By Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) representatives visited Sexsmith, Wembley and Hythe on their annual tour last Thursday.
Barry Morishita, AUMA president and Brooks mayor, said he found several initiatives in Sexsmith intriguing and possibly ideal for other municipalities to replicate.
“It’s been a voyage of discovery and education for me and the board members who join me,” he said.
“I’ve never been to Sexsmith or a lot of the places I go to, and you see the unique way they deal with issues.”
AUMA is an advocacy group for urban municipalities.
Morishita was joined by Angela Duncan, AUMA villages and summer villages vice-president and Alberta Beach deputy mayor and Bill Given, Grande Prairie mayor and an AUMA director.
This is the third year for the tour, which Morishita said was started so AUMA can go into member municipalities and learn more about them. Morishita visited Beaverlodge and Grande Prairie during last year’s tour.
AUMA is also interested in learning about local perspectives and how this can shape the association’s priorities, he said.
Morishita said he hoped to see 50 municipalities this summer and aims to visit all of the more than 260 AUMA member communities by the end of the fourth annual tour.
Last Thursday the AUMA members also stopped by Spirit River and Rycroft.
Sexsmith mayor Kate Potter said she thought the tour went well and the councillors took Morishita, Duncan and Given “basically everywhere” in town, including the parks, schools and newly refurbished elevator.
Morishita said he saw Sexsmith is a community proud of what it has to offer, and he was intrigued by the amount of community involvement in local projects.
The fact that the town has a wellness coalition is unique for a community of Sexsmith’s size, he said.
“There’s lots of things we can take away from Sexsmith and apply them to other communities across the province,” Morishita said.
Particularly, other municipalities can look at the Sexsmith Wellness Coalition and the installation of the solar farm as models to emulate, he said.
The Town of Sexsmith is building a solar farm at the old landfill, with an eye to power municipal buildings.
Potter said the Empower Energy company has installed approximately 1,800 panels, and after another week of work and tests it’s hoped the solar farm will be functional starting September.
“It’s pretty exciting,” she said.
Council adopted a Borrowing Bylaw for $1.06 million in December to finance the project.
Morishita said AUMA can refer municipal leaders interested in wellness or solar power to Potter and the Sexsmith town office for ideas.
“You don’t have to constantly recreate the wheel, you can take these proven templates to do things,” he said.
Morishita described AUMA’s relationship with Sexsmith as positive, citing Potter’s recent appointment to the economic resiliency task force to deal with recent economic downturn.
He recalled last year’s tour of Beaverlodge was highlighted by what he learned about the town’s challenges with infrastructure and securing funding, as well as health care.
He noted the town is seeking upgrades to its hospital and like in many communities, doctor recruitment is an issue.
Morishita couldn’t be reached for comment following the tours of Wembley and Hythe.