Wetaskiwin Mayor Tyler Gandam relayed the important events and initiatives that occurred in the City of Wetaskiwin and local community from March 2020 to March 2021 in the 2021 State of the Wetaskiwin Region Address.
At the beginning of March 2020, Wetaskiwin’s A&W was recognized as the top A&W location in Canada for exceptional sales and operational standards and were recipients of the A&W President’s Award.
On March 10, 2020, just one day before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 to be a world-wide pandemic, the City of Wetaskiwin activated their City of Wetaskiwin Emergency Operations Centre (EOC). Activating the EOC allowed the city to redirect resources to effectively address public safety, access to information and ensure the continuity of municipal services.
In March 2020 the city also created an online portal for COVID-19 news and information. The portal has information about the virus, local facility closures, public health restrictions, available business supports and mental health resources.
One of the city’s main priorities in March was to establish supports for local businesses to help them through the pandemic.
“Economic resilience during the pandemic was of significant concern to the city,” said Gandam in the 2021 State of the Wetaskiwin Region Address. “We helped support our businesses through the development of an economic disaster mitigation and business resilience strategy.”
Some of these supports included in the Business Resilience Strategy included extending the property tax payment deadline, deferring late penalties on city utility accounts, suspension of the plastic bag ban bylaw enforcement and business support grants.
In April 2020, Wetaskiwin City Council amended the Council Meeting Procedural Bylaw to include open microphone sessions at all regular city council meetings.
“This gives community members another avenue of communication with city council,” said Gandam.
City Council also passed a 2020 Property Tax Bylaw (1961-20) in April, which resulted in a net municipal tax rate decrease of 2.41 per cent for both residential and non-residential properties.
The Peace Cairn was designated as a municipal historic resource. Gandam says that the Peace Cairn is a unique symbol of multiculturalism and collaboration between the city and Maskwacis.
“The City consulted with Maskwacis Elders and leadership throughout the relocation process and a series of traditional Cree pipe ceremonies were held in accordance with Cree custom,” said Gandam.
The community safety and policing priorities survey results were published in May and showed that City of Wetaskiwin residents top three policing priorities were major property crime, crimes against persons and minor property crime.
These same priorities were also selected by County residents in their 2020 survey.
“We continue to partner with Wetaskiwin’s RCMP and the development of this annual survey and use the information supplied as well as the data provided by the RCMP to guide the development of our community policing plan,” said Gandam.
This May Wetaskiwin FCSS transitioned into a governing body which allows them to apply for additional grants and funding opportunities as it will no longer be considered for-profit.
Some Wetaskiwin City Councillors, community members and members of Sexual and Gender Awareness (SAGA) Wetaskiwin took to main-street this June to paint two sidewalks rainbow for Pride.
Community members also produced a music video meant to bring hope as the pandemic continued to stick around and enter the summer months.
In wake of the COVID-19 pandemic Canada Day in the City of Wetaskiwin looked a lot different from past years. Major events including the annual Canada Day parade had to be cancelled due to public health restrictions but the community still found ways to celebrate including a Canada Day house-decorating contest facilitated by the city.
Wetaskiwin FCSS hosted a virtual scavenger hunt, the Wetaskiwin Heritage Museum invited community members down to take Canada Day photos and the Legion held a small pancake breakfast to celebrate the holiday in a safe way.
“I’m hoping we can up the anti this year, depending on restrictions of course,” said Gandam.
In July City Council made a motion directing Administration to propose strategies that could be used to develop a citywide campaign to help the community feel secure, connected and included by creating initiatives for diversity and inclusion.
Gandam didn’t have much to say about August 2020 and the city except that everybody was pretty tired of COVID by this point in time.
In September 2020 the city launched their 50-year community visioning initiative. “We ended up hearing from over 1,000 community members,” said Gandam. “We are very excited to debut the community vision which will be happening later this spring.”
The City and County of Wetaskiwin both entered into an Intermunicipal Collaboration Framework in September 2020. This framework is a tool to facilitate cooperation between neighbouring municipalities ensuring that municipal services are provided in an efficient and cost effective manner.
In September the city also temporarily closed the City of Wetaskiwin Archives to examine its current portfolio and assets.
City Council passed an updated tax incentive bylaw at the end of September designed to attract growth, encourage development and bring new investments into the city.
“Bylaw 1970-20 widens the scope of the residential tax incentive to include large scale commercial developments,” said Gandam.
City Council voted to decrease the natural gas franchise fee charged to ATCO Gas from 35 per cent to 33 per cent, which took effect January 2021.
Local philanthropists John Maude and Susan Quinn won the 2020 AUMA Above and Beyond Award for their many social sustainability initiatives in the City of Wetaskiwin including sponsoring the purchase of reusable grocery bags for the community at large, sponsoring tree planting along the Highway 13 East walking path, and purchasing solar panels which were installed on a city facility.
Maude and Quinn were presented with the award at an October City Council meeting by Mayor Gandam.
In November the city declared its second State of Local Emergency of the year to assist Wetaskiwin’s vulnerable humans throughout the winter and allow for the operation of the 24/7 Integrated Response Hub in it’s temporary location, the Wetaskiwin Civic Building.
The first State of Local Emergency was declared due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On November 12 the 24/7 Integrated Response Hub began operating out of the Civic Building.
“While the location was not ideal due to issues faced in previous years, the Integrated Response Hub hasn’t seen a slow day yet,” said Gandam. “This is a much needed social service for Wetaskiwin and the city continues to work with the Hub in securing a different, permanent site for its operations.”
In November the city launched a new online reporting tool that allows residents to easily submit service requests online, including reporting potholes, damages signs, sidewalk cracks, and any other potential hazards.
In December 2020 the city launched its Whistle-blower Program. This program provides a confidential process for both community members and city employees to report suspected acts of waste or wrongdoing involving any city representative.
“Whistle blower programs and organizations are critical components of an effective corporate governance and it is important that the community members feel confident that both City Council and city staff are being held accountable.”
“This program is meant for serious concerns such as mismanagement of public funds and unethical conduct,” said Gandam.
The city received the Outstanding in Stewardship award from the Battle River Watershed Alliance for the City’s municipal sustainability including the low impact development during main streets reconstruction, the biosales used in different locations within the community and the Plastic Checkout Bag Ban Bylaw.
A community wide decorating contest ‘Light Up Wetaskiwin’ was also held during the holiday season.
At the end of December the City received just over $20 million in grant funding throughout the 2020 from both the provincial and federal governments as well as Community Food Centres Canada.
At the beginning of 2021 nominations opened for the City’s 2021 general municipal election. The nomination period closes September 20, 2021 and election day is October 18, 2021.
The City of Wetaskiwin partnered with NorQuest College to provide staff training to city employees. The partnership was made through the establishment of the Wetaskiwin City Academy.
2021 municipal budget deliberations were held February 17, 19 and 22 this year.