Rural Municipalities Association makes virtual visit

Al Kemmere, Rural Municipalities Association (RMA) president as well as District 2 Director Paul McLaughlin and Executive Director Gerold Rhodes of RMA were in attendance at the regular council meeting June 3 to give updates and spark conversation on hot button issues on a local, provincial and federal level.

Overall, changes to the Municipal Government Act (MGA) has allowed municipalities the opportunity to utilize technology to conduct meetings since the pandemic hit which are still in place.

Time extensions for the Intermunicipal Collaboration Framework (ICF) and Intermunicipal Development Plan (IDP) have been allotted as well, pushing the due dates back a year so all IDP’s and ICFs shall be done by April 1, 2021.

Questions have been swirling around stimulus funding from the province. They have asked for any shovel ready projects to kick-start the economy but beyond that, the RMA is unsure of details.

“At this point, we have not seen anything with foundation to it,” said Kemmere. “Our definition of imminent and theirs is not quite the same.”

They have advocated that whatever the stimulus looks like it should be given to every county and should be used under already established structures like grants of Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding.

Rhodes added that the phased-in business operation openings are successful so far and he anticipates an earlier opening date for more than the initial businesses posted in Phase 2 as Alberta has successfully narrowed the curve of coronavirus cases.

“There might be more included in it than originally thought,” said Rhodes.

RMA is planning for fall convention to allow one on one communication but is contingent on government regulations and guidances.

The presenters asked Reeve Stan Schulmeister if there were any burning questions or concerns he wanted to be raised.

He asked about the newly implemented gun ban set by the federal government to which they said they have not had a recent discussion on it as they are yet to meet soon.

“It painted all gun owners the same way,” said Reeve Schulmeister. “They turned law-abiding gun owners into criminals. Not that we should agree that everyone should be packing heat but we should have clarity brought to Ottawa that it went too far in the way they portray gun owners.”

This visit with RMA is done on a regular rotation every three years face-to-face to keep in touch with each rural municipality that is a part of the association.

With COVID-19 still causing restrictions, the presentation was done via Zoom during Council’s regular meeting on Tues. June 2.

Schedule fees bylaw

Council passed the third and final reading for the fee schedule bylaw which allows the county to charge fees for services like administrative work involving certificates and copies as well as public works.

Tax penalties are also set within this bylaw.

The first two readings were carried in February.

In-camera matter

Council entered into a non-public meeting from 3:41 p.m. to 4:57 p.m. citing the FOIP Act as the reason for the closed session.

No motions were made at this time.

Public input summary

A public input summary report was given to council for review following the County’s public engagement sessions on the Municipal Development Plan (MDP) and Land Use Bylaw back in January and February.

Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Michael Simpson said that plenty of members from community groups gave staff lots of data to work.

After the sessions were complete, administration was tasked with categorizing and preparing in a presentation format for public review before a future second round will take place with more direct questions and a voting component added.

These consultations were originally going to be held in July and August but with COVID-19 disrupting summer plans, this has been pushed farther into the year or even as late as next year depending on provincial guidelines.

Council approved the summary, asking only for minor changes to ensure people who read understand that this is simply a regurgitation of what was said at the meetings with little county response.

“It’s not a county position paper at all. Just pure data capture,” said Todd Pawsey, a member of the County of Paintearth Public Engagement Team.

“We heard a lot of statements across a plethora of topics from highly possible to that is totally illegal topics discussed,” he said.

CAO Simpson agreed, saying that they “Captured everything, every sticky, every comment in the policy.”

The booklet, which is available for public review, summarizes some themes seen throughout with graphs and other diagrams for easier understanding with the remaining pages for pure verbatim of what people noted at the meetings.

The meetings have “never been tried in the County before”.

Round One featured community engagement and feedback sessions at Brownfield on Jan. 3, Coronation on Jan. 14, Halkirk on Jan. 15 and wrapped up in Castor on Jan. 16.

Approximately 150 members of the public attended over the course of the four evenings, as well as facilitation staff and planning professionals to be able to answer questions on the subject matter and help elicit discussions.

Following a supper, participants undertook extensive work completing workbooks filled with policy review from the existing MDP and completed the evening with poster stations of various Land Use Bylaw topics and proposed amendments.

A survey on landowner values relating to various types of developments was also placed before participants.

The format of the workshops was a series of roundtable discussions with participants in groups across various tables each evening.

A facilitated presentation was delivered throughout to discuss the material in the workbooks.


Terri Huxley
ECA Review

About the author

Terri Huxley

Terri grew up on a grain farm near Drumheller, Alberta with an eye for the beautiful and uncharted. Living in such a unique and diverse area has helped her become the photographer and reporter she is today.

Coming from the East Central region getting this newspaper on her dinner table growing up, it helped her understand the community she now serves.

In May 2019, Terri was awarded Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association (AWNA) Canada's Energy Citizens Photographic Awards Sports Action – First Place as well as first for the same sports action image nationally with the Canadian Community Newspaper Association (CCNA). Fast forward to 2020, she has won second in the same category for the AWNA.