Ponoka County has seen many achievements, changes and challenges over the past year, some stemming from provincial government and flowing all the way down to municipal operations.
The biggest change the county faced was a practically brand new council after the public turned a huge change during the October election.
“I think the biggest thing is bringing in the new council and having a fresh new outlook,” said Reeve Paul McLauchlin.
Even as council faced its green beginnings and each councillor stepped into their learning curve, McLauchlin says the culture of the county hasn’t changed and council remains focused on small government and the people.
Being an election year, across the province many new councils came into being. “I think our second biggest challenge is just working together, working with other advisories,” said McLauchlin.
So far, he feels sandbox has been a generally happy and successful place.
Another challenge came from the shrinking pool of provincial finances available to the county. They’ve seen a reduction of the MSI grant and the termination of Bridge Program funds. “Going into the new year we’re going to have to allocate some of our own funds for them (bridges),” said McLauchlin.
Despite tightening funds, the county was able to agree on two loan guarantees of $1.8 million each, one for the Calnash Ag Event Centre and the other for the Rimbey AgRim Centre. The guarantees are just as they say, loans, and will have no impact on the financial position of the county.
Through provincial funding, the county was able to complete its 10-year road program with no increase in taxes. McLauchlin says council may look into a new program next year. “So that was a pretty big accomplishment.”
“We had a few contributions to a few community organizations,” he added, naming the AgRim Centre and PAECS and the land donation to the Rimoka Housing Foundation as a few larger ones.
McLauchlin says the county is in good financial shape and even the loan guarantees won’t affect the its borrowing capabilities. “I just don’t think we’ll need it.”