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Mayor and Councillors deliberate for six-hour meeting

Last Updated May 13, 2020 at 12:09 am MDT

IMAGE. Supplied by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

RMWB Council held its teleconference meeting at 4:00 p.m. on May 12, 2020.

It’s the first scheduled meeting since April 14.

The Municipality cancelled the April 28 meeting due to the 2020 River Break Up Flood.

Mayor and Councillors did hold a special flood response and recovery meeting on May 6.

Among the notices of motion, Mayor Don Scott issued a motion concerning an accelerated flood mitigation plan.

Councillor Keith McGrath issued a second notice on trade agreements for local contractors.

Councillor Jeff Peddle also issued a notice of motion calling for a hold on Capital Projects for the Lower Townsite.

READ MORE: Long list of priorities at next RMWB Council meeting

Council heard presentations from CAO Jamie Doyle on flood recovery and Deputy CAO Matthew Hough about the boil water advisory.

Doyle announced the state of local emergency (SOLE) for COVID-19 response lapsed on May 8, 2020.

The SOLE tied to flood response and recovery covers both the flood and COVID-19.

Doyle said the return of potable water service to the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre is a top priority.

Hough said the RMWB will release water testing information at a later date.

Kevin Weidlich, President and CEO of the Wood Buffalo Economic Development Corporation also presented an update from the Business Recovery Task Force Update.

He announced the scope of the task force includes recovery from COVID-19 and the 2020 Flood.

Weidlich also presented a list of locally-driven recommendations the task force compiled.

The four properties included in the forgiveness recommendation are rural non-residential with the exception of designated industrial properties, rural small business, urban non-residential, and urban other properties.

He also said the task force scheduled two future virtual roundtables on the provincial disaster recovery program.

Mayor and Councillors eventually approved the 2020 Property Tax Rate Bylaw.

READ MORE: Tax relief on the way for residents from RMWB Council

The bylaw will reduce overall revenue across the Municipality by $168-million.

RMWB Council decided a motion to amend the so-called Fees, Rates, and Charges Bylaw and waive water fees during the boil water advisory.

The reduction on water billing fees for residential and commercial properties would run until Aug. 31, 2020, resulting in $2.4-million.

Unfinished and New Business

RMWB Council voted unanimously to defeat the motion calling for a Social Distancing Enforcement Bylaw in Fort Chipewyan.

Mayor Don Scott withdrew his amendment to include a curfew prior to that vote.

He said the hamlet moved on to another strategy to protect residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

RMWB Council also approved the Rural Area Water and Wastewater Service Connection Bylaw.

Following a tight 6-5 vote, Mayor and Councillors next approved a motion to bring forward within 30 days the Relocation Pilot Project.

The Wood Buffalo Economic Development Corporation (WBEDC) and the administration organized the project.

It includes incentives like financial assistance that would match employers up to $5000 for a minimum three-year term.

Councillors who dissented argued against providing transient workers with tax dollars and potentially interfering with the mobility rights of Canadians.

RMWB Council voted 9-2 to defer a motion to form a multi-sector social recovery task force.

The administration would collaborate with the Social Sustainability Plan Committee on this initiative.

If approved, the task force would develop programming to aid residents following the COVID-19 pandemic and the flooding, and produce budget recommendations to RMWB Council.

The next Council meeting is on May 27, 2020.