Rimbey Mayor Rick Pankiw is asking the provincial and federal governments to help municipalities get through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pankiw would like to see the Government of Canada include municipalities in their funding programs and asking to the province to extend their funding approvals to more municipal projects.
“It is asinine that municipalities are continuing to run without tax dollars right now and could be for a long time. That has put strain on communities and so the federal government should include municipalities in their wage subsidies,” he said.
From the Government of Alberta, Pankiw is hoping the province will include approvals to all projects — including those that aren’t currently shovel-ready.
“They are talking about rolling out dollars for construction. They need to do that quicker with less restraints on them,” he said.
Pankiw voiced his concerns after outlining how the Town of Rimbey has responded to the COVID-19 crisis — which Pankiw said included immediate decisions to shut down municipal facilities and temporarily lay-off some of their staff.
“Originally we went down to half staff but now we are back closer to full staff because we are trying to get some street-sweeping and some pothole repairs done at this time,” he said.
The Town also looked to help residents by eliminating late fees on utility and tax bills and also allowing residents to register for their tax installment plan at any point throughout the year, rather than by Jan. 1.
In terms of ongoing Town operations, Pankiw said council and committee meetings have moved to digital venues such as Zoom. Town CAO Lori Hillis said the link for each council meeting is posted with each agenda — allowing all residents to view the meetings.
Pankiw said the town is also looking to promote struggling local businesses by using take-out, curbside and delivery services
“This hurts the economy quite a bit and especially in a small town, we don’t want to see any businesses not reopen. We are doing the best we can for them and I think the Government of Canada has offered some really good programs,” he said.
Pankiw hopes that local businesses can be phased in soon, given Canadians continue to follow public health orders.
“I would like to commend the citizens of Rimbey for following the orders for the most part. Like anything else, there has been a few complaints but I think those are few and far between. I know people are getting antsy now that things are starting to warm up and we have seen more and more people walking on the streets,” he said.
Pankiw said that by following public health orders now, Albertans can help fend off larger subsequent waves of the virus.
“The people that came back from the US for the most part isolated for 14 days. I would like to say thank you to the people did and for the people that didn’t, I would like to say shame on you. You put people at risk for something that is highly contagious,” he said.
Overall, Pankiw said the fact Rimbey has not had a confirmed positive case can be attributed to residents following public health orders.
“They need to be commended for that,” he said. “We are in this together. It is taking some time but one thing I ask is continue to check on your neighbours — especially if they are elderly.
“If they need something, do what you can for them because they are our most vulnerable and we need to look after each other.”