Rotating staff to address COVID-19 pandemic

Written by Stu Salkeld

The Town of Stettler will place employees on a rotation system as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Councillors heard a report about staff hours at their regular meeting Apr. 7.

Town CAO Greg Switenky reported to councillors the municipality was tweaking staff work hours in an effort to slow or eliminate the spread of coronavirus among town staff.

“It’s been unprecedented in my career,” said Switenky to council, referring to the effect the pandemic has had on Stettler.

The CAO said the town staff have seen all sorts of difficulties over the years, but the pandemic is in a league of its own.

He also noted he appreciates how well the town staff have been handling pandemic measures and remaining focused.

He stated about 53 town staff are still working and to address the risk of someone developing and then spreading coronavirus, the town is placing workers on a schedule.

Public works staff will go on a “two weeks on, two weeks off” schedule while other town staff will go on a “one week on, one week off” schedule.

Staff who are “on” will work as normal while following social distancing and other guidelines while staff who are “off” will remain at home and be prepared to work when called.

Some staff have been temporarily laid off due to the pandemic, but Switenky said they’ll be hired back as soon as everything returns to normal.

He voiced optimism that the last quarter of 2020 will resemble something akin to normalcy.

It was also noted that public parks in Stettler are closed, but dog parks remain open.

Of course, all coronavirus measures such as social distancing are still in effect at the dog parks.

Financial update

While councillors discussed the most recent bank reconciliation statement, a few questions arose about how the coronavirus pandemic would affect certain projects and budget items.

Switenky noted certain budget items in, for example, the capital budget, have government grants linked to them and those grants are expected to come in.

So the projects should go ahead as planned.

Hospital renovations

A memo to councillors noted that much-anticipated renovations to the Stettler Health & Care Centre have been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“As a result, we wanted to let you know that there is an impact to the Stettler Hospital & Care Centre,” stated a letter from Alberta Health Services.

“The renovation of our Emergency Department (ER), the third phase of our major renovation project which was to get underway very shortly, has now been temporarily paused in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

“For the safety of our patients and the public, our physicians and staff, and our contractors’ staff, Alberta Health Services has been directed to limit the access and use of contractors at all AHS sites.

“This project also involves having to move some departments and services, which may have been disruptive to members of our healthcare team, who will be increasingly focused on dealing with the impact of COVID-19.

“We recognize the importance of this project and we look forward to resuming work once we have dealt with this unprecedented event.”

Spooky library report

Councillors read a report from the Parkland Community Library.

“Also new in late 2018 into 2019 is the Friends of the Library’s Historic Ghost Walk,” stated the library system’s 2019 report. 

“The walk highlights Stettler’s more ghostly past and works well with community interest in the more grisly history of the area. 

Teamed with the ghost walks was the Robert Raymond Cook information evening which drew a crowd of approximately 374 people and resulted in sales of over 100 DVD recordings of that evening. It became a bit of a non-intentional successful fundraiser.”

Those darn deer

In the minutes submitted for the Stettler Waste Management Authority March 13 meeting, councillors noted that hungry ungulates are not doing their part to keep the local landfill beautiful.

In the minutes for the meeting it was stated, “(Board member) Wayne Nixon noted that trees would hide the landfill from the highway and that trees could be ordered by contacting Quinton Beaumont or Ryan Hallett.

“Stettler Waste Management Authority manager Rene Doucette noted that trees were planted and the deer ate them.

Through conversation, it was identified that a fence would be required to protect the trees.

The Shelterbelt Tree Workshop (may not be held due to COVID-19 restrictions) could recommend the best type of trees for that location. Rene Doucette will investigate.”

Coun. Gord Lawlor was absent from the meeting.


Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.