Flagstaff road recovery program affects southern Forestburg road

Written by Terri Huxley

In part of an eight-year program to convert oil lease roads to gravel within Flagstaff County, intent to perform sub grade preparation on Range Road 152, south of Forestburg for 3.5 miles to Township Road 412 is set to take place shortly.

On Feb. 26, the village received a letter from Flagstaff County Public Works Superintendent Darrell Szott formally notifying the village of the county’s project.

This process involves removing the oil surface currently in place, re-compacting the sub-grade and re-establishing the crown on the road surface and finally surfacing the roadbed with gravel.

Upon learning this, village administration conveyed concern with this as they and council both felt the road was in good condition aside from one small portion.

In speaking with the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of Flagstaff, CAO Dwight Dibben told council this would not be their recommendation to county council to keep the road as is.

He did, however, mention the neighbouring community of Sedgewick has made a deal with the county over one road north of town that connects Sedgewick Lake Park Campground and the local cemetery.

Council passed a motion to write to the county asking for a similar deal as Sedgewick to keep this oil surface road south of the village intact.

School support

In response to a conversation that took place last meeting about school success, administration followed up with Forestburg’s principal to find out how the municipality and community itself could support the school.

Recent years have seen a downturn in enrollment which has been a cause for concern for many.

Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Dwight Dibben in his report to council shared he spoke with Forestburg School Principal Gordon Thompson on Feb. 25, gaining valuable insight as to how they can support.

He added that it was both a professional and personal visit as his family is in the process of creating a new scholarship in the family’s name.

The principal shared with him that they expect to ‘hold steady’ next year with their intake of kindergarten students into Grade 1 which equates to the amount of Grade 12 students leaving.

It was said that demographic challenges in the earlier grades did raise a red flag as the next four to five years could be more problematic with lower attendance.

Grade 2 currently has eight students.

The principal felt that in terms of contributing to the broader district, it has been disproportionate compared to the west side of the district where more attention seems to be given.

The CAO noted this was dipping into the political side of school divisions but that advocating for this area is key at this time.

The school is working on new programs to entice current and new students to the area as well.

As for municipal support, direct and indirect funding such as providing equipment, capital contributions or scholarships was allowable but any initiatives involving courses, teaching resources or capital improvements fall under the Education Act and/or provincial regulations.

COW talk

The Committee of the Whole (COW) conversation began with Coun. Eileen Fossen introducing a particular Alberta Parks guide after it was brought to her attention.

She mentioned this was given to her once others discovered that Forestburg wasn’t included in the details of Big Knife Provincial Park which is located southwest of the village.

The directions to the site explained it was 40 km east of Stetter and a few kilometres west off of Highway 855.

Coun. Fossen stated she will be getting in touch with Alberta Parks or Travel Alberta about this as to how they can get Forestburg mentioned as well as encourage local businesses to put posters there to show a presence.

Mayor Blaise Young shared that years ago he remembered Alberta Parks stating not to put commercial items on the bulletin boards.

Coun. Devon McNabb mentioned he may have a contact for the Stettler-based park ranger to help get Forestburg added to the description.

The mayor hoped they could at least put a village poster up to draw people to the village.

“We have to do something,” he said.

Switching topics, the mayor told council that Amanda Davis will be conducting a feasibility study and detailed report on all forms of tourism within the Flagstaff region.

He noted that in order for the Wanda SchoolHouse to get any funding to be moved and converted into a visitor information centre, he believed they would need a study to back this up.

The Battle River Economic Opportunities Committee (BREOC) will be paying for the study as it falls well within their realm of capabilities.

988 mental health line

Battle River-Crowfoot MP Damien Kurek has sent out letters to all municipalities within the region to support a mental health line (988), especially in light of the pandemic and its toll on Canadians.

He has asked for each municipality to send in a letter of support as well as a council motion to support this endeavour to put pressure on the federal government to implement much like the United States is currently doing using the same three-digit number.

“I am 100 per cent behind this,” said Coun. Dwayne Giroux. “It’s high time that we got something that addresses mental health and gives people an outlet.”

Council passed a motion to endorse the number.

Healthy communities initiative

In an effort to be in the first round of deliberations for the promising Canada Healthy Communities Initiative grant, council agreed to have administration look further and apply for this before the deadline ending this week.

The grant provides up to $250,000 with a two-year time horizon to complete which administration finds helpful as most grants only allow one year to complete a project given the green light to proceed.

Council asked about getting community input and ideas but with the quick turnaround time it was agreed to focus on that portion later once the application is submitted.

The local Communities in Bloom committee found the grant and came up with a couple of ideas this money could be used for; one of which was the long-standing idea of building a long walking path.

They originally calculated this endeavour to cost $250,000 but they felt the price was too high to fundraise for.

“There was no way we would even come close to that,” said Coun. Fossen. “We will see where we go with it. It seems like every town has a walking path.”

Employee policies

Council passed an employee compensation and benefits policy.

As per Section 2b of the policy, administration determined that the Consumer Price Index for Alberta is 1.3 per cent.

The salary grids have been adjusted to reflect this change.

Another policy council passed was revisions to the employee discipline policy.

When administration reviewed it, CAO Dibben found one clause to be incorrect.

It is a condition of wrongful dismissal insurance coverage that a written legal opinion is obtained from the law firm Brownlee LLP before taking steps toward dismissal.

After reviewing the village’s insurance policy, confirmation of wrongful dismissal insurance was verified, but there is no requirement in this policy to secure a written legal opinion and/or securing this written advice from Brownlee LLP as a requirement of insurance coverage.

This means that the village does not need to consult a particular firm such as Brownlee LLP for an opinion that isn’t really needed.

While it may be advisable to source legal advice prior to undertaking a dismissal action, administration recommends an enabling rather than restrictive approach given that not all disciplinary actions may require formal legal involvement.

CAO Dibben shared that when looking at dismissal of a councillor, it normally involves them and the criminal code.

 

Terri Huxley

ECA Review

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