By Marcia Love
After voicing its concern over Premier Brad Wall’s suggestion that the amount of money the province shares with municipalities may have to be adjusted, council has received a response. However, no clear answer has been given yet.
Mayor Barry Rudd read a letter he received from the premier’s office during the regular council meeting on Jan. 27.
The mayor wrote to the premier after the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) encouraged municipalities to do so. Earlier this month, Wall stated revenue to the province hasn’t increased as much as revenue to municipalities, and the revenue-sharing formula may have to be adjusted as the province faces a tighter budget. Municipalities have shared a pool of money equivalent to one per cent of provincial sales tax revenues, and municipalities want to see that revenue protected.
The response from the premier reiterated that “the situation with the price of oil will have a significant effect on the provincial budget, and all of our third-party partners should be prepared to share in the challenges we face.” It stated the topic is still on the table and no final decisions have been made. The province reported revenue sharing for municipalities was $127 million a few years ago, but in 2014-15 it rose over 102 per cent to $257 million. However, in the same time frame the provincial own-source revenues has increased at a much lower rate of 22 per cent.
“Are they going to give it to us this year and say that’s it? Nobody really knows yet,” Rudd said.
He noted it will be a hot topic at the SUMA Convention February 1-4.
In other business, town administrator Michele Schmidt said the new lift station was installed at the site on the northwest corner of town earlier this week. It was expected to be in place by the end of December, but work was delayed because the safety cage workers were using didn’t have strong enough walls. Shoring was installed last week to prevent the hole from collapsing. The new lift station is now expected to be operational by the end of February, but it must be in operation for some time before it is commissioned and the old west lift station is decommissioned. The delay does not affect the cost to the town, which remains at $2 million.
Rudd reported on the Southwest municipal government meeting he recently attended. A representative from the Ministry of Environment spoke on its enforcement of illegal dumping of garbage. Those who do so can be fined $250-5,000. The RM of Maple Creek reported it has noticed an increase in the amount of garbage being thrown in ditches since tipping fees were imposed at the landfill.
“It’s an awareness. If you see somebody heading out of town with a load of anything and it’s after 5 p.m. (when the landfill is closed), follow them or make note of it and just see where they’re going,” Rudd said.
Councillor Ellaine Hawrylak attended the Main Street 101 session that was held in town Jan. 22-23 and said it was an eye-opener. The two-day session was held to introduce new communities to the program, with 40 participants from across the province.
“It was all about business retention and expansion, community economic development and adding to the attractions in your community,” she explained.
Suggestions brought up from the visiting representatives on adding to Maple Creek’s attractions included visits to local ranches as well as Cowtown Livestock Exchange.
“They said why don’t you advertise that as a tourist stop, because lots of people would have no idea how cattle are bought and sold, and you would be amazed at how many people would like to know that and see the process happen,” Hawrylak said.
Hawrylak added the participants enjoyed their time in town and the hospitality, as well as the Communities in Bloom Soiree which they attended on Jan. 21.
Rudd reported the South West Public Safety Region (SWPSR) will be holding its annual general meeting on March 19 at Gull Lake.
“We’re still trying to get people to join and get the impact of it,” he said.
Ray Unrau, director of emergency planning for the City of Saskatoon, will be the guest speaker for the event. He will discuss the importance of having an emergency operations plan.
When the SWPSR was getting off the ground a few years ago, the sessions brought too much information to municipalities at one time and created confusion, Rudd said.
“People were told to do a risk assessment on their communities, and they didn’t understand that,” he explained. “There wasn’t much follow up after that… and it’s been a struggle.”
He said the AGM will be an indication of whether the SWPSR will last.
Councillor Michelle McKenzie gave a report from parks and recreation. It was recommended that public skating hours be fixed, with skating times every Wednesday from 3:30 – 5:15 p.m. and 7:30 – 8:30 p.m. and Sunday 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. If the ice becomes available on short notice, shinny will be scheduled. Council consented to this.
It was also requested that 18 chairs be removed from the arena lobby seating area to allow easier access by spectators. The chairs would then be used to add another row of seating along the top. It was also approved.