News | DrumhellerMail - Page #8
Last updateSat, 11 Jul 2020 12pm

Starland slashes budget

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    Starland County found about $4 million in savings in its operating budget to make ends meet in a tough economic year.
    Starland County Council passed its 2020 operating budget at its May 27 Council Meeting. Council set the residential mill rate at 8.2917, a 2 per cent increase, its farmland rate at 16.4511, a 1 per cent increase, and its commercial and linear rate at 24.3229, a 4 per cent increase.
    This comes after they took a knife to its budget feeling the effect of the downturn in oil and gas over the last couple of years and now the economic crisis caused by COVID -19.
    “In the last two years we have written off nearly $7.5 million of bad debt (uncollected taxes) and we are projecting another $4 million in 2020.  With nearly one-third of our total annual revenues being uncollected and written off as bad debt for these years, this has caused us to deplete our reserves to cover for this loss,” it stated in a letter to ratepayers.
    “With the given situation now and the economic crisis before us, we have totally revamped our 2020 budget, recognizing that realistically there may be even more oil and gas companies in distress and there will be even more taxes uncollected.  This together with the 35% reduction in assessment the province placed on the shallow gas assessments, decreased our total assessment for the County back to a similar amount as in 2007, negating thirteen years of progress.”
    It notes that about 80 per cent of its tax revenue comes from oil and gas and it estimated 32 per cent of that will not be collected this year. This represents almost one-third of its total revenues.
     To make budget, council is introducing no new capital expenditures this year. While the new construction of its shop is underway, this has been covered by MSI funding from the past several years as well as insurance proceeds from when the former administration building was razed.
    The County’s road construction program and bridge replacement programs are on hold this year and they have reduced its gravel program, virtually all hauling will be done with county staff.                 There are currently six positions at Starland that are vacant and will not be filled in the interim, and they have restricted their seasonal hire to just nine. Normally there are approximately 34. There will also be no dust control program, programs such as tree planting, and mulching are suspended and mowing of recreational areas will be less frequent. Cemetery maintenance will remain a priority. There will be no Summer Fun program,  and training seminars, conferences are cancelled or postponed.
     Council continues to lobby for support from the province.
    “Council has been actively engaged in many meetings and discussions with the provincial government, regarding all the downloading that is being put on the shoulders of the municipalities including: No recourse for uncollected oil and gas taxes; a substantially reduced assessment base for shallow gas infrastructure; new policing costs for small municipalities; requisitions based on an assessment base which includes assessment for bankrupt or abandoned oil and gas companies; reductions in grants; etc.  These are all heavy burdens to bear and are certainly straining the resources of the County.”  
    The County concluded its letter to ratepayers with a positive outlook including a great start for agriculture with a “million-dollar rain”. They are also seeing some movement in natural gas prices, and are seeing some positive prospects in the development of renewable resources in the area.

Dear COVID-19:


    We’ve heard over and over on the news that Alberta has done well. We’ve flattened the curve. The deaths are fewer in number than expected. Yet the true numbers regarding the CoVID toll on lives has yet to be determined. I’m not talking about those who had CoVID and died, or those who had CoVID and recovered but with worsening health conditions as a result of the infection. I’m talking about the deaths that result from CoVID without an infection: for example, the suicides or the heart attacks that didn’t go to the Emerg from fear of infection.
    According to a Global News Story, data compiled by Heart and Stroke and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society found that visits to Ontario emergency departments for heart attacks dropped nearly 30 per cent from March 16 to April 12, compared to the same period a year earlier (
    Delays in seeking care for acute medical concerns can lead to negative health outcomes. But even now, patients I see in the Emerg still apologize for coming in the first place. Patients with chest pain often call the clinic and at times need convincing to seek care in an ER. Pandemic or not, patients should never feel “bad” for seeking care. They may, at times, benefit from some education but should never feel like their concerns are a waste of time.         The fear of CoVID and the focus on not overwhelming the health care system kept many at bay.
The virtual visits have certainly helped physicians manage their chronic care patients. Emergencies, however, continue to arise even during a pandemic. It’ll be enlightening to get the numbers when all this wraps up, of the lives lost due to CoVID, from primary infections to secondary harm. If you’re seriously ill, seek care. Hospitals and clinics have infection-control prevention strategies in place to reduce risks of infection. Coronavirus is far from gone and your health matters. If you require in-person care, ask. Go. Your life, or that of a loved one, may depend on it.

Arrest made in Trochu ATB robbery

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The Southern Alberta Crime Reduction Unit arrested a Calgary man who is alleged to have committed seven separate robberies, including one in Trochu that captured headlines in January.
The Southern Alberta Crime Reduction Unit with assistance from numerous RCMP Detachments as well as partner agencies, conducted an investigation over the past several months into a series of robberies that were targeted at banks in the southern part of Alberta. These incidents occurred in Granum, Caroline, Vauxhall (on two separate occasions), Trochu, Calgary and Magrath.

On Jan. 30, 2020, at approximately 11:30 a.m., Three Hills RCMP received a report of an armed robbery at the Alberta Treasury Branch (ATB) in Trochu.
A male in disguise entered the ATB ATM vestibule where he removed what is believed to be a firearm from a Red Husky duffle bag. He then entered the ATB branch and demanded money from an employee of ATB. The male suspect fled with an undisclosed amount of money. No one was injured.
On June 23, 2020 Jesse Damond Morton (44) of Calgary was arrested in Calgary in relation to these robberies. A search warrant was conducted at a storage locker resulting in the seizure of an SKS rifle and $2750 in US currency.

He has been charged with 21 offences some of which include:

· Robbery (x7)
· Wear a disguise during the commission of an offence (x7)
· Using a firearm during the commission of an offence (x2)
· Pointing a firearm
· Possession of a prohibited weapon

A judicial release hearing was conducted yesterday and Morton remains in custody and will be appearing in Airdrie Provincial Court on July 23, 2020.

SAD CRU would like to thank all the agencies involved, including support services, other police services, members of the public, and financial institutions.



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