Cardston town council began this week with RCMP delegate, Sergeant Bob Wright, who reported on policing statistics for the most recent quarter. He presented his information in a new manner, including graphs and charts, which the council vocally appreciated. Sergeant Wright provided information for the detachment as a whole rather than just the town numbers so that council could have a more nuanced understanding of policing in the area. He also shared the detachment’s goal to increase community engagement and hold open forums to engage the public once restrictions are lifted.
Councillor Brown brought forward concerns she had received from community members regarding availability of ambulances. Citizens had spoken with Councillor Brown about something called Code Red, which is when all ambulances are away on calls and there are none left in town limits to provide emergency service. This can happen during hospital transports, where an ambulance is needed to drive a patient to a larger facility, or other times. Council requested that administration reach out to Alberta Health Services to receive statistics on the number of these events occurring in Cardston and area.
Chief Administrative Officer Jeff Shaw provided an update to council on the budget his team is drafting for 2021, as well as providing a glimpse into how decisions made today will impact the budget in coming years. The budget was positively impacted this year by the town receiving the Municipal Operating Support Transfer (MOST), which provides funding from provincial and federal governments to support municipalities during the COVID-19 pandemic. As it stands, the county’s budget is balanced with a 2% increase due to an overall decrease of provincial funds, an increase in policing costs, and a recognition of inflation. Shaw stated that while the budget works for this year, “the next council will have serious operational challenges.”
In reference to increased policing costs and decreased provincial funds, councillor Drew pointed out that “every single municipality in Alberta is facing the same thing we are.” Councillor Selk reminded council that the federal government budget is likely to increase federal gas tax funding to municipalities, and councillor Brown asked how it was that municipalities survived before provincial infrastructure funding was available. Finally, councillor Barnes asked about other ways the town can make money, for instance contracting out services. Shaw suggested that it is best to not have severe swings in the budget, and asked the council to consider what their priority projects are so that budget funds can be smoothed over the next five years.
After discussion on the budget, council voted in favour of the Regional Emergency Management Bylaw and Partnership agreement with other Cardston County municipalities. The group also decided not to continue COVID related tax and utility relief measures that were provided last year. Most municipalities in the region have made the same decision, except for the city of Lethbridge which is still considering the matter.
Elizabeth Thompson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temple City Star