AAMDC board members visit county council
Al Kemmere, president of the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC), along with Gerald Rhodes, executive director and Paul McLauchlin district 2 (central) director attended the Feb. 20 meeting of Wheatland County council. The three wanted to hear from county council about issues facing local ratepayers.
The aim of the meeting was also to introduce the members of the board to the new council, find out some of the concerns of Wheatland County and look at items where they can do better, explained president Kemmere.
Issues that came across the council table during the discussion were rural crime, the enforcement of new legislation around the legalization of cannabis, and the changes to the electoral boundaries.
Kemmere noted that this year cannabis use will no longer be an illegal practice. "It will have municipal impacts," he said. There was also a discussion about possible taxation that could arise from cannabis facilities within municipalities.
Kemmere spoke about expectation management on taxation in terms of what counties believe they will be able to tax on cannabis facilities, for example the growing process, versus the growing area. "It's not going to be as big a windfall as some are looking for it to be," he said.
In terms of cannabis in the workplace, or medical marihuana, McLauchlin said, "there are still more questions than answers." It was revealed that the timeline of the new regulations are closer to August, or September 2018, rather than July 2018.
Rhodes explained that so much is happening. "It's a big learning curve. It will take a few months before it sets in," he said.
There was a brief discussion about the efficiency of rural versus urban emergency service response times. Kemmere noted that the issue has been brought to the board along with the concern of dispatch being so far away from communities.
"It is one of the biggest challenges," said Kemmere. He noted that AAMDC has ongoing communication with health minister Sarah Hoffman about dispatching and response times.
Councillor Ben Armstrong raised the issue of some ambulances getting tied up at hospitals and not being able to release, or transfer patients. Kemmere also raised the issue of efficiency and the fact that some crews from rural areas get lost in cities, and the city crews sometimes get lost in rural regions as some don't understand rural addressing.
In terms of changes to the electoral boundaries the issue of how Wheatland County will be divided into four sections was raised. "It's going to make it that much tougher for MLAs," said Kemmere. "Representation is going to be a bigger challenge," he said.
Rural crime is an issue that affects many people in Wheatland County and across southern Alberta.
Deputy Reeve Scott Klassen raised the issue of municipal funding for watch clerk systems. Kemmere and Rhodes gave council a brief breakdown of how the RCMP are funded in Alberta and the provincial policing program. Kemmere noted that there is a challenge of dealing with rural crime and funding of law enforcement.
"Rural crime is an escalating item in Alberta," said Kemmere.
Councillor Amber Link raised the issue of how municipalities can deal with composting facilities, and the potential of odour problems, traffic, and provincial regulations.
The county council accepted the AAMDC report as information and AAMDC suggested staff have a letter detailing the issue in relation to the Green For Life facility be sent to the Minister of Health and be copied for AAMDC to review.
"It's a growing industry, especially with our location to Calgary," said Klassen. He noted that the issue was raised by the Reeve of Kneehill County at the fall convention.
AAMDC is a grassroots organization for communities run through an executive that consists of a president, vice president and five directors. AAMDC is comprised of 69 counties and municipal districts. They are committed to empowering their members through proactive leadership, strategic partnerships, effective advocacy and collective business services.