Town Council News – Jan. 27, 2020

·7 min read

All Members Present

Request For Decision (RFD)

Three RFDs were reviewed and then passed:

· Growing The North Virtual Conference Attendance: The largest economic development conference in the Peace Region and one of the largest in Alberta. The cost to attend is $199 per person. Approval was given for Councillor Webster to attend and any other Councillor who would also like to attend.

· Local Authorities Election Act (LAEA) Changes: The Government of Alberta made some minor changes to the LAEA in December 2020. Municipalities and school districts are now required to have their elections on the same voting day as senate elections and referendum votes in years that general elections coincide with a senate election, referendum vote, or both. The amount of money that donors can contribute to third-party advertisers has been limited to $30,000 per donor, per advertiser. The administrative penalty for exceeding this donation limit has been limited to no more than $10,000 per contravention. These changes will have minimal effects on Swan Hills.

· Municipal Government Act (MGA) Change: The Government of Alberta made some minor changes to the MGA in December 2020. The changes were meant to; streamline land use planning and development requirements for municipal government, business, industry and Albertans; reduce red tape; facilitate economic development. These changes will not affect Swan Hills.

Discussion on Choosing The New Town Logo

The working group and the Economic Development Board have presented rough drafts of two different designs of a new town logo. The company working on the new website will need the new logo to complete the website. They will also use the new logo in digital marketing materials. The Town Council approved one of the designs to go forward.

Correspondence & Information

· Municipal Governance FAQ – Alberta Health sent out a FAQ on Municipal Governance concerning the current COVID-19 restrictions. There haven’t been any substantial changes that would affect Swan Hills.

CAO Report

· The weekly briefings with Alberta Health continue. There hasn’t been any information about when the current public health restrictions might be lifted.

· Preparing for the Safety Codes Council of Alberta audit in February, the audit plans will be sent off by the end of the week.

· Work continues on the Town’s Emergency Management System.

· Working on the reporting requirements for the Municipal Stimulus Program.

· Work continues on the new Town of Swan Hills website upgrade.

· We just about have everything together for the Municipality Accountability Program Audit. We should be able to sit down and review everything next week before it is sent off.

· Started to work on preparations for the year-end financial audit. The budget will be closed out next week.

· The next Statistics Canada population census will take place in May. They will be hiring around 32,000 people across the country, so there are employment opportunities for people in town. Completing the Census is very important as these numbers help to determine some of the resources that the town receives.

Operations and Infrastructure

· The new smaller sander is back in service.

· The Emergency Fire Water pump is now in the equipment procurement phase. Once this is complete, the contractor will go to the site to complete the installation. The timeline for the installation will depend on the delivery of the required equipment.

· The failed sewage lift station pump is delayed six weeks due to the pandemic.

· Extreme lighting is onsite dealing with various internal /external lighting and electrical issues with the buildings under the town's control and care. This project should wrap up by month’s end.

· The hybrid survey of the Transfer Station has been completed. Once we receive the survey, we will begin the disposition renewal process.

· The Curling Rink elevator has been inspected and has passed for 2021.

· The departmental procedural review is on hold due to COVID restrictions to limit the potential exposure risk to WTP personnel.

· The arena was shut down due to a freon leak. The repair is straightforward, but the system has to be drained first, the leak repaired, the freon will need to be added again, and then the ice will have to be resurfaced. The process will take about a month.

· The fire department and some local volunteers will be building an outdoor skating rink. The rink will be maintained and run by volunteers.

Financials

· The 2020 and 2021 financials were reviewed and accepted.

Reports

· Councillor Terry Kuyek reported on the Jan. 20 School Council meeting. School Trustee Kerry McElroy brought forward four concerns from the last Pembina Hills School Board meeting; the need for re-entry resources for students that have been out of school due to COVID; there have been limited gains in inclusive practices since students left the schools due to COVID; due to limited budgets, small schools have limited resources for mild/moderate Program Unit Funding (PUF) educational supports; and Alberta Health Services has given a mandate not to provide proactive programming in schools. Municipal and School Divisions will be holding elections for trustees in the fall. Last year Pembina Hills reduced the number of trustees from seven to six. This means that the Swan Hills’ electoral area and Fort Assiniboine’s will be combined to make one Ward. It would be very beneficial to get a representative from Swan Hills to run. The Division 3/4 Student’s Union raised $200 for the Swan Hills Food Bank and Santa’s Elves leading up to Christmas.

· Councillor Elizabeth Krawiec reported on a Swancicle Days meeting. With the uncertainty of which events might be allowed due to COVID-19, it was decided to work on events that would fall underneath the last set of restrictions. A final call will be made by Feb. 28. There will be another meeting in two weeks.

· Councillor Carol Webster reported on several meetings. GROWTH is looking for a replacement for their Executive Director. The executive has been looking at a plan to revitalize GROWTH; Community Futures and Ballad Consulting will sit in with the executive to figure out the next steps. The history project has been completed; there is an 8-episode podcast series on the Wild Alberta website. There was so much historical information found that they will be printing about 300 – 400 booklets. They received a $20,000 stimulus grant from Travel Alberta to help develop more of their tourism brand. -Community Futures has completed its 2021 operating plan. Their portfolio, just with loans, is just under $2,000,000. Community Futures has upcoming economic recovery workshops in the last part of January and in February. -The regional chamber of commerce will be known as the Yellowhead Regional Chamber. They discussed advocacy efforts and member engagement, as well as four grants that are currently available to businesses; the Summer Employment Grant closes on Jan. 29; the Emergency Wage Subsidy; the Small And Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant; and the Rent Subsidy is coming to a close soon.

In-Camera

· After an in-camera session, Council made the following motion: To use the unused portion of the 2020 economic development for the direction of a promotional project for branding and strategic planning for the town. The motion was carried.

Question Period

· A community member asked if the municipal politicians were following the mandates concerning COVID-19, specifically if any municipal politicians had travelled over the Christmas holidays. One politician had travelled outside the country but had followed all of the mandates around testing and quarantines. At the time, non-essential travel was allowed but not recommended. This issue was discussed in terms of whether this action followed a code of ethics. The Town Council has a code of conduct, and this action did not break that code. References were made to the backlash that provincial government members have experienced since choosing to travel over the holidays. In return, a distinction was made between the hypocrisy of being a member of the provincial government that put the COVID-19 public health restrictions in place and then choosing to travel, and being a municipal politician in a town that hasn’t imposed any by-laws restricting people’s conduct in relation to COVID-19 who has chosen to travel.

Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette