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Safety the topic of discussion at virtual townhall

IMAGE. Supplied by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

The RMWB hosted its third virtual townhall on April 9, 2020.

The Municipality also announced a series of townhalls shall take place every Thursday until April 30.

MLAs Tany Yao and Laila Goodridge joined Mayor Don Scott, CAO Jamie Doyle, and Director of Emergency Management Scott Davis for the session.

Community leaders also participated in the townhall fielding questions.

Due to commitments tied to COVID-19 preparations, representatives from Alberta Health Services (AHS) were unable to attend.

Residents asked how they could participate and help alleviate mental health stresses.

Scott Davis said several agencies welcome volunteers during this time.

Calling the Pulse line at (780) 743-7000 will connect interested volunteers with those services.

One resident asked if the COVID-19 crisis would impact funding for these and other non-profit organizations.

Mayor Don Scott said funding for social-profits from the province through the RMWB is on the way.

“Our Municipality already does support non-profits; in the last Budget, [there were] about $77-million that went to non-profits. There are definitely going to be some strong needs coming up.”

He added he spoke with several groups about their financial health and added he expects more information about supports from Alberta in future.

Mayor Scott said he also intends to ask Alberta about supporting small businesses and providing rent relief.

At the RMWB Council meeting on March 27, Mayor and Councillors task the administration to encourage the province to look into the matter.

Council even voted to form a recovery task force to develop strategies that could assist businesses post-pandemic.

Wood Buffalo Economic Development Corporation CEO Kevin Weidlich said the group will hold its third meeting next week.

Other residents had questions about the return of garbage collection.

CAO Jamie Doyle said while the landfill is open, the recycling program remains suspended.

“Recycling requires multiple touchpoints by several employees, so by not recycling it helps keep [the proximity of] risk down.

Doyle said garbage collection trucks would pick up the two curbside bins residents use every week.

Throughout the townhall, residents had numerous questions about safety in the region.

While children and youth may receive off-site education, callers expressed concern about their mental wellness.

Mayor Don Scott said his main concern is with young people coping with the COVID-19 crisis.

“We’re continuing to coordinate the MACOY program, which is the Mayor’s Advisory Council on Youth program.” Said Mayor Don Scott. “We’re having virtual meetings and supporting young people in that process.”

Mayor Don Scott added Some Other Solutions provides online mentorship in Fort McMurray, and the Fort McKay Youth Centre regularly connects with its youth.

Discussion next turned the AHS decision to move seniors and other vulnerable persons from Fort McMurray to a Lac La Biche facility.

In a release from April 5, Mayor Scott said he felt some concern about their relocation.

Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Laila Goodridge said she agrees with the AHS decision calling it the safest option.

“After consultation with the physicians of each patient, and only after it was deemed safe and appropriate to move them all the families were consulted prior to the move. This was in order to create more space in the [NLRHC] so that should we have more cases than we’re expecting, then we can respond to this.”

MLA Tany Yao, who represents Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo also agreed with the move adding the relocation shouldn’t come at the expense of the families.

Mayor Don Scott said RMWB Council would receive an update from a seniors advocate at their April 14 meeting.

There was another question about the status of the region’s rural and Indigenous communities.

Days before the townhall, the province declared two active cases of COVID-19 in Wood Buffalo’s rural areas.

Finally, a resident asked about what the end of the COVID-19 crisis may look like for Wood Buffalo.

This question follows the release of modelling projections by both the federal and provincial governments.

Mayor Scott said that while uncertain about what the future would look, he vowed the Municipality would lobby both governments to keep the region strong and get the economy back on track.

The next RMWB Council meeting is April 14, 2020.