For his State of the County message, Lac Ste. Anne County Reeve Joe Blakeman recorded a series of video segments designed to provide context and clarity around some of the key County challenges, opportunities and milestones in 2020.
Reeve Blakeman's 2020 State of the County Highlights
"We're finally catching up on an infrastructure, which is nice to see. It took a couple of really wet years we got behind, but we're back at it. We're catching up with incredible crews, incredible people. It's brought us back to just about to the place where we feel that it's acceptable."
Assessment Model Review
"We've had a lot of good luck with the assessment model review; working with the Province and getting that straightened out, we're back at the table advocating for a plan that's going to make better sense for all rural Albertans."
I think that it has been an interesting year for Lac Ste. Anne County. I'm glad that we're in the shape we are in because it could be a hell of a lot worse.
State of Agriculture
"We've had so much damage just last year with beaver control. Between our Public Works and Ag teams, we have it straightened out; they've done a wonderful job. We'll see what next spring brings, because that's going to be the call of the wild, as they say. Our agriculture sector struggled for a couple of years, but they've really come back this year. And I think that's something that everybody should be proud of. I don't know how some of them did it. I don't know how they managed without going off the deep end when that's your livelihood."
Planning & Development
"In Planning & Development, they're as busy as ever. And it's actually funny: they're probably busier now with everybody off with COVID than they have been because everybody is building a new deck or renovating or building a garage or something like that.
They're doing a good job in the Planning department. And they're wanting to communicate more with everybody. And we just hope that everybody out there wants to communicate with them. I think it would solve a lot of problems."
Administration Office Issues
"The building issues are not going to go away yet. But I'm pretty sure in my mind that we have the right people, legal and engineering teams working on them and it will get itself straightened out."
Rural Connectivity Progress
"Connectivity is still something that's always going to be interesting in this province. But in our County, just because of where we're at, line-of- sights make things difficult and all the rest of it. But we're still building towers and we're still trying to negotiate contracts with providers and do whatever we can to make it better."
"We have to run a County that is not only effective for business goals; we have to run a County that is not disruptive to the people who are already here so that everyone’s happy. We have a good understanding of industry and community. And I think that's very important. As long as we can keep the two balanced, we're going to be successful at drawing industry here.
For a new stakeholder business trying to move out here, I would want them to just come and talk to us. I think they'd find out how free flowing we are and how easy we are to work with. And they would love Lac Ste. Anne County."
"We’ve been lucky enough to partner up with adjacent summer villages and towns on our water and wastewater, and it has been absolutely great. We're building water facilities as we go; we're building pipelines for wastewater so we actually can have proper treatment and can get rid of it in proper ways. It has been just one little bit of excitement after another. And thank God for the Province. They’ve kicked in. They’ve told us, "yeah go, especially around the lakes."
"2021 is going to be interesting. Because we have to be so fiscally responsible, we're going to try not to cut services, which I think we can get away with. I think we can we can get a balanced budget without any increases.
The weather is going to be what the weather is. And we all have to work that, whether it's agriculture or construction. I also think that because the pandemic is a known entity, everybody understands it better.
I can't see a full closure of the Province anymore. What I can foresee is us just dealing with it as Alberta Health Services tells us to deal with it. I am confident we will carry on and remain as strong as we've ever been."
2020 State of the County Feature Videos
"We're finally catching up on our infrastructure, which is nice to see. It took a couple of really wet years we got behind, but we're back at it. We're catching up with incredible crews, incredible people. It's brought us back to just about to the place where we feel that it's acceptable."
"The Province has cut some funding towards our Ag Service Board, but not all of it. So we have enough that survive. We've always topped it up anyway; we never rely solely on provincial funding for our ag initiatives."
Administration Office Issues
"Our biggest priority is to make sure that we can operate out of this building - because we need to operate out of here. There is no other place in Lac Ste. Anne County that we could move to. As Councillors, we are limited in we can say on this issue, because the last thing anyone wants to do is needlessly jeopardize the pending lawsuit."
"There was a lot of outcry about how the rural policing model was brought down upon us by the Province; and the costs downloaded onto ratepayers. We do understand this as a County, and we know it's not going to go away. We're going to have to let it unfold a little bit more just to see exactly where it's going to land."
"In Lac Ste. Anne County, we sill have some underserviced areas, there’s no doubt about it. But things are coming along. We’re in the process of making a deal with TELUS to get them on our Darwell tower by January. Lots of smaller towers are also going up in the east end of our County - so we're definitely working on it."
Planning and Development
"The development process can be frustrating, but I know that the vast majority of the people that deal with the County are pleased with what goes on. But if you feel things are taking too long, please get hold of your Councillor and we'll try and make things right. We want development here."
Assessment Model Review
"As part of the UCP assessment model review scheme trotted out in the late summer, the Province published a scenario for each municipality wherein taxes could go up anywhere from 15 to 45 percent. That's a little scary. Now we're back down to where we can probably survive this next year without raising taxes at all."
"We’re proud to be partner members of the WILD Water Commission where we’ve been collaborating with adjacent municipalities for 12 to 15 years on some highly beneficial projects for the region. When we’re done, I believe we’re going to have the longest freshwater line in the province of Alberta."
"Just like the Province, we’re looking for different ways to cut the red tape and make it easier than ever before to do business in Lac Ste. Anne County."
"We have lots of issues with beavers - from flooding farmland, creating havoc in meadows or so people can't get in and cut their hay so they can't pasture their cows, to creating issues with washing out culverts, taking out bridges and roadsides."