In a proactive move, Starland County has made it known they would like to retain the Tolman Bridge East Campground.
At their regular meeting on Wed. Oct. 14, a letter by Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Shirley Bremer to Keith Bocking of Alberta Environment and Parks stated that although unsure of the status of this particular campground, the county wanted to acquire the property if it were ever up to be no longer publicly funded.
She said, “We have had many of our residents express their concern about the possible closure of this campground and the county would like to work together with the provincial government to ensure that thesis does not happen.”
A portion of the campground is already in the county’s name.
In talks with Kneehill County, CAO Bremer mentioned they would be equally interested in taking over the western portion of this campground, willing to work with Starland to maintain the joint campground spaces separated by the Red Deer River.
At this point, there is no interest in not supporting current parks by the province.
In CAO Bremer’s report, tax collection without penalty was Sept. 30.
Starland’s overall taxes levied for 2020 were $13,093,902.29, with $5,836,479.65 outstanding as of Oct. 1.
This yielded an overall collection rate of 55.42 per cent.
However, out of the remaining 44.68 per cent not paid, $5,367,177.23 was owing from nine oil and gas companies, including over $2.1M levied on Trident properties.
Three of the companies with the largest outstanding balances are prepared to enter into a Tax Repayment Agreement with the County, agreeing to pay their entire amount owing within the next year which council approved entering into this agreement at the meeting.
The total outstanding taxes for other ratepayers are $469,302.42.
Economic Development proposal
A delegation from Matt Paproski of Starland Studios capped off the regular meeting.
Paproski went through his entire website, showing council each and every section possible to demonstrate his assertion in the film industry.
He proposed a contract be made for $1,000 a month plus an office with expenses included for a total of two months to raise funds to pay for ‘fair industry rate and benefits the position entails.’
This would also give the county a place on the website for promotional reasons.
His goal is to focus on the film industry and tourism, trying to bring movie and TV productions to Drumheller and Starland County by being the one-stop-shop liaison/area ambassador between government, stakeholders and film productions.
Parposki hopes to drum up business for himself while simultaneously growing rural economic development in the area through this unique area.
He said he chose to live in Starland County after searching all over western Canada, commenting that this area is ‘one of the most filmable locations’ with great topography.
“I want to find a way to survive as myself as a business but also spark business in the area.”
Council, after Paproski left the chamber, felt this would suit Drumheller more so than Starland.
Reeve Steve Wannstrom said, “It’s interesting but I don’t know if any [locally based] businesses will benefit.
CAO Bremer mentioned there have been many productions at Rowley for its ghost town vibes and aesthetic but not all productions were great to work with.
They now have policies and fees in place to ensure everything goes smoothly.
Council passed a motion to decline the offer, citing it is not in their budget at the moment.
Employee vehicle use policy
A revisit of the employee vehicle use policy came with some changes.
It was mentioned amongst councillors that they receive comments and questions consistently about employees taking their vehicles home.
Public Works Supervisor Ken Menage said it was beneficial for both employees and employer as these trucks are handy when on call.
If, for example, there was an emergency situation that required said employee to attend, it would be at least 45 minutes from their home to get to the office to pick up the county vehicle which would not be efficient in addressing the issue.
He also said some people use these vehicles and check things out before even reaching the office, saving time and energy.
“They are doing us a service and it’s a perk for them,” said Menage. “Everybody is treated fairly and nobody is abusing it.”
Council ultimately decided to scrap the entire section regarding employees utilizing county-owned equipment, passing the policy with that amendment.
Fire claim summary
Starland recently received a final summary of their fire claim for the 2018 fire.
The total loss came to $4,760,187.79 with insurance at $30,543,524.
A total of $265,444.76 was claimed.
Firefighting charges came to $18,988.93.
The Municipal Operating Support Transfer (MOST) grant program is how municipalities will receive the operating funding announced on July 17, 2020 as part of the Safe Restart Agreement between Alberta and the Government of Canada.
Funds can be used to support additional costs or revenue shortfalls associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
All municipalities will receive $5,000 in base funding and the remainder will be allocated based on population.
Starland County is eligible for $214,201.
Council passed a motion to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding to accept this funding.
In discussion, a few items they would use this money for was protective personal equipment, communications, additional cleaning, sanitizers, extra vehicle usage and fuel as they made people travel individually to places for some time and so on.
Laptops were purchased for employees to work from home as well.
RCMP detachment presentation
Staff Sgt. Eddie Bourque of the Drumheller RCMP Detachment came to Starland County chambers to give a quarterly update on trends and statistics within the detachment area as well as answer any questions councillors may have.
Drumheller just received six fresh new members from the national depot based in Saskatchewan.
With this increase, Bourque said these boosted numbers will help get the crime reduction unit running again.
From the statistics, it was clear their numbers in terms of crime have gone down from last year.
Criminal code offences decreased by 42 per cent when compared to the first three quarters of 2019.
There were 13 fewer break and enters, two less motor vehicle thefts, and 33 fewer instances of theft under $5,000.
In 2019 it was zero cases of sexual assaults compared to five in 2020. 2018 had four cases, 2017 had two and 2016 had three.
Bourque attributed this downward trend in crime to COVID-19 as well as more access to cash from the government.
He added that anything happening at the penitentiary is considered municipal which can affect the numbers as well.
He stated they are trying to increase patrols in areas outside of the valley such as Morrin while also speaking with Stettler and Hanna detachments as many criminals tend to move back and forth from these areas.
“It’s really important to share this information,” he said.
Coun. Murray Marshall asked about the trends in rural crime wondering if it had decreased at all.
Bourque commended people for their increased vigilance by providing their surveillance when they see or hear of something suspicious.
This combined with encouraging members to be out monitoring more than being in the office has helped.