By Cal Braid
Numbers, projects, decisions, and strategies were all up for discussion at a Feb. 28 M.D. of Taber council meeting. Updates included:
RCMP informs council of activities and statistics
Sgt. Stu Gemmill appeared as a delegation to give updates and comparative statistics for the month of January 2023 versus January 2022. In January 2023, the detachment had 148 calls for service, 134 of those within the M.D. Zero alcohol charges or suspensions were issued. Forty 911 hang ups occurred. Patrols to the hamlets included 20 to Enchant, 33 to Grassy Lake, and 14 to Hays. The M.D. patrols totalled 164, with 35 tickets issued.
For the year to year (January 2022 vs. 2023) provincial crime gauge, Gemmill reported the following stats: Persons crimes were up by three, property crimes were down by six, break and enters down by one, and theft of a motor vehicle down by two. There was no change in other Criminal Code violations.
“We’re also coming to the end of our fiscal year,” Gemmill said. “We need to start discussing what our priorities are going to be after April 1. I think we have good priorities now: visibility in the community, reduction of property crime, and traffic enforcement. Maybe one we could add could be family violence. It’s not that we don’t treat that as a priority – we absolutely do – but it would just allow me to report that to you every month and you will be able to see what’s going on in that regard.”
Three council members declare conflict of interest related to land titles
Coun. Hildebrand spoke briefly during Agenda Item 6 – Declarations of Conflict, saying, “I’m the director of an entity that has a financial interest in the lease of municipal lands for the purpose of cultivation. I’ll recuse myself from all discussions regarding the availability of municipal lands for the purpose of cultivation.” He cited Items 9.5, 9.6, and 9.7 on the original agenda.
Coun. DeGroot said, “I would like to say that as we’re dealing with terms of reference, dealing with over 80,000 acres and numerous forms of contracts, I think it’s very important for all councillors (…) to stay in the room and work on the terms of reference. (Then) at a later date declare your conflict of interest. At this point I’m no longer a member of the board which runs the grazing association; I’m just a member.”
Coun. Reynolds also similarly stated, “I’m probably going to step out, too (for) 9.7. I’m in conflict with that.” Items 9.5 and 9.6 on the agenda referred to two separate requests for lease assignments, to be transferred from one family member to another, both which require the approval of council. Item 9.7 refers to terms for a future land management plan for the M.D. Many of the lands that the M.D. holds titles over have leases that are set to expire in 2026. Council has identified land planning as a strategic priority.
CAO Arlos Crofts presented his monthly report and briefly updated the council on strategic priority initiatives and projects. Organizational development (ie. job recruitment) is in progress and the M.D. is drafting a detailed position description for the director of community services position that they will be recruiting for soon. Recruitment for the director of municipal operations has been completed. The report also included employee statistics from January 2022 to January 2023. The report included M.D. employees by category (contract, hourly, salary), and overtime and sick time totals in dollars. The overtime total for January was $1,586 and the sick time total was $7,416.
Service requests are tracked by type, and in January the top three were gravel road, public safety and bylaw, and drainage. Social media and website analytics are measured as well. Fire department services are measured by stations in the M.D. of Taber and Vauxhall. The M.D. had five in January, Vauxhall had two. Non-fire incidents are classified by type: gas leak/CO2 (one), First Aid (three), assist other agency (one), and vehicle accidents (two).
At the request of Reeve Harris, Crofts detailed the Horsefly Spillway groundbreaking event, scheduled for Mar. 17. Crofts said guests and the public are invited to arrive at the operations and maintenance building at 1 p.m. After an introduction, guests will be driven to the site for the groundbreaking. Afterwards, back at the building, food and refreshments will be served and guests can network.
Reeve’s report for council
In his report to council, Reeve Harris noted that he had participated in a municipal leaders conference call on March 16 with MP Martin Shields. Premier Smith was on the call, and Harris said, “Reeve Link from Wheatland County brought up solar project siting and we had quite a discussion with the premier on siting and the how the Alberta Utilities Commission needs to be more cognizant of the municipal land use bylaws and where these things are sited. We brought up the concern about taking irrigated land out of production for solar siting.” Harris said the premier is an advocate for property rights and letting landowners do as they wish with their land. “I totally get that,” he said, but doesn’t agree with taking those lands out of production, because “it goes out permanently.” His assertion was that reclamation on irrigated land ‘‘sterilizes’’ it.