The fall months are among the busiest as kids head back to school, farmers cut their crops, and the daily grind resumes for most of us. To state the obvious, COVID-19 has added a whole new dimension to our typical fall routines.

Changes come fast and uncertainty continues to hang in the air; but signs of goodwill are also present as I see us adapting, improvising, remaining mindful of the safety of others, and generally making the best of a bad hand.

Reeve Blakeman

I’m never surprised by the decency and resiliency of our communities, but I am always grateful. As I reflect on what has been for most a year of challenge, I maintain that we have still have reasons for gratitude.

A soggy beginning to the growing season had us all wondering if we would see a repeat of last fall when much of the County’s crop was unsalvageable. However, dry conditions in July and August gave our farmers a fighting chance at bringing in decent crops this fall. Not everyone is in the same boat, but provincial reports indicate that crops are doing better overall than the five year average in most of the region.

The excessive rainfall of recent years has not only challenged producers; it has also thrown a wrench into the County’s roadway maintenance and infrastructure projects. Not unlike farmers, our Public Works department is often at the mercy of the elements. Consistently wet weather hampers their ability to complete road repairs, which then creates the backlog in projects that understandably frustrates many County residents.

With so few windows of opportunity for maintenance, our crews must triage the workload accordingly: emergency road repairs take priority, and scheduled projects that are important but less critical take a back seat. Multiply this scenario times several years of poor weather and shortened work windows: I am certain you can do the math.

Infrastructure Inroads and Additional Funding

Despite the ongoing weather-related maintenance challenges, our Public Works crews have achieved a few recent infrastructure milestones that I’m pleased to share with the community. The TWP 590 road construction project is in full swing, funded by $2.5 million as was approved in the 2019 budget. Having broken ground on July 29 this summer, Public Works has completed 7.5 of the 13 kilometers slated for construction along this stretch.

The goal with the TWP 590 project is to get to the halfway point before freeze-up occurs. At this pace, it looks as though we’ll make that mark.
In addition to TWP 590, we’re making some great progress on other road maintenance projects this fall — thus addressing problematic roadways and putting our hard-working local contractors back on the tools.
Much of the season’s maintenance work is for projects that had already been budgeted and scheduled; but that crews were unable to address due to the issues I mentioned earlier.

On top of these current and pending projects, the Government of Alberta has recently committed an additional $1.2 million toward infrastructure projects tied to job creation in the County. Rural Alberta will also be the beneficiary of $233 million in federal funds (matched dollar for dollar by the Province) under Canada’s Safe Restart Agreement as relief for municipal operating costs during COVID-19. Council is doing its level best to ensure the County receives its fair share of this stimulus cash. 

These infrastructure milestones and provincial/federal funding contributions are great news for the County. Maintaining our roads and bridges is always a good thing; getting local businesses back on the tools is even better.

I’d like to close by thanking County ratepayers, staff, and my fellow Councillors for their ongoing support during these chaotic times. Like all of you, I can only speculate what lies ahead with the pandemic, the economy, or the other shifting sands of change in our region. But I am certain of our resilience, and I’m confident that together we can weather whatever the future holds.

October 21, 2020