Council reviewed and approved the final Interim Budget, 3 Year Operating Plan and 5 Year Capital Plan. (see page 3 for more information).
Provincial Campground Lease Discussion
CAO Bill Lewis spoke to representatives from Alberta Parks regarding the provincial campgrounds in the area. The province hasn’t yet opened up any of the campgrounds to potential bidders and is essentially giving Swan Hills the first right of refusal for these leases. The Town of Swan Hills already has the agreements in place to run the Krause Lake and Freeman Lake campgrounds with Krause Lake under the management of the Swan Hills Golf & Country Club. Freeman River, Trapper Leas, and Edith Lake campgrounds are in the area but have not been maintained over the last year and are in need of maintenance and repairs. Suez has maintained the Chrystina Lake campground but it is unsure if that will continue going forward in light of the recent cuts at the Swan Hills Treatment Centre. Swan Hills cannot afford to shoulder the cost and manpower to maintain and run all of the campsites.
CAO Bill Lewis will negotiate with the province to procure their assistance with the needed maintenance and repairs for the Freeman River and Trapper Leas sites, and explore entering into a 5-year lease. The Council decided to concentrate on Freeman River and Trapper Leas sites because of their highway access, making it more likely to attract campers. If Suez will commit to continue maintaining the Chrystina Lake campground in partnership with the Town, Swan Hills will negotiate for this site as well.
Correspondence & Information
Big Lakes County sent notice that they will be withdrawing their capital funding from the Inter-Municipal Capital Funding Agreement for 2021. The capital funding agreement is dependent on the county’s ability to assess and collect linear taxes. Due to legislative and regulatory changes (related to the government response to COVID- 19 and the new linear tax assessment model), the county will see both a reduction in their linear assessment and continued difficulty in collecting linear taxes in 2021. Big Lakes County remains open to discussion through the Intermunicipal Collaborative Committee on how they may be able to help support the Town’s capital projects in 2021.
• New COVID-19 restrictions announced on December 8 include mandatory masking, closure of community halls. The town pool and arena will have to close on Saturday. The library has permission to operate through curb-side pick up by appointment. The town office will remain open with mandatory masking. Public Works will continue to work. These restrictions will remain in place for a minimum of four weeks.
• Changes have been made to the Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant to provide more funds and reduce the eligibility requirements. This could be very beneficial to the small businesses and non-profit organizations that are being impacted by the new COVID-19 restrictions.
• The replacement of electronic water meter heads will continue in town as this falls within home repairs, which are still permitted with the current COVID-19 restrictions.
• The province will be holding weekly COVID- 19 briefings with CAO’s on Tuesdays for the near future.
• Administration had a phone meeting with Heidi Magus of Barrhead Victim Services regarding the potential restructuring of Victim Services.
• Continued to work on the new website upgrade, had a project kick-off meeting on December 7 with CAO, Councillors Krawiec and Webster as well as the contracted website development company.
Operations and Infrastructure
• The Flash Mixer replacement at the Water Treatment Program (WTP) will be pushed to the spring of 2021 due to issues with COVID-19 restrictions.
•Select Engineering has provided two options for the Reservoir Fire Water Pump motor replacement. The group will come to the site for a pre-job inspection, at which point a decision will be made as to which option best suits the municipality. Work should begin in January 2021.
• The sewage lift station pump has been repaired and installed. The second pump will be going out for service.
• The roofing contractor has now completed all roof repairs and replacements in the municipality.
•Basic Emergency Management as well as Incident Command System 100 are well underway and should be completed by the end of January 2021.
• All safety training for Public Works staff is up to date.
• The level one WTP operator is now certified for Waste Water Treatment and Collection Level 1 and will be continuing on to level 2.
• Swan Hills has been awarded $370,940 from FRIAA COMMUNITY FIREGUARD CONSTRUCTION. Contractors are being sought for mulching of the fireguard.
•Fire Department practices have been put on hold until COVID restrictions have been lifted. Fire Department members will still respond to calls using COVID protocols.
• Fire Chief Clint Baker has enrolled in Safety Codes Officer Level A (Fire Discipline) with the Safety Codes Council of Alberta.
• The Swan Hills Fire Department is undergoing a collaborative regional Emergency Management Project with Big Lakes County.
• Mayor Craig Wilson reported that there was a Golden Triangle meeting on Dec 2. The Triangle is trying to operate but there is no snow. Conditions regarding COVID-19 will have to be improved for them to be able to hold their rally in March.
• Councillor Terry Kuyek reported that ANC (Alberta Newsprint Co.) planted about 3 million trees this year and the plan is for 15 million trees to be planted in 2021 between ANC and Blue Ridge.
• Councillor Liz Krawiec reported that the working group of the Economic Development Council continues to work on a new town logo.
• Councillors Krawiec and Webster met with representatives from Community Futures Yellowhead East and a marketing firm by Zoom to discuss marketing strategies for Swan Hills, including videos and using social media. The team expects to have a price from the marketing firm by the end of the month.
• Councillor Webster reported that there was a GROWTH meeting on Nov 27. New executive board members were appointed, due in part to the previous president stepping down.
• Councillor Webster reported on the latest Regional Chamber of Commerce meeting. These meetings are progressing well with members sharing useful information on advocacy efforts.
Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette