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Last updateFri, 23 Mar 2018 3pm

Council crunches new spending

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    Drumheller Town Council is close to finalizing its operational budget after reviewing a list of new spending.
    Council held a budget meeting on Wednesday, February 21.  They began the meeting by reviewing the utility budget before narrowing in on tax-funded operations. Corporate Services had delivered a balanced budget based on a two per cent increase in municipal requisitions. However, Council still had a list of over $400,000 in possible new spending to debate.
    Some of the funds they approved include $7,500 to the Badlands Community College, formerly Hope College, as well as $9,000 for Citizens on Patrol to develop an office space in the old cells building.
    Council also approved  $20,000 to help subsidize mental health counselling, to allow more access for residents. Councillor Jay Garbutt noted that while this type of service typically falls outside the town’s mandate, he supports the measure.
  They also funded $13,775 to deliver Community Building Initiative programming. This is a grant that provided 80 per cent funding for a full-time employee plus a small operating budget, however, the grant has not increased for years, despite salaries and benefits rising. This funding topped up the position.
    Council turned down a request of  $50,000 to go towards developing a youth centre.
    Council discussed increasing Travel Drumheller’s funding for an additional $10,000, to a total of $30,000, but decided to maintain the current level of funding.
    Another increased cost  to the town was funding an additional $85,760 to the RCMP for additional training and equipment mandated by the federal government. This is in response to the 2014 Moncton shooting and training on how to deal with opioid overdoses.    This increase came as a surprise to council.
    Another line item is a Corporate Review at $125,000. This has a review of the operations and staffing of the town and has not been completed since 2001-2002.
    “I am concerned about adding one more gigantic project in 2018, especially one that has a gigantic price tag,” said Garbutt.
     Council decided to defer this the next budget year.
    Council discussed funding the wishes of the Economic Development Taskforce.  Council earmarked $100,000 for its recommendations.
        “That number just came out of the air and we are all hoping that out of the taskforce we are going to have recommendations that are immediate, medium and long-term,” said Councillor Fred Makowecki. “I certainly think the short term ones and some of the initiatives I have been privy to that are coming up are going to be not moving into the total of, I don’t imagine it will exceed that total. I am excited to see what they bring forward.”
    Councillor Lisa Hansen Zacharuk suggested this not be funded from operating, but possibly from reserves. Council agreed to look at one-time funding from another source.
    With these changes, council narrowed the list down to about $136,000.  
    Council suggested a 3 per cent increase, to cover the increase in operating, the unexpected demand for funding from the RCMP and anticipated carbon tax impact.
    The Operating budget will be presented at an open house before council votes on the budget.

Town plans for provincial cannabis legalization

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    Private cannabis retailers in Alberta will have a strict set of rules to follow, including mandatory background checks, when cannabis is expected to become legal some time this summer.
    The Town of Drumheller is well on its way to figuring out a system that best fits the population as a final line of regulation for the substance.
    “We will be obligated to follow the provincial laws,” said Greg Peters, Director of Protective Services for the Town of Drumheller. “We can’t pass a bylaw that would conflict with the provincial law, it’s equal force really. We have to abide by both of them [federal and provincial law] so there may be some local things worked into it that we see advantageous that doesn’t necessarily conflict and is totally agreeable after we review it with the town solicitor.”
    Safety has been the main focus of both municipal and provincial government.
    “When we see what the Fed’s come up with by the way of federal legislation and the use of it in the operation of machinery, we will incorporate that as well into our local safety policy because safety is king and we don’t bargain on safety in compliance with all the laws,” continued Peters.
    The provincial regulations outline who can own cannabis stores, where they can be located, rules for staff, safety and security requirements, and other operational details for private retailers.
    While the regulations will be established provincewide, municipalities will have the ability to adjust certain aspects to best suit their communities.
    Mandatory background checks for retail license applicants will be required as well as mandatory training and background checks for all retail employees.
    “If it’s a bylaw, our bylaws at least the ones I’ve been privy to are hand-in-hand putting together all bylaw officers, the municipality, and whoever is in the RCMP are the power to enforce our bylaws,” said Peters.
    Businesses that choose to set up shop will have a minimum of a 100-metre distance from schools and provincial health-care facilities. Like any municipality, Drumheller will be able to adjust these distances to suit the needs and safety of residents.
    “I would like to see more [distance] and I would think we need to take all measures possible to guard the safety. We need to take all measures possible to ensure the safety of our children going to and from school so that’s something we would have to look at as well. A local preference to try to expand that in compliance with the law.”
    The province asks that store hours are set between 10 a.m. and 2 a.m., the same as liquor stores, with municipalities able to adjust these hours as well. There will be mandatory security measures in stores.
    No privately owned store will be able to sell both marijuana and alcohol, pharmaceuticals and/or tobacco products in the same location. One person, group or organization cannot hold more than 15 per cent of licenses in Alberta.
    The Alberta Gaming & Liquor Commission (AGLC) will oversee distribution, compliance, and enforcement of the cannabis retail system in Alberta. They will have the authority to set strict regulatory guidelines and license requirements for private cannabis retailers.
    “There’s a bit of apprehension because it’s new and there’s a lot of people that think there is a lot of split opinions if this is a good or bad thing for the country. There are examples in the [United] States of where it has been legalized that I watch quite closely and even talk to some officials down in Colorado and California and Washington so we’re not going in totally blind. There’s going to be a lot of concern, any new changes are always greeted with a bit of apprehension and a bit of anxiousness.” said Peters.
    Peters explained that the current draft policy has a long way to go before being set in stone.
    “I put a lot of the ideas together but a lot of eyes are going to see it before it’ll be finalized,” said Greg.

Drumheller Institution lockdown lifted

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The lockdown put in place at the medium security unit at Drumheller Institution on February 19, 2018, has ended and an exceptional search has been completed. The institution has resumed its normal operations.

Correctional Service Canada (CSC) is strengthening measures to prevent the entry of contraband into its institutions in order to ensure a safe and secure environment for everyone. CSC also works in partnership with the police to take action against those who attempt to have contraband brought into correctional institutions.

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