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Chamber of Commerce hosts Wetaskiwin State of the Region Address

On Friday March 3, Chamber members gathered at the Best Western in Wetaskiwin to listen to representatives from the City of Wetaskiwin and County of Wetaskiwin speak in the State of the Region Address.
City of Wetaskiwin Mayor Tyler Gandam speaks at State of the Region Address March 3, 2023 (Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer)

On Friday March 3, Chamber members gathered at the Best Western in Wetaskiwin to listen to representatives from the City of Wetaskiwin and County of Wetaskiwin speak in the State of the Region Address.

County of Wetaskiwin

County of Wetaskiwin Reeve Josh Bishop spoke for the county on challenges and opportunities faced in 2022 and upcoming plans for 2023.

One of big things the county dealt with in 2022 was the Municipal Development Plan (MDP). In 2022 the county underwent a comprehensive review and update of the MDP, something which was last done in 2010. Part of the review included re-evaluating land-use bylaws and holding six open houses for public engagement.

In addition to the MDP review, in December of 2022, the county passed the 2023 budget. One of the biggest challenges for the 2023 budget was inflation. Bishop states that they really noticed the impact of inflation when the county had to replace a few graders whose price have gone up nearly 30 per cent in the past few years. In 2022 the inflation rate was 6.1 per cent.

In total the budget was set at $51.7 million with $23.2 million coming from municipal tax support. Overall, the average residential tax increase is 3.99 per cent.

The budget also factored in a 47 per cent increase in 2023 for RCMP requisition.

In 2022 the county undertook numerous infrastructure investments including 1.2 km of culvert replacements, 5.5 km of local road construction projects, 12.8 km of shoulder pulls and advanced grader training.

They also partnered with Ermineskin Cree Nation for a drainage project costing $1,778,000 to protect property and roadways from overland flooding adjacent to Highway 2A and Highway 611.

In 2023 the County will be losing an important member of their team when CAO Rod Hawken retires in December. Bishop says that looking for the right person to fill Hawken’s shoes will be a big undertaking this year.

City of Wetaskiwin

City of Wetaskiwin Mayor Tyler Gandam spoke to the successes the city had in 2022 and moving forward what residents can keep an eye out for.

In 2022 the city approved a 10-year Council Strategic Plan which focused on four points: economy, safety, community and environment.

The city also committed to finding efficiencies in the budget by moving to more contracted services including a three-year janitorial contract with SkyBlue Services Corp., and a partnership with the Wetaskiwin Heritage Museum whereas the museum will take over the city archives and organizing multiple city events including Canada Day, Taste of Wetaskiwin and National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

“This was a budget based, fiscal decision,” says Gandam.

Gandam states that like the county, the city faced challenges with the budget this year due to inflation.

While inflation was tough to tackle, the city says they got the budget increase down from the projected 9 per cent down to 5.7 per cent.

Gandam explained that not only has the rate of inflation outpaced the city’s tax rate change, but Wetaskiwin has seen an increase of more than $800,000 in RCMP costs.

Part of this is due to the new salary agreement negotiated by the RCMP union with the federal government in 2021.

However, in addition to increased RCMP costs the city did see an increase in officers in the community with 2022 being the first full year of 10 new RCMP members working in the city; something they are now starting to see the results from.

From 2021 to 2022, Wetaskiwin saw a 12 per cent decrease in persons crimes.

In 2023 the city wants to put focus into their greenspaces including improvements at By-the-Lake Park. Moving forward, $15,000 has been approved for a parks infrastructure and maintenance program.

“Wetaskiwin’s greenspaces are incredible and we want them to continue to be.”

The first two phases of the city’s new MDP were also completed in 2022 which align with their 50-year Community Vision.

The city also looks forward to continuing work with the Hope Mission on the Hope Mission Facility for vulnerable peoples in the community. Concept designs have been created and reviewed by an open house to positive reviews.

Gandam says in order to secure federal funding to help the most vulnerable in the community, a more permanent solution, like the Hope Mission Facility, needs to be in place to help combat homelessness in the city.

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