By Justin Seward
County of Forty Mile Reeve Steve Wikkerink’s first full year was a busy one as council’s top representative and in a time where he learned how quickly a community comes together when a disaster occurs.
The disaster was this past spring’s overland flooding, that left several county fields and roads under water back in April.
“When the floods started in the spring, that made me pretty nervous because the spring floods of 2011, that was really bad and hard on everybody,” said Wikkerink.
“But the floods this year… we seemed to recover fairly quickly and the staff did a great job. It wasn’t quite as stressful as I thought.”
Like many other areas in the province, the county was effected by a lack of moisture and poor growing conditions. It was an issue that Wikkerink did not have to experience being an irrigation farmer, but saw through the struggles throughout the summer months.
“There’s definitely areas in the south that had some pretty tough going again this year with how hot and dry (it was),” said Wikkerink.
“I know the irrigation belt in the north end of the county, they had an excellent year. As an irrigation farmer, and you watch all this flood water come in early in the spring, nobody was ready to start using it yet for the farms. But on the other hand, you hated to see it get pumped down the river and down the stream. It’s one of those instances you sure wish we could capture some of that water and use it later in the year.
“As it turned out, it didn’t rain this year and fortunately the irrigation district had enough of their reservoirs all full and you were able to rely on the Forty Mile reservoir.”
Aside from Mother Nature running its course, the reeve thinks the county is moving ahead with some assistance from strategies that council will work towards.
“We spent some time as councillors talking about what they would like to see in their term on council,” he said.
“The way we get information out to our rate payers, I think is something that we will address a little bit harder in the coming year. Social media and using that to get messages out.”
Now heading into 2019, the county saw a turnaround in staff in late 2018 with former Agricultural Fieldman Dave Matz taking the Chief Administrative Officer job with the Town of Bow Island in the fall and he was replaced within the office with Darryl Van Arragon.
Current CAO Dale Brown is retiring this upcoming spring, with his replacement being Keith Bodin.
“All of these positions, we were either successful in recruiting in house or having excellent people coming in (to)join the county to fill these positions,” said Wikkerink.
“Come to the end of the year, we have a great staff in place and all things turned out good.”
Ongoing projects in the new year will be the regional waterline from Foremost to Mannyberries, which is expected to be done by next November due to the delay in approval from Public Lands in one section. The Burdett water project is almost wrapped up and the Etzikom shop renovation is almost complete.
The hope will be to see a new owner of the old Spitz Plant and exploring hemp production opportunities in the area.
“We’ve heard a few comments over the years either from other councils, counties or other areas there is a stigma for awhile that ‘the County of Forty Mile is closed for business.’” he said.
“That we weren’t eager to try and invite businesses in and we’re not sure where that came from. We’re trying to get rid of that myth. We are open for business. But on the same token, number one, we have to take care of our rate payers and keep providing them with good, safe roads.”
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