Wheatland County has managed to undertake and complete several projects throughout 2020, despite challenges and hardships--from administrative changes, inclement weather, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic--and council is looking forward to what 2021 will bring.
With the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic still looming, Wheatland County council and administration are turning their focus toward recovery from the economic hardships and attracting investment.
“2020 was a busy year for Wheatland County council and administration, with several new programs and initiatives being introduced despite the pandemic,” Wheatland County Reeve Amber Link told the Mail.
Reeve Link noted “some capital projects were deferred” due to financial challenges, though there were several other projects the county was able to complete. These include connecting the hamlet of Rosebud to the regional waterline and commencement of a sewage lagoon.
Other projects include construction of a new fire hall in Carseland, which recently began, and, thanks in part to community partnerships and donations, two playgrounds were built in the communities of Cluny and Speargrass.
The county also used 30 per cent less gravel over 2019 to gravel 975 kilometres of roads.
“With the intersection of the global pandemic, the economic downturn, and the oil and gas crisis the challenges faced in 2020 were significant,” Reeve Link said. She adds safety “has always been the greatest importance” and the county implemented several measures to keep residents, staff, and visitors safe.
“The new website launched in June, also aided in supporting the increased demand for online resources,” Reeve Link said. Some of those online resources include virtual learning opportunities and events, moving council meetings and community engagement to a virtual platform, and introducing eBilling to allow residents to view and pay municipal bills online.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has had significant impacts on municipalities around the world, it was not the only battle Wheatland County faced. Delays, due to a wet spring and closures due to COVID-19, impacted some capital projects in areas of the county.
To add to these concerns, Wheatland County also inherited the golf course development at the Lakes of Muirfield, which has added significant challenges to the budget and resources. Currently, wastewater at the development is being transported off-site to a secondary location, which has taxed utility resources and impacted the division of maintenance by hamlet crews.
Despite these challenges, the county’s take over of the Lakes of Muirfield development “has resulted in some positive changes” according to Reeve Link.
Looking toward the new year, Wheatland County is hopeful to complete two significant initiatives in 2021: reviewing the county’s Municipal Development Plan (MDP), and creating an Open Space, Recreation, and Cultural master plan.
“Wheatland County will continue to deploy innovative processes across the organization to further improve customer service efficiencies and face any new challenges with ingenuity and resourcefulness,” Reeve Link said. She added, “Wheatland County will continue to work with the community to ensure we remain a true partner with our businesses, industries, community organizations, our neighbouring municipalities, and other levels of government; sharing our expertise and resources for the betterment of the community.”
Wheatland County Council for 2020 is Reeve Amber Link, Deputy Reeve Scott Klassen, and councillors Ben Armstrong, Donna Biggar, Glenn Koester, Jason Wilson, and Tom Ikert.
Lacie Nairn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Drumheller Mail