By Justin Seward
On top of following Alberta health’s protocols of washing your hands, social distancing, staying home if you feel ill and self-quarantining in hopes of slowing down the coronavirus, the County of Forty Mile has decided to lock all of its buildings to the public, unless an appointment is made.
“Be careful, we’re trying not have any extra staff meetings right now that really aren’t needed,” said Steve Wikkerink, county reeve.
“We’re trying to keep people spread out. We can’t afford to have everybody sick at once either. (With) council, we’re going to take ourselves down to a bare minimum. A lot of our sub committees have given notice , if at all possible, they will be skipping the meeting for sure, maybe the next couple months’ meetings.”
Wikkerink says the county is trying to keep their services as normal as much as they can, but at the same time trying to be cautious and limit contact with large groups of the public.
County council has not yet had a discussion on Premier Jason Kenney’s March 18 suggestion of municipalities backing off on those people who can not pay their utility bills and carry that payment for a couple of month and not charge interest.
“Really for us that would be some water bills in Burdett and the south part of our county. We probably will charge for garbage pickup in Burdett and Whitla as well now,” he said.
Council will proceed with Wednesday’s regularscheduled meeting, which includes a public hearing.
“If we for some reason get a big amount of people coming, we will limit how many people are allowed in council at one time. But I don’t suspect we’re going to get much of a crowd,” said Wikkerink.
“We’re going to move ahead with that so we have some normalcy out in the county and as much as we can, we’re going to keep development permits being processed and being approved. We don’t want to stop business out in the county, so we’re going to try to keep as much of those things moving if we can.”
He anticipates council will only allow 10 more people in the council chamber for a public hearing on top of councilors and the administration.
But if that number is exceeded, then council would let the first group in to share, excuse them, and then let another group in, he added.
Council and county managers had a brainstorming session with Stewart Payne, the director of emergency management, about the ideas of going through the exercise of currently having full staff right now and if there is a decline over time due to an illness.
“If we lose 30 per cent of our staff, if they become sick or self-isolate themselves, what does that do to our operation? The exercise goes on to further, if 50 per cent of our staff, can we still operate? (And) then what things do we trim out that we don’t have to do to keep the essential stuff going?”
Local MLA Grant Hunter also told Wikkerink and county Chief Administrative Officer Keith Bodin that if there were any confirmed COVID-19 cases in the area that the municipality would be contacted directly.
County residents can phone into the office if they have any questions on payments or it can be done online through the county’s website and if anyone needs to drop off cheques, the office has a mail slot in the door.