On November 24th the province declared a state of Public Health Emergency due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic we are experiencing. Over the past several days, we have seen a consistent decline in the number of active COVID-19 cases in our region, and we hope to see this trend continue. As public servants, we have consistently questioned ourselves on what additional steps could we take in addition to the existing province-wide restrictions already in place. Someone recently commented, “getting back to the basics is the easiest way to find calm amid the storm and chaos”. Yet, there is nothing I would consider ‘normal’ about the situation we are facing. If we all do the simple, although admittedly sometimes difficult things that the Chief Medical Officer for the province has asked us to do, I feel that that is our best course of action to take at this point. I will not outline each of the measures that have been asked of us because they are readily available. As a Council, we have received letters and phone calls asking to enforce heavier restrictions concerning mandatory face coverings in public places than that of the province. A meeting between all elected officials within the region of the towns, village, and the MD of Taber was held to discuss whether to proceed in that direction. The consensus was to continue with a temporary bylaw for a specific period to observe any effects it might have on reducing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Nobody wants to see the economy shut down again, and if we can slow the spread and reduce the number of active cases, then I see no reason to put hardworking business owners into further risk and financial hardship.
With the continued downturn in the oil and gas industry, many landowners continue to deal with the pain of unpaid lease agreements, while carrying the burden of dealing with neglected and unwanted weed vegetation on lease properties. The MD Staff are available to help direct landowners on how to receive help with these issues. As of the tax deadline this year, again we are seeing millions of dollars in unpaid taxes that are left outstanding. As a municipality, we have had to trim our spending budgets to offset this loss in unpaid taxes. Although budget trimming was necessary, I want to ensure residents that we will continue to maintain similar levels of service that we are accustomed to:
- Every grader district will continue to have an operating grader.
- Water treatment plants will remain fully staffed.
- Waste transfer stations will remain open to accepting solid waste.
- Shoulder pulling maintenance will occur on gravel roads to help draw off water during rain and snow events.
For now, the province has made no changes to the assessment model affecting oil and gas wells and pipelines and instead has provided different incentives to help attract investment to the oil and gas sector once again.
On Nov 23rd, we participated in a public announcement with the Federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities. Under the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund program, the Honourable Katherine McKenna, committed a federal contribution of $9,880,000 towards the Horsefly Emergency Spillway project. This is a 40% contribution to the total cost of phases 2 and 3 of the project, with additional funding received from the provincial government for the same two phases. Phase 1 has received contributions from both levels of government, and we are currently in the process of securing a commitment from our municipal partners on the projects. The Southern Regional Stormwater Drainage Committee is now seeking to procure engineering services for project commencement. This project will add another layer of water security to the region.
During intense summer rain or snowmelt events, the SMRID Main Canal will be protected by diverting water from the Canal at the Horsefly Turnout, through the Horsefly Lake, through the Taber Lake, until finally draining back into the Oldman River. New infrastructure and expansion from the Horsefly Turnout to the Taber Lake are scheduled to take place to help direct water flow from the Taber Lake and into the River.
On Oct 14th an Open House for the Inter-Municipal Development Plan was held with the Town of Taber. Comments and concerns from citizens of the MD and from the Town were taken into consideration. A public hearing will be held again in the very near future where final thoughts and considerations will be heard before the adoption of the Plan, so stay tuned.
All of the infrastructure projects the MD is involved in are progressing towards completion. These include the Vauxhall Rest Stop, the Township 8 and Range Road 16 Drainage project, the RenuWell project, Bridge File removals, and shoulder pulling on roadways. We have highly exceptional and capable staff who are prideful in their work and perform what is asked of them and beyond.
On behalf of your MD council and staff, I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Please abide by our Provincial Chief Officer of Medical Health’s recommendations and guidelines to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Municipal District of Taber