The Town of Millet is annexing land north and east of town from the County of Wetaskiwin.                                Image courtesy of the Town of Millet

The Town of Millet is annexing land north and east of town from the County of Wetaskiwin. Image courtesy of the Town of Millet

Municipalities focus on infrastructure for 2018

Lack of provincial funding clarity continues to pose challenges

With the 2018 now well underway, the municipalities of the region have their sights and resources set on their 2018 priorities, many being carryovers from 2017.

County of Wetaskiwin

County of Wetaskiwin assistant CAO Rod Hawken says two of the county’s priority projects for 2018 includes the completion of two projects that are being brought forward from last year.

The first is the completion of the Alder Flats lagoon expansion and the hamlet’s wastewater system expansion.

Within the county’s 2018 interim budget, the lagoon expansion project was allocated $525,000.

Aspects of the project included storage cell expansion, an interceptor, as well as landscaping.

The second project is the completion of Phase 2 of the Regional Wastewater Line at Pigeon Lake, and private connections for phases 1 and 2.

Hawken says the county also plans to finally approve its amended land use bylaw this year, which has been four or five years in the works.

“We have to have another public hearing,” said Hawken.

A public hearing was held Oct. 12, 2017. However, with a majority new council, another hearing must take place in order to give new councillors a first-hand sense of public opinion.

With the modernized Municipal Government Act (MGA) now coming into force council must also review approximately 100 policies and two dozen bylaws to ensure they are cohesive.

“We have to review them all to make sure there’s nothing that conflicts with the modernized MGA,” said Hawken.

Hawken says ratepayers will not see many effects on their day-to-day lives from changes made to internal policy changes.

However, Hawken says there are other changes coming from the act that ratepayers will see affecting them more greatly.

This includes the mandatory adoption of intermunicipal collaboration frameworks and intermunicipal development plans with 14 neighboring municipalities, as well as the requirement of municipalities to refer municipal statutory plans within 1.6 km of a provincial highway to Alberta Transportation.

Ratepayers within the referral area may see longer wait times as they look to gain approval for developments and area structure plans.

The County of Wetaskiwin also has to partake in amending the Joint Economic Development Initiative (JEDI) agreement, as the City of Wetaskiwin voted to pull its participation last year — which took effect Jan. 1, 2018. On Jan. 8 the county met with the Town of Millet for a strategic planning session on the matter.

A lack of clarity surrounding the provincial Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding, rural crime, and provincial industrial property assessments are a few of the challenges the county will meet in 2018, says Hawken.

County council will meet with RCMP members during the spring Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties conference to discuss crime reduction and enhanced policing.

Hawken says if the province continues to reduce assessment modifiers on industrial property it will have a significant impact on the county’s official 2018 budget.

Between 2016 and 2017 the county saw a loss of $1.5 million due to reduced assessment modifiers.

“If it’s reduced again council will have to determine how they’ll balance the budget and maintain service levels the ratepayers have become accustomed to,” said Hawken.

City of Wetaskiwin

The City of Wetaskiwin’s 2018 priorities focuses on several road work projects.

City manager Dave Burgess says this year the city plans to complete an overlay on 56th Street, as well as along 40th Avenue from the railway tracks to 47th Street; and a further re-build of 40 Avenue.

In the 2018 interim budget, $50,000 was set aside for the road overlays budget.

Town of Millet

Town of Millet CAO Teri Pelletier says, in regard to the modernized MGA, two of the town’s big priorities in 2018 will be intermunicipal development frameworks and updating public policy.

“I know one thing we’re looking forward to is the Lakeside Meadows development,” said Pelletier.

“We’ll see shovels in the ground this year,” she added.

The town’s annexation of 665.91 acres from the County of Wetaskiwin has been approved. “There’s a number of things that fall out of that as well,” said Pelletier. She explained the town will have to look at its land use bylaw and industrial development opportunities.

Pelletier says in 2018 the town will complete an assessment of its recreational facilities, including the aging agriplex. “The agriplex, I think it’s going to be a challenge.”

Not knowing the level of provincial funding municipalities will see until the NDP budget is released in the spring is a challenge,” said Pelletier. She added it makes long-term planning for municipalities difficult.

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