County Reeve Leanne Beaupre was able to deliver a lot of good news in the 2018 State of the County speech. That included everything from positive economic indicators to a 50 per cent drop in the county’s crime rate.
She talked about the potential for the county to continue to be a power player in the Alberta energy industry. Beaupre says the area is resource rich which will allow for easy diversification.
“[County Council is] always looking at some areas or are willing to take a look at ideas that come forward to us on a different basis than just the ones we typically deal with.”
She says a U of A study has shown a “huge opportunity” for geothermal energy production. She also says a large-scale industrial park planned for south of the city will bring international investment dollars.
Beaupre worries that investment could be stalled by the delays on twinning Highway 40. She calls it a safety concern but blames the number of vehicles on the road and not the drivers themselves.
“We can’t really attract people to the area or investment to the area. It’s not going to be fully automated it’s going to have people that are going to need to live and work and drive back and forth. So, they need to know that their people are going to be safe.”
She says they are continuing to advocate to the Minister of Transportation as well as area MLA’s. They are also pushing to complete the twinning of Highway 43 to the B.C. border.
She also talked about the focus on working on Intermunicipal Development Plans with a number of communities in the county. Part of that work includes waterlines between Wembley and Dimsdale which have the ability to be expanded upon in the future.
The crime rate in the county dropped by 50 per cent in 2017 when compared with 2015 stats. Beaupre says their investment in six enhanced RCMP officers is paying off but she says it’s a group effort.
“Our residents in the area know where crime is happening. So we’ve been very successful in getting them to actually report what they see. So that makes a lot of difference as well.”
She says the investment also pays off because “crime knows no boundaries” and it’s helping to keep everyone in the region safe.
There is also still a focus on the future of the Beaverlodge Hospital. The province announced in January that they were scrapping a template for rural hospitals which left a lot of questions around that facility. Just this spring she says herself and some regional mayors were able to meet with the ministers of health and infrastructure.
“I believe we did state our case and I do believe they understand the importance. At this juncture, they have told us that they need to be more fiscally responsible. So, doing the maintenance and making sure that the hospital is safe and healthy for the patients that are there is their highest priority.”
Beaupre said as funding becomes available she expects it will be replaced. She also added the minister called it a hospital, not health centre when it came to future plans for the building.