Restored town siren back in business

Trochu Bell

All Councilors were present via Zoom for the May 11 regular meeting of Trochu Town Council. Lavinia Henderson of Civic Solutions and Dave Nelson, Director of Operations, also joined the Zoom call, while Town CAO Carl Peterson and Recording Secretary Toni Nelson joined the meeting in-person at the Town Office. The meeting was called to order shortly after 6:00pm.

After affirming the Housekeeping items, Council heard a series of Reports. Under the Grantwriter’s Report, Council asked whether anyone had heard about a grant for Canada Summer Jobs. Normally this information is received by May 1, but they have not heard yet for this summer.

Dave Nelson, the town’s Director of Operations, noted that there had been a small amount of damage to the garbage transfer bins, so this was communicated to Drumheller Regional Waste who have had similar concerns as well. Nelson indicated that street sweeping has begun, first with a preliminary sweep with a skid-steer, then Three Hills would come to clean on May 15th. The Town Siren was being wired-up by an electrician on the day of the Council meeting, with good reaction from Town residents at the time of meeting. Nelson also mentioned that he had met with Brad Buchert and discussed options for paving and pothole repair, with some potentially viable alternatives to consider.

Town CAO Carl Peterson updated Council on the following items. In the area of Senior’s Housing, letters have been signed and sent to the MLA and MP, and a Business Plan is being finalized. The Lagoon Expansion tender was scheduled to close on May 14, but because there were questions and complications it will be extended by one week.

Peterson noted that he and Dave Nelson attended the Master Drainage Plan meeting, and will attend the other two scheduled meetings. They are taking minutes and will provide them to Kneehill County. The final report will be finished in 2022, and Peterson is thankful it is fully-funded by grants. Finally Peterson reported that he is not able to attend the Regional Business Recovery Task Force as those meetings conflict with Council meetings, however, Grant Writer Jamie Collins will attend in his place.

Councilors shared reports to keep Council up-to-date on items in their respective areas:

Councilor Chris Armstrong attended a virtual Community Futures Wildrose meeting on May 7th. In that meeting it was decided that their Annual General Meeting will be moved from its regular spot in July, to September in hopes that the meeting could be conducted in person. They will try to rent a hotel ballroom in Strathmore so that those in attendance (estimated at least 24 people) can be spread out. Armstrong also noted that phone payments would be deferred through June; that interest would not be charged, but that principles would be moved to the back-end of the loan. Lastly, the organization’s annual audit was scheduled to be starting in the week following the meeting, but by Zoom.

Councilor Bill Cunningham noted that he is anticipating a Kneehill Housing Meeting in the near future. As well, the Museum could have opened on May 14th but was not ready to do so. They will need to hire a summer student, but cannot do this until they hear about summer job grants, so they are hoping to hear something soon. Cunningham brought back to Council the annual Garage and Plant sale event. He noted that they’ve decided to forego the Garage Sale part of the event, because of the increased risk of spreading of the virus, but wanted to have Council’s blessing to proceed with the Plant Sale. He assured Council that tables would be spread apart to allow for social spacing. Council notes that Garden Centres are allowed to be open, so agree that the Plant Sale could continue. Dates will be confirmed, but May 23rd and 30th were proposed.

Councilor Cheryl Lumley recently attended a Kneehill Regional Partnership Meeting. In that meeting it was decided that there is still a need for the partnership, but that it needs some revising. A sub-committee will be meeting on June 18th to figure out how to speed up the decision-making process. In her work with the Arboretum, Lumley notes that the Arboretum would be opening on the 14th, with signage and sanitizer dispensers in place. There will be no public washrooms or picnic tables, as staff would not be able to maintain them in the manner required.

Councilor Ed Stephan updated Council on the Restorative Justice Society. They are looking for alternative sources of funding, and have a new page on Facebook that they hope people will make good use of.

Deputy Mayor Bonnie Munro let Council know that she had recently joined the Senior’s Housing Society. Munro also gave an update on her work with the library. She noted that two members requested to be taken off the Board for personal reasons, but that they have lined up three or four new people to serve in that capacity. Unfortunately the library manager and support staff had to be laid-off temporarily until the library is able to re-open again. With the library now sitting empty, she wondered what the protocol was for checking the building for insurance purposes. CAO Peterson said he would check into the policy.

Mayor Barry Kletke has meetings scheduled for the end of the month, so will share updates after that time.

Council spent the bulk of the meeting discussing financial matters, especially a five-year Capital Plan, and a three-year Operations Plan, both presented by CAO Carl Peterson. Council unanimously approved the April 2020 Bank Reconciliation. The surplus in the 2020 Operating Budget is projected to be $35,096, with a revenue of $3,225,025.06 and expenses at $3,189,928.62. However, Council acknowledged that they expected a surplus in 2019 which did not materialize.

The most important item to come from the financial discussion is that residential tax has had to be increased by 0.5%. Non-residential remained at the 2019 rate.

In New Business, Council shared comments on a letter received from Suzanne Sinclair of Sweetgrass Café regarding outdoor seating. Sinclair indicated her desire to re-open her restaurant to the public and re-hire her staff on the 14th of May, however she does not want to inadvertently expose her staff with pre-existing health conditions to the virus and therefore does not want to seat patrons in her restaurant. She is requesting to have tables to seat four people outside on the sidewalk, in addition to front-door meal pick-up. Council wonders if there will be enough space between customers, and between customers and servers, and if roping off a portion of the street, rather than the sidewalk, would better allow spacing between all involved. Council will approve, on a trial basis, the request for outdoor seating, and will allow Sinclair to rope-off the space that works best, while maintaining distancing protocols. If there are problems arising from this arrangement that Council cannot at this point foresee, Sweetgrass will have to modify their operating plan.

Council moved to the Closed Session portion of the meeting at 7:15 pm. The next regular meeting of Trochu Town Council is scheduled for May 25, 2020.