Council was left with more questions than answers following a meeting with Camrose MLA Jackie Lovely.
Back in December, it was decided by council after a comment made by Coun. Rob McDonald to invite MLA Lovely to a meeting to discuss issues like the police costing model, lower Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding and ageing infrastructure.
On Thurs. Jan. 16, the first regular council meeting of the year took place. Lovely was given notice of the specific topics council wanted to discuss in advance to the meeting when administration set up a time.
She began by talking about rural crime and how the RCMP has a service called the Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design Assessment for business owners where they do a walkthrough to detect potential lures for criminals to break in.
The RCMP will also tell the business owners how to better protect themselves and how to deter these people.
“It’s a very worthwhile piece of information,” she said. “We need to protect ourselves.”
The MLA mentioned 11 new positions for various detachments in the constituency will be arriving but was unable to confirm if any would be situated in Bashaw.
People are encouraged to report their break-ins or any other issues to the RCMP as this shows the level of support needed for the area.
Finally, Coun. McDonald asked Lovely about their other urgent needs including funding.
“It’s all wrapped up together. The crime initiatives are really going to help but one of my concerns is the police funding initiative along with cuts to MSI,” he said.
“Where do we cut to pay for it?”
McDonald also mentioned his distaste for a comment made by the Alberta Premier in recent months regarding the reasoning for the provincial downloading of police costs.
“One comment that the Premier made that I found incredibly insulting was when he said small towns are not paying for policing. We pay taxes. We are the only taxpayer,” said McDonald.
The model has changed to have small municipalities under 5,000 populations pay an increasing amount over the next three years whereas before they didn’t directly pay for the services.
“True, the Town of Bashaw doesn’t write a cheque for policing costs, but it gets its funding from the taxpayers and that’s us and we are paying for it.
“Nor does Bashaw have the revenue streams that larger communities do, so like I said, where do we cut to pay for it?”
She immediately recommended they have a meeting with Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu as he has offered time to listen to any communities who are struggling with these changes.
Coun. Lynn Schultz spoke up about the simple increase in taxation and how it will have a massive impact on rural Alberta.
“I’m just worried there are more and more small municipalities that are folding, and in our case, if our taxation gets so high who would want to move here?” said Coun. Schultz.
“With MSI going and now policing costs – we look at our budget down the road, it’s crazy.”
Coun. McDonald added how the recent dissolving of Ferintosh from a village to hamlet status has affected water costs as before the regional water line they are connected to originally had six members sharing in the costs.
Now with Ferintosh no longer a partner, the remaining five shares will increase to cover the expenses left behind.
“Our drinking didn’t change, the water didn’t change but all of the sudden we pay more for it,” said Coun. McDonald.
Lovely requested they send her an email to request an official meeting with the minister which she also willingly agreed to accompany them on.
BDSS Budget Presentation
Christine Buelow of the Bashaw and District Support Services (BDSS) came to council to give a brief overview of the branch’s 2020 budget.
Council accepted it with no issues as the budget was nearly identical to last year.
The support system is open to anyone who has problems as they see people in communities surrounding Bashaw as well as residents from within the town.
Council asked for some statistics and numbers of where people are coming from.
Joint Fire Quality Management Plan
Council requested administration send a letter to the City of Camrose to ask for participation in the joint fire quality management plan.
This plan will enable the town to access Camrose fire safety code services related to activities that are above the scope of skills the current Bashaw fire chief has.
Compliance inspections will be completed on a request or complaint basis for all various categories.
Administration has found this to be a ‘cost effective way of providing this service’.
“It’s a little more cost effective to people accessing the service compared to existing charges,” said Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Theresa Fuller.
There will still be a fee structure built within the fire bylaw.
Phase 2 of the 54th Ave. paving project was approved last April with funding being accessed from 2020 MSI grants for $208,000 and the Federal Gas Tax (FGT) for $50,000.
Since then, administration has found the FGT does not cover surface level paving costs which Phase 2 is all about.
The town has an accumulated $307,000 in various reserves to do this instead.
“I want to see it done,” said Coun. Shultz. “It will just go down the road and more and more expensive to do it.”
Council made a motion to proceed with the paving project this year and approve the tendering process beginning.