By Samantha Johnson
There was much to discuss at the council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 8.
With elections for a new council coming up in October, the current Reeve, Steven Wikkerink, stated he would not be seeking re-election this year. “I’ve been there for eight years, the last four years as Reeve. Changes on our home farm and needing to spend more time with my wife, do more things together, maybe we can do some travelling again soon. It was a very hard decision because our council get along so well, which was the biggest hurdle.”
A couple of delegations attended the council meeting.
First up was the Alberta Sugar Beet Growers from Taber, the only group remaining who still supply to the Canadian sugar market, contributing about eight per cent. Wikkerink explained,
“There is a new push, probably for right after the federal election, to continue working with the Ag Minister in Ottawa for a sugar policy in Canada. It is a huge industry and provides 2,100 jobs and it would be a good thing for job creation if we could expand our acreage. The County of 40 Mile will be giving them a letter of support in their endeavors to lobby the federal government for this cause.”
The second visitor was Pam Davidson, a candidate for one of the open Senate seats. She lives on a small farm between Red Deer and Sylvan Lake. Wikkernik said, “She is very much interested in promoting rural life and agriculture, those things cities don’t seem to get. She sounds like a good voice for rural Alberta and Western Canada.” For more information visit pamdavidson.ca.
One of the ongoing things for the last few months was dealing with complaints for unsightly and unsafe premises in Etzikom. “We gave the community there 60 days to comply with getting things cleaned up. The majority of the work there has been done; it looks way different than it used to. A couple of properties have not complied, so our bylaw officer is taking things to the next level. We did find out a communications company also has a small property in Etzikom that nothing has been done on and we will be contacting them. The county also went into Etzikom onto some of our own properties to get them cleaned up a bit better and that’s all been done,” said Wikkerink.
Progress is looking good on the new administration building in Foremost and should be closed in before winter hits. “The contractor is a bit delayed at the moment waiting for steel to come in for the curved part of the building, but they felt they were ahead of schedule already,” explained Wikkerink.
Once completed, the building will provide greater efficiencies for everyone. Currently the county offices are split into three different buildings in the Village of Foremost. The construction will see two large work bays added to the existing shop and the Ag department will move into that facility. Wikkerink added, “on the other side of the building, where the administration part of public works is, is being expanded and everybody will be at one site (when completed). Right now, there is lots of going back and forth between buildings.”
The council is also trying to set up a meeting between their utility committee and the Village of Foremost. We are “trying to pick a date, but haven’t been able to nail one down,” said Wikkerink.
Masks and safety glass are already back in place in the county office and, with possible new restrictions coming down from the Government of Alberta, some upcoming events could be cancelled, including a meeting in Lethbridge next Friday and the fall convention in Edmonton, scheduled for the the third week of November.
“Three conventions that have been cancelled in the last 18 months. They are very important to us as a county because you get to rub shoulders with other councillors and pick each other’s brains,” said Wikkerinkstated. Adding it is important to bounce ideas off them and ask questions such as, “what is your road program like? Are you contracting out or doing all the work yourself? How are you handling your labour force? Our council said the other day you can really tell we haven’t had that in awhile because there are lots of things in the back of our mind that we’d like to bounce off other councillors and it’s not the same when you phone someone to get some feedback.”
In addition, the conventions provide social occasions that ministers and MLA’s attend, from both the party in power and the opposition, providing opportunities to connect with them. Wikkerink added that when restrictions lifted in the summer, “The MLA’s were out to visit the rural areas and we’ve seen a number of them and it’s been very nice. But it is usually good to get to Edmonton because you can often book some time slots to meet with specific ministers one on one.”
A discussion also took place concerning handing out long service awards to firefighters in the county. “Normally, all firefighters receiving awards come into the main office in Foremost and there is a presentation and lunch. Looks like we are going to try to do them by area or hall this year,” said Wikkerink. It will result in more events but will make each of them smaller, thus, easier to follow COVID protocols.
Council was also informed that an operator who manages the South 40 Waste Commission is up for an award and the meeting has been cancelled. The award will now be presented a different way to recognize this gentlemen for his years of service.
Next Tuesday existing council members plan to have a brainstorming session to discuss what the core business is for the County of 40 Mile and what their mandate is to rate payers. Wikkerink explained that council wants to refocus on, “the key things our rate payers, who pay taxes each year, expect back from the county. Each year we are getting different groups coming to us asking for funds for things that are mostly in our county but not always. I don’t think it is in our mandate to be an organization that makes donations, although there are various opinions on that on our council.”
Recently, a group approached the council asking for a donation for recreation that would occur in a different municipality. Wikkerink stated, “myself, personally, I struggle with that, I don’t think it meets our mandate, especially when it will be in a different municipality. That’s what some of the service groups in our community are for and those groups have stepped up for this cause big time, such as the Elks and the Lions. We are getting these things coming to us and we aren’t sure what to do. In our budget we already give $150,000 per year spread out through our county to the communities for recreation. That’s part of everyone’s taxes. With some of the cleanup we’ve done in Etzikom it has sparked some things in other communities, such as getting some playground equipment replaced/updated. The rec money is spread out through the entire county but at least it is in our county and we just struggle with giving money to a different municipality.”