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Mayor focuses on the successes of 2019

Projects, events and staffing changes highlight the year
ralph leriger 2
Town of Westlock mayor Ralph Leriger.

WESTLOCK - In a provincial environment that hasn’t looked very friendly to municipalities, especially when it comes to budgets and fund allocations, Town of Westlock mayor Ralph Leriger remains focused on successes and is prepared with a long list of 2019 achievements from council and community alike.

Community-wise, Leriger named the formation of the Westlock & District Chamber of Commerce, talks with Blue Suede Fest organizers to have the event moved to town, the upcoming Boston Pizza Cup and the RCMP Musical Ride as the year’s highlights.

“The Musical Ride is a big part of our Canadian heritage and culture, and I like the fact that we get together and celebrate and recognize that. If you looked at the crowd, people come from far and wide, it solidifies Westlock’s position as a community hub … look at the stands — jam packed for two performances.”

As for the town’s partnership with the chamber of commerce at the Mayor’s Breakfast in June, Leriger called it “natural,” adding it was “a good opportunity to showcase some of the local businesses, talk about our common challenges and celebrate our common successes.”

Blue Suede Fest will undoubtedly change the atmosphere in the town for the duration of the festival since it draws crowds in the thousands.

“The participants come from all over, they come all the way from the United Kingdom. It’s a big deal.”

On the administrative side, a new director of operations, Grant Gyurkovitz, joined town staff in May.

“Grant came with a lot of experience and a lot of ideas for addressing some public works issues: drainage issues, a maintenance program for our laneways, some significant process in our industrial park roads. That’s a great addition to our team,” said Leriger.

Simone Wiley, who served as interim CAO since Dwight Dibben left for medical reasons in February, was officially named his permanent replacement Nov. 25, after Dibben resigned.

Leriger added that Wiley’s replacement as development officer “came to us with a lot of experience and is an excellent fit for the organization.”

Some carryover projects from 2018 that were finalized this year also made it to Leriger’s end-of-the-year list, including the water reservoir (where some minor landscaping was left for 2020) and the completion of 104 Ave., the service road north of town, and the cemetery sewer masterplan which will come to council in February 2020.

Leriger brought up intermunicipal relations with Westlock County as a change from last year, as they’ve been involved in creating an Intermunicipal Development Plan and are moving forward with discussions regarding the Intermunicipal Collaborative Framework, both of which are provincially-mandated documents.

“We’ve had more meetings with our county in 2019 so I see that as a great thing … That’s an improvement over the past,” said Leriger.

Coming up in 2020, the town is hopeful of another major grant from the federal government, after the province eventually approved $1 million in funding for the stormwater pond which would alleviate the town’s major draining issues.

“That project has been in the works; this was our second time applying for that grant and it cannot go on without the grant. We adapted our proposal and had high hopes and it came through. We’re ecstatic about that, we expect to hear early in the new year about the federal money and then we can go on. That’s a project that’s critical to our future. That’s likely to be our real big project looking forward,” said Leriger, adding the hope is to start construction in 2020.

“We’ve had a busy year. I think we’ve had a good year as an organization in challenging times. I do want to emphasize council and my thanks to the town staff. We have a small team, but I think they provide a high level of service, and they’re critical services to our residents,” he said.

“And we’re getting a new DQ, no such thing as too much ice cream.”