The Town of Bashaw addressed new policing costs from the province through a fee approved at their regular meeting April 2.
The meeting was held by teleconference in response to social distancing requirements due to coronavirus measures and Coun. Lynn Schultz was absent from the meeting.
Every municipality in Alberta is addressing increased policing costs announced by the provincial government late last year.
Bashaw discussed the issue at a council meeting last month and decided to approach the issue through a fee applied to every residence in the town, noted town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Theresa Fuller in her memo to council.
She noted the fee will be levied bimonthly like other utility bills and will generate $15,703 per year, which exactly covers increased policing costs estimated for 2021, when the province is expected to bill municipalities.
Fuller stated the town will bill every resident $7.29 to cover the expenses.
During discussion, councillors discussed whether the province will move ahead with increased policing. Coun. Rob McDonald noted the province has already said they’re expecting the money and so it’s very unlikely they’ll back-track on that.
Councillors passed all readings of the bylaw to bring the policing fee into effect as of third reading.
Councillors approved a measure to help local residents who may be financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic by deferring penalties for water, sewer and garbage fees for residents.
Fuller noted in her report to council the town does not currently cut off services for non-payment in any event.
Provincial and federal measures to control the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in closure of some businesses and layoffs of employees, affecting some people’s income situation.
She noted in her report this is one way the town council can support local residents by lifting a little bit of financial pressure from them.
The recommendation from staff was to defer penalties for these three utility bills to July 31 of this year.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said Coun. McDonald.
Councillors unanimously approved the measure.
Provincial FCSS funding
Fuller provided councillors with a copy of the Alberta government’s recent FCSS funding announcement, which included details of $30 million available to help people such as seniors and other vulnerable Albertans deal with coronavirus measures such as isolation.
The funding is available for municipalities, charities and non-profit societies and Fuller said it appears almost any group wishing to help the vulnerable can apply under this program.
The provider must address the social well-being of those affected by COVID-19 measures.
“Personally, I think it’s a great idea,” said Mayor Penny Shantz.
Fuller noted Bashaw was planning to apply for funding under this program through cooperation with the Villages of Alix and Donalda and also make the application forms available on the town website for other groups who are interested.
Councillors approved a three-way committee to process FCSS applications during the coronavirus pandemic, in an effort to abide by social distancing measures.
CAO Fuller recommended an ad hoc board comprised of representatives of Bashaw, Alix and Donalda be formed and consider various FCSS applications as they come in.
She noted the board would not meet in person, but rather by teleconference.
Councillors unanimously approved the recommendation.
Emergency management update
Both CAO Fuller and town foreman Murray Holroyd provided councillors with an update on how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting Bashaw.
Holroyd stated town management is meeting via teleconferencing every day with Bashaw and District FCSS and it’s felt the longer the pandemic goes on, the more serious food and money issues will get.
Keeping essential services and businesses open and following rules were also discussed, including pandemic measures such as social distancing.
Fuller stated she’s spoken directly to virtually all local businesses about the pandemic orders and she also noted the Meals on Wheels program has been expanded regionally, not just to senior citizens.
Mayor Shantz stated she was aware the local school had an impressive breakfast program and was concerned some students may really miss out on that.
Holroyd stated families have been contacted and food bank supplies have been offered.
Library board member
Councillors heard a report that Kerri Docherty stepped down from the Bashaw Library board.
Jackie Northey volunteered to take the seat. Councillors unanimously approved Northey’s request to join the board.
Bashaw Fire Department
Councillors approved the Bashaw Fire Department’s fundraising policy, which Fuller stated aligns with the Town’s strategic objectives.
It was also noted that the policy outlines how funds raised will be handled since the firefighters have a separate bank account for funds they raise.
Both Coun. McDonald and Coun. Rosella Peterman stated the policy looked good.
Councillors unanimously approved it.
Councillors approved a special meeting of council Apr. 23 to consider the audited financial statements.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter