The Village of Alix is following all protocols related to the coronavirus pandemic, councillors heard at their regular meeting Apr. 1. Deputy mayor
Village CAO Michelle White gave councillors a report on coronavirus measures being undertaken by the municipality.
She stated the village activated its emergency operations centre but has not declared a local state of emergency. White stated the village will be following all provincial and federal measures instituted to slow the spread of the pandemic.
White noted that certain measures, such as the closure of municipal playgrounds, was in council’s hands.
As well, the village office is now closed to the public.
Mayor Rob Fehr noted that, due to winter weather, campgrounds may not have been a major factor in attracting people outside, but as weather improves, this is something the village council may have to consider.
Coun. Ed Cole stated that, since the schools are closed, it would be nice to keep playgrounds open as long as possible.
Coun. Barb Gilliat added that there are signs up stating the playgrounds are not sanitized.
White noted that as of Apr. 1 the COVID-19 pandemic has cost the village about $369, with no way of knowing how high the actual cost could go.
The CAO said she was amazed at how the residents of Alix were handling the situation.
“I cannot emphasize enough how amazing each and every staff member continues to be as this situation progresses,” she stated in her report.
“I could go on for pages to list all the daily acts of kindness toward staff and residents while continuing to function at such a high level of professionalism, but you get the point.”
Councillors decided to allow up to three months of relief for those with Tax Instalment Payment Plans (TIPPS).
Councillors noted the financial difficulties being caused by the coronavirus pandemic virtually demanded help. Coun. Gilliat stated the village needed to show patience with people.
Mayor Fehr noted the village should work with people.
“Many people are struggling right now,” said the mayor.
Councillors approved a three-month deferral for taxpayers with TIPPS, but those taxpayers must contact the village to make arrangements.
White proposed the village close the campground’s kitchen and washrooms, which would help keep people away from each other.
Councillors discussed the proposed closure, with Mayor Fehr noting the province’s order that no public gatherings larger than 15 people be allowed.
He also predicted that campgrounds may end up going the same way playgrounds have gone as the weather gets nicer.
The CAO did note, however, that if the campground remains open, then a staff member remains there to monitor the area, whereas if it’s closed, no staff member will be there.
Councillors decided to temporarily close the washrooms and concession at the campground.
Examining the budget
In a memo to council, White pointed out that maintaining the same municipal portion of the mill rate in the 2020 operating budget will result in an overall decrease of $17,358.42 to the village.
Coun. Vicki Soltermann suggested a few money-saving ideas, such as pointing out recycling is not being collected during the coronavirus pandemic which could result in savings for the village and cancelling council’s attendance at the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association convention.
Besuijen felt AUMA should remain the way it is.
“I still think there’s value in doing this thing,” he said.
The subject of staff layoffs was broached.
Coun. Cole wondered if the village was really at the point where that should be mentioned. Mayor Fehr said it may not be that far off and at least needs to be mentioned.
Councillors decided that White will bring a draft 2020 budget to their next meeting, April 15.
Mayor Fehr called to order a public hearing for Bylaw 453/20, the Land Use Bylaw amendment.
Coun. Cole asked if the public hearing should be postponed due to coronavirus measures.
Fehr noted if the public hearing was postponed, when could it be held? The council still had business that it must complete.
CAO White reported to council that the public hearing was publicly advertised, and added that even if the public chose not to attend because of coronavirus, the village would still accept letters and emails with input and comments.
As there was no one from the public present at the meeting and White stated no letters or emails about the bylaw were received, Fehr closed the public hearing.
Later in the meeting councillors discussed the bylaw.
White stated that about 12 residents actually came into the office to talk to staff about the amendment and staff answered a lot of questions which might explain why no one attended the public hearing.
Councillors unanimously approved second and third reading of the Land Use Bylaw (LUB) amendment.
Two of the major changes included where and how recreational vehicles could be parked on property and updated requirements for decks.
Budget meeting cancelled
Village council cancelled the upcoming 2020 budget public input session scheduled for April 8.
White stated in her memo to councillors that residents can still submit input to the village through letters or emails.
Coun. Besuijen noted the village really had no choice but to cancel.
“I don’t think we have any choice in this,” said Besuijen. “You’re not allowed to have any gatherings over 15 people.”
Councillors elected to move “in-camera” at about 7:50 p.m. to discuss private matters.
Tim Besuijen attended the meeting through teleconference.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter