BARRHEAD - The Barrhead and District Family Community Support Services (FCSS) hopes a Woodlands County council representative will join their executive board.
And on March 15, during the county council meeting, a trio from the Barrhead not-for-profit society, which included executive director Karen Gariepy and board members Leslie Penny and Dausen Kluin, appeared via teleconference to ask councillors to join their ranks.
Councillors invited the delegation to address them directly following their Feb. 15 meeting, where council discussed Barrhead FCSS' request via a letter to have a representative join their board. Specifically, councillors wanted more information regarding what the expectations would be for the councillor, especially regarding time commitment.
The Barrhead FCSS serves the Barrhead municipalities and has a three-year contract with Woodlands County at a cost of $12,500 annually to provide services in the Fort Assiniboine and Goose Lake regions. The current contract expires on Dec. 31, 2023.
Whitecourt Central Coun. Alan Deane wanted more information on how the Barrhead FCSS is structured.
Penny replied that the society differs from the vast majority of FCSS organizations in that they are an entity on themselves.
"(Barrhead's FCSS) is unique (in the province)," she said, adding most FCSS organizations are municipally run.
Under the traditional provincial model, the province and the municipalities they serve contribute financially to FCSS organizations on an 80/20 split for base operational funding.
The province restricts the use of this funding to base-preventative programming.
"However, as a society, not only does that restriction allow us to fundraise, but to serve our residents better by providing programming outside that restriction," Penny added.
An example of community-funded programs the Barrhead FCSS provides is the food bank and Santa's Toy Box.
Goose Lake/Freeman River Coun. Peter Kuelken asked how much of a time commitment a council representative and what a "Woodlands County councillor could do to advocate for the FCSS".
Gariepy responded by saying the board meets monthly for about two-and-a-half hours, except for January and the summer months.
"Occasionally, we ask board members to help with events or fundraising, but that is strictly optional," she said.
Reeve John Burrows noted the reason they asked about what the time commitment would because there would be a monetary commitment for a councillor's participation, as the Barrhead meetings are outside of Woodlands County boundaries and the councillor would be entitled to mileage and an honorarium. At the Feb. 15 meeting, chief administrative officer Gordon Frank estimated the annual costs to be about $3,500.
As for what type of advocacy FCSS would expect from the Woodlands County representative, Gariepy said it is not so much that they expect them to be an advocate per se but to act as a liaison with the county.
"Basically, it is to have a better connection with the municipal government to ensure we are meeting your needs," she said.
Whitecourt East Coun. Jeremy Wilhelm was interested in the board's makeup, most notably if it included other municipal councillors.
Kluin and Gariepy noted the board ranges from nine to 13 board members and includes four Barrhead municipal councillors — two a piece from the town and county — with the rest being community members. Kluin is one of the town's representatives.
"I do the best I can to represent the residents in that area," said Kluin, a former Fort Assiniboine resident. "But it would be nice to have another voice."
Council accepted the Barrhead FCSS delegation as information.
Barry Kerton, TownandCountryToday.com