The County of Wetaskiwin saw a bustling 2016 year, fraught with challenges and joyous in its accomplishments.
With the economic rescission playing on dozens upon dozens of factors, reeve Kathy Rooyakkers says maintaining consistent service levels for ratepayers is the county’s biggest achievement.
“And of course our Pigeon Lake wastewater project,” said Rooyakkers. Phase 1 was completed and Phase 2 of the project is currently up for re-tender in early 2017.
The county’s Agricultural Service board, consisting of seven members — four are councillors — now operates with three rural members-at-large, and has for approximately one year.
Winfield finally saw a new floor laid in its arena and the renovations allowed even more youth programming into the community, including the University of Alberta Golden Bears hockey skills camp.
“We purchased another gravel pit,” said Rooyakkers. Readily available gravel is important for the county. One-third of its 1206 miles of gravel roads are tended annually.
Rooyakkers says the biggest challenge the county faced over the past 12 months was the $500,000 reduction in linear assessments, which caused a three per cent drop in the 2016 budget.
Another reduction in 2017 will cause a $1 million reduction of municipal operation reserves.
Harsh, wet weather created problems for producers. Some crops remain in field and others were brought in late. “It was very dry and then very, very wet,” said Rooyakkers, but it gave the community a chance to stick together.
“It’s phenomenal because farmers are so good. We had farmers helping farmers,” she added.
Heavy rains also caused flooding in the Buck Lake area, washing out roads and damaging five bridge structures. The damage is estimated between $3 million and $3.5 million.
“We had to apply for disaster relief,” said Rooyakkers. She added the county was hoping to hear if it qualified by the end of 2016 but as of Dec. 30 there had been no word.
Adding to challenges brought on by the recession, Rooyakkers says the county is looking at $200,000 in increased costs due to the NDP Carbon Tax and Climate Leadership Plan.
The provincial budget and school requisition remain unknown for the time being. However, Rooyakkers says the County of Wetaskiwin is receiving Municipal Sustainability Initiative funding for paving projects.
“We’re trying to maintain our current level of service,” said Rooyakkers.