as city folks — including Jason Mathewson, who said he’ll have to get used to calling himself a city worker, instead of a town public works employee.

“It’s nice to see the change,” said Mathewson, who hopes Lacombe can soon begin to attract bigger businesses. “People will think we have more things to offer as a city.”

With its well preserved historic architecture, including a rare triangular flat-iron building, Lacombe has already gained some public attention through its use as a movie location. “It was a good town, so I’m sure it will be make a good city,” added Mathewson.

Another resident, Dallas Smith, who was lined up at a drive-through restaurant, hopes the community will have greater potential to attract big chain stores, such as Wal-Mart and Canadian Tire.

But local communications technician John Davidson doubts Wal-Mart will come anytime soon because Lacombe is too close to Red Deer. And it’s just as well, said Davidson, since big box stores tend to drive smaller local merchants out of business.

“I’m hoping the town doesn’t lose its character,” said Davidson, who added Lacombe Mayor Judy Gordon has also voiced a caution about preserving local quality of life.

A public survey done by Lacombe town council showed 92 per cent of residents favoured the move to city status. But before the application was made, Gordon worked hard to ensure the provincial government would commit to paying 83 per cent of the cost of upgrades to Hwy 2A and the intersection of Hwy 2A and Hwy 12 before these roads inside Lacombe’s boundaries became solely the city’s responsibility.

“I’m very excited that Lacombe is a city,” said Gordon. She recently spoke to the mayor of Brooks, who told her much more interest has been shown in that community since Brooks became a city five years ago.

A city-sized celebration in honour of Lacombe’s new status will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday (Sept. 7) in the Lacombe Memorial Centre park. Premier Ed Stelmach will attend, along with Alberta Transportation Minister Luke Ouellette, and Alberta’s Municipal Affairs Minister Hector Goudreau.

Everyone is invited to stop by for cake, said Gordon, who added the celebration will move indoors in case of bad weather.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com