Town Council News – Mar. 10, 2021

·6 min read

Councillor Jeff Goebel And Councillor Carol Webster Absent

Request For Decision (RFD)

Six RFDs were reviewed and then passed:

· 50+ Graying and Staying Society Lease Agreement: The current lease with the 50+ group to operate the building has expired. The group is interested in continuing with the arrangement and has met with the CAO to review a potential new lease, which would be very close to the previous lease but with a new fee schedule. Council passed a motion to enter into a new 10-year lease with the 50+ group.

· 2021 Substitute Returning Officer: Changes to the Local Authorities Election Act (LAEA) now require Council to appoint a Substitute Returning Officer for the upcoming 2021 municipal election in case the Returning Officer is unable to carry out their duties. Council passed a motion to appoint Carolyn Serby as the Substitute Returning Officer for the 2021 municipal election.

· Capital Region Assessment ARB Members for 2021: Council is required to appoint qualified members to sit on the Assessment Review Board (ARB), including a Chair and a Clerk. A list of individuals who have successfully completed the required provincially legislated training courses and are qualified to sit on ARBs was presented to Council. A motion was passed to appoint the listed individuals.

· Pembina Hills School Division (PHSD) Joint Election Agreement: This is a common agreement and has been used in the past between the Town of Swan Hills and the PHSD, where the Town will hold the School Board Trustee election in conjunction with the Municipal Council election on Oct. 18, 2021. PHSD would still have their own Returning Officer to ensure that the requirements of LAEA have been met. PHSD will reimburse the Town for their portion of the election. Council passed a motion to enter into the agreement.

· Regional Emergency Management Advisory Committee (REMAC): This committee had been discussed in a meeting between Council and Sea Hawk Services on Feb. 11, 2021. Two Councillors and one Alternate are requested to be appointed to REMAC. Council passed a motion appointing Councillor Jeff Goebel and Daryn Watson to REMAC, with Councillor Terry Kuyek serving as Alternate.

· AUMA Analysis of Provincial Budget: AUMA has released their preliminary analysis on the Provincial Budget, focusing on the positive and negative implications that it will have for municipalities. Some of the highlights are:

-Changes have been made to the Disaster recovery funding, going from paying for 100% of the cost for approved applicants to a cost-sharing model.

-The Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) will continue for another two years, although some changes have been made to the program. Swan Hills stands to see a slight increase in this funding this year, but overall, the Town will about 25% less funding.

-The province appears to be pretty adamant about pursuing a provincial police force.

Council passed a motion to accept the report as information.

Assessment Review

The town has received the preliminary property assessment numbers. Assessments on taxable properties have dropped $10,814,450, an 11.45% reduction from last year. Grant in Lieu assessments have fallen $171,100, a 10.82% reduction. Exempt assessments have dropped $616,500, a 1.83% reduction. Altogether, Swan Hills is seeing an $11,602,050 decline in assessed value from last year, a drop of 8.93%. Residential properties are seeing the largest decrease by a significant margin.

This loss of assessed value will translate to just under $200,000 less revenue for the Town of Swan Hills this year.

COVID-19 Update

Alberta moved fully into Step 2 of the COVID-19 relaunch plan on Mar. 8. The Swan Hills library will be allowing four people in at a time by appointment only, and one computer will be available for use with a 45-minute limit. The Swan Hills Pool is still offering private lessons and can now rent out the whole pool to a family from the same household.

CAO Report

· Finished the Alberta Safety Codes formal audit on Mar. 10.

· The Fireguard project is ongoing with both Blue Ridge Lumber and the mulchers working in the area.

· Met with Douglas Borg, the Returning Officer for the 2021 Municipal Election, on Feb. 26. He is making preparations for the municipal election in October.

· The CAO and treasurer met with the Town's accountant on Mar. 3 to review and start work on the year-end financial audit for Municipal affairs.

· The Town Registries is in discussion with Slave Lake Registries on the possibility of becoming a spoke for the occasional driver testing.

· Working with Alberta Parks to finalize the agreements for the operation of local campgrounds.

· Continued working on the Municipality Accountability Audit Program (MAP) audit preparation.

· The Provincial budget was released on Thursday, Feb. 25.

Operations and Infrastructure

· The Emergency Fire Water pump replacement project will have to go to tender due to the project's dollar value, which will result in a delay. Select Engineering has indicated that the completion date for this project will likely be in June 2021 now.

· The failed sewage lift station pump has been repaired and is back on site. This pump should be installed and functioning shortly.

· Public works has been dealing with multiple curb stop issues and aiding residents with frozen water lines,

· The WTP suffered a PH control system failure on Mar. 3. This has resulted in a shutdown of the truck fill for a few days while the problem was resolved.

· There have been a couple of sewer line plugs on Watson and Highway Ave.

Protective Services

· Protective Services has been mostly occupied with the fireguard project.

· Fire Dept. practices have resumed as normal, using COVID-19 precautions.

· The Fire Chief met with Seahawk and the CAO to go over the Emergency Management Audit findings on Feb. 11.

· Reviewed Standard Operating Guidelines with the Big Lakes County Fire Chief.

· The Annual Whitecourt Forest Area meeting was held virtually on Feb. 23. They are unsure what the fire season will look like this year, but they find the weather and lack of snow concerning.

Reports

· Councillor Elizabeth Krawiec reported that Swancicle Days has been cancelled.

· Councillor Daryn Watson reported on the Fire Department meeting. The Fire Department is back to business as usual. They are wearing masks and following COVID-19 precautions, and training has resumed. The Fire Department has a new Captain, Otto Fleming.

· Councillor Terry Kuyek reported on a Chamber of Commerce meeting on Feb. 25. They talked about membership renewal. The Chamber and the EDC are working together on the welcome wagon; there still hasn't been a New Years Baby yet.

-The Golf Course will be open this year.

Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette