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Council members air concerns during AMM visit

posted Feb 6, 2017, 8:27 AM by Kathy Carr
When representatives of your lobby group come to visit, it is a chance to express your concerns about what could be done better, and also what is being done well. On Wednesday, February 1, members of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) executive paid a visit to the Town of Carberry and the Municipality of North Cypress-Langford. 
The AMM is the group that, for the most part, presents the concerns of the municipalities to the Province of Manitoba. Visiting the council cham­bers in Carberry were: AMM President, Chris Goertzen (and Mayor of Steinbach), Vice-Presi­dent Ralph Groening (also Reeve of Morris RM) and Joe Masi (Executive Director). Also, “wearing two hats” that day, was Mayor Stuart Olmstead, who is the Western District Direc­tor of the AMM. Representing the two councils (besides Mayor Olmstead) were Lin Mann and Jaime Mac­Gregor for the town and Reeve Adriaansen, Ray Drayson and Harold Tol­ton for the municipality.
The discussion was started on a positive note. “What is going right? What good things are happening?” asked Goer­tzen. Mayor Olms­tead reported on the recent “Winterfest” and the positive effect it has on the community. Reeve Adriaan­sen felt that, although it has been a tremendous learning cur­ve, and challenging for the staff, that amalgamation of North Cyp­ress and Langford has gone fairly well. 
With services and recreation being drawn in  two directions (some being fulfilled by Car­berry and some by Neepawa) there are difficulties, but people have risen to the challenge. Goertzen noted that more objections were raised by the way amalgamation was forced on municipalities, than the amalgamations themselves.
Speaking for the rural community, Adriaansen noted the challenges for councils: keeping up the roads (many have spread and widened) and also making roads to accommodate the larger and heavier machinery involved with modern agriculture.
Olmstead noted the challenge of preparing to expand the lagoon in the future to accommodate a growing community.  The preparation, planning, studies and engineering to come will take time and effort from Council. Councillor MacGregor noted the extra regulations invol­ved with manning the waste transfer station with such things as “work alone policies” and specific training needed to operate the dump.
Goertzen noted that they currently have a “red tape” survey out to their members whose mission it is to collect information and practical information as how to mitigate the barriers to implementing regulations at a reasonable cost. Olmstead noted that trying to move the zone of control for highways, so that all the highways within the town limits are under control of the town is another long-time and drawn out process.
Adriaansen noted an oncoming provincial concern with the lack of information on a carbon tax. He felt that if it was a straight increase to fuel prices that it would impact the farming community very negatively, but also agricultural industries which need to ship product and materials. Goertzen noted that they have not yet brought in a method to implement it, but they are keeping those concerns before the provincial government.
There was lengthy discussion around health care and the difficulty in attracting and retaining doctors in rural communities. While having been told that our community is “better off than some” when in discussion with the RHA, it still doesn’t make the current situation acceptable. Communities without emergency service need to have assured ambulance available, and not have the ambulances tied up doing transfers. A stretcher service has been suggested – and while the situation has improved somewhat, it would be better if ambulances were not taken doing non-urgent transfers. Councils expressed their appreciation for the STARS ambulance service, and regret that we have had to use it fairly often in the community.
Also discussed at length was the role of the volunteer fire department. With the RCMP having to look after such a large area, an accident scene often has the fire department first on site. They do not have the authority to “yellow tape” a scene, and people often call in to report the same scene several times, which must be responded to. “How many times can workers leave their employment? And how many times can employers afford to let fire members attend?” asked Adriaan­sen who had nothing but praise for the Carberry North Cypress-Langford Dept. and their level of professionalism.
Groening noted that they were working on compensation for securing a site. Council also brought forward another concern – that to license and insure the new fire truck will cost the ratepayers some $25,000. 
Both Mayor Olmstead and Reeve Adriaansen’s brought up a concern faced by many farmers in the area – the school tax rebate on the farmland. The capping of this rebate (at $5000) has cost local farmers thousands of dollars. In North Cypress-Lang­ford, the increase in value of farm properties has outstripped the growth of all other properties, making the proportion of school tax paid by farms, even higher.
Goertzen noted that Manitoba’s tax system is antiquated in this regard, and they much prefer the “80/20” rule – 80% on residential, 20% on properties. They feel that the present government, which has broad rural support, is much more open to those concerns. However, this is hampered by the financial problem they inherited, and there is not a lot of room to give up sources of income at the present. Olmstead brought up the “red tape” around the hall and having to have security for every event that has liquor.   This has become quite a struggle and expense for the renters of the hall and has had an impact on the community.
Council thanked the AMM Executive for attending and listening to their concerns in a one on one meeting.  It was an amicable morning’s discussion and council members can be assured that their concerns are being taken seriously and being relayed to the next layer of government.

by Gloria Mott