By Justin Seward
Cypress County feels that 2019 was a year of progress heading into 2020 and beyond.
“Cypress County continues to evaluate our vital infrastructures network and partnerships with the Province of Alberta,” said Dan Hamilton, county reeve.
“Cypress County is pleased to work with Alberta Transportation for the placement of traffic control lights at the intersection of Highway 1 and the Eagle Butte Road in 2020.”
While the intersection is high on the priority list to get done this year, an evaluation of Township 120 has occurred with upgrades anticipated to take place in 2020.
Hamilton says that council has been “tremendously engaged” in the Intermunicipal Collaborative Framework (ICF) process.
“Working with our municipal neighbours, (the) Town of Redcliff and the City of Medicine Hat, has been a rewarding process. We are in the final stages of completing this process.”
The ICF is an agreement between municipalities that share a boundary who have to establish how they will provide transportation, water and wastewater, solid waste, emergency services, recreation and any other services that benefit residents in more than one of the municipalities that are parties to the framework.
Municipalities have until March 31, 2020 to complete the agreement.
A highlight for Hamilton in 2019 was the county’s resolution for HALO funding being passed at the RMA (Rural Municipalities of Alberta) Conference in November.
The passed resolution from Cypress County through RMA was for the Government of Alberta to provide funds to locally and regionally-operated emergency response air ambulance services at the same ratio as the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS) funding.
Furthermore that the Government of Alberta commissions an independent review, which includes public engagement, industry stakeholders and municipalities across Alberta of the helicopter emergency medical services system in the province.
“When I was in the Foothills-Little Bow Association (meeting) in Lethbridge and I presented for HALO, we got that motion to go up to Edmonton and that was probably the highlight of the year,” he said.
“I’m a big supporter of HALO and to get everybody else on board to back us up on that. Then to get everybody in Edmonton,out of the 900 councillors that were up there, they passed it through. It’s gone to the RMA to go to the government with.”
The year of 2019 also brought in other challenges for the county that will have to be dealt with moving forward.
The county was also affected by the province’s announcement of the 35 per cent school requisition property taxes to shallow gas companies. It was in December that the province announced a decrease of assessment for shallow gas properties.
“This is a challenge as Cypress County is one of the 15 affected municipalities,” said Hamilton.
“Cypress County possesses 30 per cent of the actual assessment, however only eight per cent of the taxation is derived.”
The proposed Dunmore Equestrian Centre’s indoor riding arena and the Prairie Rose School Division’s indoor training facility and arena had effective public consultations last summer.
“The ratepayers were extremely happy to be involved and put their ideas in,” said Hamilton.
“Even though nothing is being done right now because of other financial situations, it was very good input. It wasn’t a waste, it’s put on the shelf so we have it if something comes up in the future we can just pull it off and dive right back into it because everything is still there.”
The Gasoline Alley structure plan came into effect in 2019 and is expected to be completed by the spring and the concept would be located adjacent to the Dunmore Equestrian Centre.
The water/wastewater plan will be done by June.
“There’s (a lot) of looking into the future that was done in 2019,” said Hamilton.
“I think the way things have gone nowadays, with just trying to retain water and water rights. If you don’t have a plan in place, you just can’t by them. We’re trying to do the stepping blocks for the future and growth of the future of Cypress County.”