Reeve's Message

As I look out the window, the snow we had is basically gone and the thermometer on November 30 is -2C and a new sunrise is in the sky. We are closing another agricultural year in Alberta and preparing for another. We had a tough year but as I watch the morning news our neighbors to the west are buckling down for more rain and hopefully this doesn’t add to their devastation.

This is the first reeves’ ramblings in the 2021 to 2025 council term and our council had 2 changes at the table this election. The 2021 election process was muddied with some of the new candidates and others being very malicious to the returning candidates and staff, the main stage was social media with neighbors making accusations and criticizing their neighbors who had faithfully served the ratepayers of the County of Stettler over the last term. The County of Stettler is very fortunate to have candidate forums that are conducted and mediated by the Stettler Board of Trade and Stettler Library, some new candidates chose not to attend and set up their own face book live forums expecting other candidates to attend an unmediated event.  Then there was the tasteless sign that made its way throughout Stettler limits with myself and the CAO pictured in a very demeaning way. Some may have found the sign that depicts a Neanderthal male (King) packing a scantily clad lady under his arm with money falling out of a bag humorous but I found it disgusting as a father of 4 daughters and someone that works with all as equals and has nothing but utmost respect for our extremely capable qualified CAO and her department heads. This was all due to the County (all of us) holding and treating all individuals and developers to the same level playing field which is dictated by the land use policy and the associated bylaws that follow the overriding Alberta Municipal Government act (MGA). We as council will continue to follow the MGA ensuring our policies and bylaws meet the intent and take actions when required to enforce these bylaws through stop work orders and required court proceedings. This requires legal review and representation to ensure all the ratepayers of the County of Stettler are treated fairly and are on an equal playing field and that the County of Stettler ratepayer is protected if items go to court.

Transparency is a word people describe on how open communication is to the public and while attending the RMA (Rural Municipalities of Alberta) convention in Edmonton last week, and talking to elected officials from other municipalities I was surprised at how many did not e-stream or electronically record council, planning and agricultural meetings for viewing by the public but relied on interested individuals reading meeting minutes or attending in person. The Council and Staff of the County of Stettler ensures these meeting are available by electronic means and that delegations are accepted if they notify early enough. Public can attend meetings to watch proceedings and all minutes are posted on the County of Stettler website. Delegations request to speak on an issue and have 15 minutes to present and councilors can ask questions. Typically we don’t allow delegations with individuals or corporations that are in court litigations with the County of Stettler, as the legal system is dealing with these issues.     
This being said, we have committee of the whole preliminary discussions on asset management, budgeting, draft policy and draft bylaws and to review topics that may inform our strategic plan, all of which are brought forward to  later council meetings for discussion and debate. Some workshops are not open to the public but any items which may require decisions are brought through open council meetings so that the public has ample opportunity to observe, either through our YouTube Live Stream, or to read through our minutes. Subjects that fall under the In-Camera specifications are discussed in private and any motions are then completed in an open council meeting as outlined in the MGA. 

The CAO completes a very detailed report which is part of the monthly council package - all of this is available on our website. This report has a summary from each department along with all expenses and revenues for the month. The council package also has all financial reports and council expense reports so is very transparent. Our communication director posts items on the website, County of Stettler Facebook page, Twitter, news releases and interviews. If you have further requests please refer to page 11 of this issue of the County Connection. 
When there is a cost associated with County resources researching and gathering information for an information request, the mechanism in place which the public is encouraged to utilize is the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA). There is a $25 fee required with an initial request to gather information, and then an estimate is provided to you for generating the records you are seeking, prior to the County commencing with your search. The fees charged are for gathering all pertaining documentation and for reviewing them for privacy issues. This comes at a cost to the information requestor, as it is often a very time-consuming task by staff and sometimes lawyers, ensuring all residents and private information are protected under the privacy act.
The next 4 years will have no shortage of challenges for council. We will review policy to ensure the rules outlined in the current MGA are adhered to and the bylaws are written on how we as the County will follow these rules. We will continue to budget, focusing on levels of service, revenue streams and all expense categories. The County of Stettler has Inter-Collaborative Frameworks (ICFs) with surrounding municipalities. The ICFs will be worked through, ensuring our ratepayers interests are met.

In closing this has been and will be a challenging but rewarding term. A keynote is a very small percentage of residents and business’s take up a very large portion of Council and CAO Cassidy’s staff time. As stated before, please treat County of Stettler staff, all of our wonderful business and frontline workers with respect as you would your neighbors, as they are trying their best to deliver on decisions made by Council, owners and government and they are your neighbours. As always please watch the roads as they are busy with construction and agricultural units. Have a safe and Merry Christmas and let’s look forward to 2022.

Larry Clarke - REEVE for the County of Stettler No. 6
- Larry Clarke, Reeve
Councillor for Botha-Gadsby (Ward 3)