The Special Areas Advisory Council held their quarterly meeting on Wed. June 23 and began by sharing how they hoped it would be the last virtual-based council meeting they would need.
The Advisory Council discussed the upcoming changes to public health restrictions and expressed their appreciation for how well Special Areas employees responded during the pandemic.
The Advisory Council received updates on the board’s financial position, discussing the impacts of changing provincial grant funding levels and ongoing bad debt pressures.
The upcoming municipal election in October was discussed including the need to ensure local polling stations are accessible in more remote parts of the region.
Partnerships with urban service centres were discussed as a cost-effective way to support local access to provincial referendum or senate election questions.
Options for in-person ratepayer meetings were presented by administration as public health restrictions allow for in-person meetings after July 1.
The Advisory Council emphasized how important in-person meetings are to giving ratepayers a local place to engage with the Advisory Council and administration.
To help avoid any conflicts with the upcoming election, the group suggested moving in-person ratepayer meetings to November so ratepayers could have a chance to meet newly elected representatives and share feedback ahead of the Advisory Council meeting in December.
A draft Cultivation Lease Conversion policy was reviewed, including recommendations from the Conversion Lease Subcommittee to increase the total amount of eligible quarters.
This policy, created in 2013, is used to manage requests for converting grazing lease dispositions into cultivation leases on eligible lands.
The group highlighted how critical it was to ensure native, undisturbed prairie continued to be ineligible for conversion.
The draft policy was recommended by the Advisory Council to the board as the updated policy gives producers the flexibility they need to manage their leased lands more effectively.
The group wrapped up their day with an update on regional irrigation feasibility work Special Areas is completing in partnership with the M.D. of Acadia, Canada Infrastructure Bank, and Alberta Agriculture & Forestry.
The next meeting of the Special Areas Advisory Council will be held later this summer.