Municipality work heads online for regional meetings

·2 min read

This has not a normal year for many local and provincial organizations. This includes the Municipalities of Saskatchewan, who are taking their yearly regional meetings online for this year.

There are ups and downs to this format, said Gordon Barnhart, president of the Municipalities of Saskatchewan.

In a normal year, each region would meet in one of their communities with Municipalities of Saskatchewan representatives also in attendance to share information and answer questions from the regional members. Having the meeting virtually and over a two span will save people travel time and expenses. With a province as large as Saskatchewan, it takes some people a lot of time to get to and from meetings, Barnhart said.

There were benefits to face to face meetings, he said, and that is going to be lacking this year with members only meeting through cyberspace.

“We're all humans and we form friendships. Those friendships are very important in terms of serving our municipalities, so we're missing out on that, but on the other hand, this option is better than nothing at all.”

While he hopes the meetings can eventually go back to being done in person, Barnhart said he respects the work of Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, and does not want these regional meetings into times of COVID-19 spread.

The realities of COVID, losses of revenue and extra cleaning costs to municipalities are topics of conversation that may come up during the meetings, Barnhart said, as well as infrastructure projects and provincial and federal funding during COVID. These additional funding opportunities have meant a boost for municipalities, he said, whether those are to help weather COVID or use funds to maintain services and facilities that would have taken a financial hit due to spending difficulties. That has been a silver lining for municipalities during the pandemic, Barnhart said.

With the municipal elections wrapping up at the beginning of the month, these regional meetings will also mean new members at the individual council tables and, therefore, new representatives being elected to positions on the Municipalities of Saskatchewan board, Barnhart said.

This year’s meetings will be split between two days of meetings with the north, northwest, northeast, and west central meeting on Dec. 1 and the central, east central, southwest, and southeast meeting on Dec. 2.

Becky Zimmer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist