Ponoka County councillors have voted unanimously to lobby the provincial government for reimbursement for the time volunteer firefighters spend waiting for ambulances to arrive to emergency scenes.
Ambulance service availability was discussed during their regular meeting on Feb. 8.
Chief administrative officer (CAO) Charlie Cutforth advised the issue of ambulance availability was becoming very concerning for the Regional Fire Department members. In 2021, there were 18 times when the fire department was the first to respond to a call and had to wait an extended amount of time for an ambulance to attend.
Medical transfers usually took an extended amount of time. Recruitment and retention of volunteer fire fighters was becoming more difficult as the expectation to assist with ambulance calls was increasing.
Cutforth recommended that Ponoka County urge the Rural Municipalities of Alberta to lobby the government to pay for the time that volunteer fire fighters were spending on ambulance calls as first responders. Failing that, a class action lawsuit should be initiated by the municipalities for reimbursement.
It was moved by Coun. Nancy Hartford that Ponoka County council lobby the provincial Minister of Health for payment for the time volunteer fire fighters spend as first responders waiting on ambulances, and that all members of council sign the letter. The motion carried unanimously.
East Lincoln Properties
A bylaw to reclassify East Lincoln Properties (Pt. NE 5-42-27-W4) — approximately 13 acres — from Agricultural District to Country Residential District, was defeated.
The required public hearing had been conducted on Jan. 25 and first and second reading of the bylaw passed.
Cutforth noted that generally one acreage in a farming community did not negatively impact the surrounding operations.
A third and final reading was given Feb. 8 but was defeated with one in favour and four opposed.
Hartford advised that the Rimbey Family and Community Support Services was celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year by offering the first 40 coffees free each week at different locations in Rimbey.
Hartford attended the Synergy Alberta/Rimbey Synergy meeting where the Alberta Energy Regulator Directive 088 was discussed.
Coun. Doug Weir advised that Ponoka Agricultural Event Centre Society had voted not to rent to a group wishing to host a rally.
They had expressed concern that a rally could have negative effects on the funding received from the government and the board wished to remain neutral. Insurance rates also could have been affected by allowing the rally.
Solar and wind energy
Coun. Bryce Liddle attended the Central Rural Municipalities of Alberta meeting on Feb. 4, virtually.
Wind and solar energy was discussed. It was confirmed that they were taxable structures and were treated the same as the linear assessment and the machinery and equipment assessment.
The Alberta Utilities Commission has authority to approve development of “green energy” projects regardless of the county’s planning documents.
Ponoka County was attempting to steer such projects toward brownfield lands. Administration suggested that the projects should be treated as industrial sites with public hearings, etc., due to a number of concerns that could arise.
Assistant CAO Peter Hall confirmed that any application would be treated as a discretionary permit where notification could be expanded to ensure all were aware of the potential impacts.
Sgt. Erin St-Cyr (operations NCO) and Cpl. Mike Dillon attended the meeting to present the 2021 fourth quarter report for the Ponoka RCMP Detachment.
St-Cyr noted the following downward trends over the last five years: crimes against persons; theft of motor vehicles; theft under $5,000; mischief; drugs, and break and enters.
They were receiving more and more requests for well-being checks.
They spent a great deal of their time checking on breach of conditions imposed by the court system.
Judicial reform would assist with recidivism.
They had received only 14 COVID-related complaints with no charges laid.
When assisting emergency medical technicians, only youth mental health took time as they needed to be transferred to Red Deer. The Peace Officers at the Centennial Centre were available for adult transfers.
They commended the participants in the recent convoys for their respect. The only issue that was causing concern was the horns honking.
The RCMP’s role has been getting the convoy safely out of town onto the highway. The convoys will keep happening and are becoming more organized.
The RCMP will continue to monitor and manage the convoys.
Rimbey AgRim Centre loan
Council received notice from ATB Financial that the Rimbey Ag Society had approached them for a fixed rate on the AgRim loan. The loan has been granted for a three-year period with the county as guarantors.
Council discussed the loan payment being made on behalf of the Ponoka Ag Event Centre Society. It was agreed that the chairman of the society be invited to the March 8 council meeting to present their financial statements.