BY BRAD QUARIN
LOCAL JOURNALISM INITIATIVE
TOWN & COUNTRY NEWS
The County of Grande Prairie published its first annual report recently detailing community, public works and agricultural initiatives and other projects in 2019.
“The county developed an annual report to outline how municipal tax dollars were invested in 2019,” said Jennifer Kuzemchuk, county senior communications advisor.
“The annual report is one of the ways the county is transparent and open about its programs.”
Reeve Leanne Beaupre hasn’t given a State of the County address since 2018, but Kuzemchuk said the report isn’t intended to replace the address.
The State of the County is an initiative of the Grande Prairie Chamber of Commerce.
Kuzemchuk added the State of the County differs from the annual report by also including a vision for the future of the county.
The report summarizes community services in 2019, with a statement by Beaupre reading “the hallmark to any great community is not just bricks and mortar, but the quality of life its citizens enjoy.”
In 2019, council approved $6.2 million in sport, recreation, culture, Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), library and transportation grants.
“These investments support the commitment of local citizens who put these funds to work for their communities,” Beaupre said.
Two 2019 grants highlighted by the report went to South Peace Centennial Museum and the Demmitt Cultural Society.
The county awarded a $68,941 grant for a new shop for restoration work at South Peace Centennial Museum.
The shop was built last July, according to the museum.
Another $41,900 went to the Demmitt Cultural Society for the construction of a new playground.
As well, the report states the county contributes $200,000 annually to the STARS air ambulance.
Since the Grande Prairie base opened in 2006, the county has contributed $1.6 million to STARS while its crew flew on more than 600 missions within the county.
An additional $150,000 went to upgrading the skating facility at Valhalla Recreation Centre from 2017 to 2019.
Included in 2019 recreation and culture grants was $376,130 for the Beaverlodge pool.
Additionally, $252,840 went to six arenas, $78,820 to seven curling rinks and $76,500 to 17 community halls, according to the report.
According to the report, the county’s early childhood development program saw 158 children enrolled in county playschool programs.
The seven playschools are located in La Glace, Elmworth, Valhalla, Clairmont, Whispering Ridge, Harry Balfour School and Bezanson.
Moreover, in 2019 the county’s home support program provided 9,442 hours of home support to 198 households.
In 4,532 client visits, home support staff traveled 106,409 kilometres, according to the report.
Aside from community services, development and public works are a major theme of the report.
Joulia Whittleton, county chief administrative officer, said the county granted 2,572 construction permits in 2019 for a value of $104.7 million.
Of the 2,572, 385 were for residential buildings, 91 were for non-residential buildings and 78 were for subdivisions.
The residential construction value totalled $64.8 million while the non-residential construction value was $39.9 million, according to the report.
Whittleton’s statement in the report touts the county’s efforts to cut “red tape” for “quicker turnaround on development permits.”
Kuzemchuk said one way administration may cut “red tape” to expedite permits is to possibly launch development permit application software this year.
“This software will allow residents and businesses to apply for permits online,” she said.
“They will also be able to view and download their approvals from the site, track progress on applications, pay online (and) receive updates electronically.”
Public works was busy throughout 2019, with $39.6 million invested in capital road and bridge projects and $17.7 million spent on road maintenance.
Public works upgraded 33 kilometres of roads and sidewalks, rehabilitated 64 km of ditches, installed 40 culverts and cleared 201 km of rocks from roadsides.
Agriculture is another main concern of the annual report.
In 2019 the agricultural services department conducted 538 pest and disease inspections and mowed 8,553 km of county roadways.
Through the year 29,737 weed inspections were conducted in the county, Beaverlodge, Sexsmith, Wembley and Hythe, with 1,008 weeds identified.
A total of 7,936 km of county roadways were spot sprayed.
In 2019 the county had 303 part- and full-time staff and another 34 casual employees, as well as 14 temporary staff, 50 seasonal staff and 58 paid responder firefighters.
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