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Minor change to mowing and community cleanup grants approved

Westlock County hopes to hand out more grant dollars in 2022
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Westlock County has budgeted $20,000 for its hamlet mowing and community cleanup program. Councillors approved a slight revision to the policy in the hopes of handing out the entirety of the money.

WESTLOCK – Westlock County councillors have approved a slight wording change to the municipality’s hamlet mowing and community cleanup grants policy that should lead to $20,000 being handed out in 2022.

The change was approved via a 6-1 vote by councillors at their April 26 regular meeting (deputy reeve Ray Marquette was opposed), while the issue was initially discussed at the April 19 governance and priorities meeting — section 2 of the policy, enacted in 2017, spells out its aim and reads, “In recognition of the economic challenges faced by the non-profit community organizations, and toward the objective of improving community aesthetics, council will provide grant funding to non-profit community organizations in county hamlets for community clean-ups, and for mowing of grass on community hall properties, parks and playgrounds.”

Section 4 of the policy states that the grass mowing grants are based on the population of each hamlet, since the size impacts the amount of mowing required. As a condition of the funding, it is understood that community organizations receiving funds will also mow, at minimum once per month, grass on water treatment facilities properties, fire hall lots and county grader storage lots. The grant is $500 per 50 people residing in the respective hamlet, per the most recent federal census, while the change approved by council states: “or an equalized payment calculation determined by the approved budget amount, whichever is greater.”

Interim CAO Pat Vincent told councillors that administration had reviewed the policy and felt there was a “disparity” that needed adjustment. Using the equalized payment calculation, the county is expecting to hand out $20,000, compared to $17,900 it would have handed out before the change.

“Simply it was a viewpoint that administration (had) in reviewing the policy that there appeared to be an inequity over time. The disparity that administration saw (needed to be) adjusted and addressed so that an equalized payment calculation would address the growing gap and inequity when dealing with all the community associations,” he explained.

As an example, Busby, with a 2021 census number of 135, would have received $2,846 — a figure that includes a $300 one-time cleanup grant — while using the equalized calculation they’ll get $3,146. In fact, all seven of the county’s nine hamlets listed in a chart presented to council April 19 will get $300 extra in 2022.

“They really appreciate this. It’s not a handout because they do a lot of work,” said reeve Christine Wiese.

Marquette said he was opposed to the hamlet-only mowing program, saying there’s a number of community halls, ball diamonds and other facilities that don’t qualify. Coun. Stuart Fox-Robinson, along with Wiese, asked administration to bring the issue of standalone community halls and ball diamonds to a future GPC meeting “to discuss quite openly.”

“Your comment around funding for other areas is incredibly valid and I share the same concerns that we are going to have community halls out there that are struggling. I believe we’re going to be in a bit of a state with them in the next 24 months,” added Fox-Robinson.

George Blais,

George Blais

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