New B’lodge CAO will focus on budget, road work and more

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The 2021 budget, road work and setting goals for the department heads are among the top priorities of Beaverlodge’s new chief administrative officer (CAO), Jeff Johnston.

Council approved Johnston’s priorities list during its regular meeting last week.

“The list establishes what is important to the town and what I have to focus my time on,” Johnston said.

“I believe there’s a lot of work to be done, but I don’t have many concerns about our ability to manage the town properly.”

Johnston took over as CAO Dec. 1.

He said he drew up the list as a guide for the next six to 10 months, also consulting with mayor Gary Rycroft.

The priorities will be consulted at the end of Johnston’s six-month probationary period as well as the performance review before the October election, he said.

The list is partly based on Beaverlodge’s strategic plan, drawn up in 2019 to identify the town’s priorities, he added.

The first priority is to develop the 2021 budget.

“It’s my intent not to have a mill rate increase, but we haven’t worked through everything,” Johnston said.

He said he’s meeting each department manager and going line by line over budget items to determine what’s appropriate.

Each department will give a presentation to council March 9 to 10 on budget focuses for 2021, Johnston said.

Council will consider these presentations before approving the budget later in March, he said.

“I don’t expect a budget increase overall,” he said.

“We’re coming out of a COVID year into another COVID year, so there’s a little speculation over how the year will go, but by March we should have a better idea.”

A key budget consideration is water treatment plant upgrades, worth approximately $3.6 million and with provincial grant funding of $2.2 million available.

The town must come up with an estimated $1.4 million, he said.

Another priority Johnston said he’s working on over the next few weeks is setting goals for the management team.

The team consists of each department manager, deputy CAO Tina Letendre, the enforcement officer and fire chief, he said.

Each will have a list of goals to consult in annual performance reviews, to measure success, he said.

Road patching and line painting is another priority. Johnston said main street should be painted with centre and parking lines in 2021 and patching should protect the road integrity.

Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News