Municipalities across Alberta have been coping with ever-increasing police costs, and Kneehill County dealt with an issue at their Jan. 11 regular council meeting that’s not the least of those concerns: the issue of retroactive pay for RCMP that may stretch back five years.
County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Mike Haugen presented councillors with a letter from Kneehill’s MP Martin Shields, who represents the federal riding of Bow River.
Shields was seeking Kneehill’s moral support on his quest to get clarification on who is paying for part of the RCMP’s new union contract, specifically five years of retroactive pay.
“Costs of policing are currently shared by the federal, provincial and municipal governments,” stated Haugen in his report to council.
“Each year, Kneehill County includes this expense in its annual operating budget. This funding is paid to the Province of Alberta.
“The RCMP has entered into a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the federal government. A part of that agreement included retroactive salary coverage for up to five years.
“How the federal government provides this funding is outside of the scope of the agreement.
“MP Martin Shields is writing a letter to the Minister of Public Safety (Marco Mendicino) and President of Treasury Board (Mona Fortier) for further clarification regarding where this funding will come from and is asking for municipalities to provide letters of support in order to strengthen this request.
“As municipalities are a partial funder of policing services, there is concern that additional costs may be imposed on municipalities as a result of providing retroactive payments.
“There has been no information or details regarding whether or not additional funding will ultimately be imposed at the local level and additional information and clarify on this topic is being sought.”
Haugen stated Kneehill has seen increasing police costs recently, and estimated those costs will rise to about $480,000. Haugen added that after the RCMP unionized they negotiated a deal with the federal government that included retroactive pay going back five years., and apparently no one knows where the money for that retroactive pay is coming from.
This will be the gist of Shields’ letter and Shields wants Kneehill’s letter of support to include in his request.
Haugen stated Kneehill, and plenty of other municipalities, would like to know if there is a problem looming.
“There might be, there might not be,” said Haugen. “We simply don’t know.”
The CAO noted staff was in favour of supporting Shields’ efforts.
Reeve Jerry Wittstock stated it would be good to have the issue clarified so municipalities can plan ahead, if necessary.
Councillors unanimously agreed to send a letter of support to Shields as he requested.
New agricultural fieldman
Kneehill County has a new agricultural (ag) fieldman, Shelby Sherwick, who is also manager of parks and agriculture services.
The request to appoint Sherwick as ag fieldman was made by Laurie Watt, manager of community services. Watt noted in her presentation to council several pieces of provincial law require an ag fieldman be appointed.
“The agricultural fieldman is a required position under the Agricultural Service Board (ASB) Act, if a municipality has an ASB and subsequent ASB grant agreement in place between itself and the province,” stated Watt’s agenda memo.
“In the past, the incumbent to the manager parks and ag services position has been appointed by council to the ag fieldman role.
“Fallon Sherlock was appointed in the interim while the manager role was being filled.
Shelby has recently completed her certified agricultural fieldman training and has been working in the Ag Services & Parks Department for over five years. She brings a strong understanding of the provincial acts and legislated requirements for this appointment.”
Councillors unanimously appointed Sherwick as ag fieldman.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter