Meeting held to discuss “progress, pot and partnerships”

About 75 people gathered at the OCC Hall in Kamsack on March 20 to participate in a session called by town council to discuss “progress, pot and partnerships.”

The meeting was divided into four parts, with members of council discussing progress council has made in a number of areas and directions it wished to proceed on other matters.

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Council members also outlined the federal, provincial and municipal responsibilities regarding the proposed cannabis legislation.

Robert Ritchie, president of the newly-formed Kamsack Business Association, talked about that group, and S/Sgt. Kirk Badger talked about policing in the community.

Council members, Ritchie and Badger also talked about the proposed cannabis legislation and the presumed effects of pot on a community.

Mayor Nancy Brunt opened the meeting with a welcome and then introduced members of town council and administration and senior staff members.

Council’s objective is to maintain and upgrade its infrastructure, promote Kamsack as a healthy and safe place to establish roots and call home and to oversee “organizational excellence.”

Discussing progress to date, council members said that since 2014, the Town has invested $445,000 in replacement equipment for public works, has invested $494,500 in repaving and micro-surfacing of streets, used innovative solutions to extend life of sidewalks and hired a public service worker with many years of experience in concrete work.

Progress at the fire department includes the construction of the new fire hall in 2014, and the purchasing of a newer rescue truck in 2016, a new quad and trailer in 2017, and new Jaws of Life vehicular extraction equipment in 2017.

Regarding recreation facilities, it was said that in the past four years the Town has invested over $168,000 in maintenance and upgrades at the Broda Sportsplex; spent over $65,000 on repairs at the pool since 2014, began work on the walking trail, replaced several wooden ramps at the skate park and has begun to create a disc golf park at the sportsgrounds.

Council members said they wish to continue to invest in equipment and infrastructure upgrades as needed and as afforded, recognizing that dump trucks and the fire truck are nearing the “end of life.”

It was said that the long-term viability of the Crowstand Centre must be determined as well as the cost of any upgrades and have that compared to a new structure that might be constructed to contain the town office, the library, courtrooms and meeting rooms.

Similarly, council plans to undertake a project to revitalize the OCC Hall with a possible new name. Fees for community-based non-profit groups were waived for one year on a trial basis, it was said.

There are nine measurable goals council would like to achieve, including ensuring the availability of quality medical services, Councillor Claire Bishop said. Also included is the continuation of lobbying the Saskatchewan Health Authority for a new, more modern computerized lab system.

Council wants to promote and encourage affordable safe housing, said Councillor Jarod Ruf. Accomplishments to date includes a tax concession policy for new homes, an adjacent lot purchase policy, a strengthening relationship with Sask Housing, the demolition of tax title properties that are sub-standard and working with Sask Housing to simplify application process.

In 2018, council hopes to encourage Sask Sousing to revisit policies so that empty units are filled, identify other uses for vacant Sask Housing units, and implement a fire/safety inspection on rental properties.

“We want to develop an effective advertising campaign to make sure people know Kamsack is a great place to live,” Bishop said, explaining that council has created a new Kamsack brochure, implemented targeted social media ads and reduced the size of the weekly newspaper ad, thereby reducing costs and repetition.

Council still wants to work with the Kamsack Business Association on branding and investigate video billboard advertising in Yorkton for specific events, she said.

“We wish to review, revise and create bylaws to suit community needs and demographics,” Ruf said, adding that to that aim council has hired a solicitor with municipal law experience and has given two readings to a proposed loitering and public nuisance bylaw.

He said council is investigating street cameras in the downtown core and plans to revamp nuisance and building bylaws to address vacant commercial buildings.

When it was said that some people have complained of having felt intimidated when attempting to do business in the main street area, a resident of the area was applauded when she explained that having lived and walked about the area all her life she has yet to feel threatened or intimidated.

Bishop said that council hopes to maintain strong partnerships with daycares, schools and other education al facilities and Ruf explained that council wants to develop and maintain recreation programs and facilities.

“We want to promote growth and viability of arts and culture,” Bishop said.

Council wants to ensure quality protective services by working with partners on strategies to address downtown issues, and has already hired a director of protective services, Ruf explained.

“We want to develop opportunities for economic development and tourism,” Bishop said, pointing to the creation of the new business association and a revised sign policy as concrete accomplishments. She said council is developing a job description for an economic or community development officer, looking at ways to address empty buildings downtown and the possibility of creating a rest stop at the former Arrow Café property.

There are five measurable targets for organizational excellence, said Councillor Maria Nahnybida.  They include: encourage on-going training and professional development for staff; implementing the best practices in all area of responsibility; develop productive regional partnerships; ensure town operations are financially sustainable and provide strong stewardship from council.

Councillor Jason Pennell outlined the federal and provincial legislation regarding cannabis and said that the municipal government can develop bylaws to establish which zones cannabis retailers can be located, a land use policy regarding commercial production within town limits, restrict where cannabis can be grown (indoors or outdoors) and may define security requirements for production facilities.

It was said that because the population of the community falls below the minimum threshold for a community to have a cannabis retailer, it may be a year to 18 months after legalization before a second wave of communities may request consideration.

As president of the Kamsack Business Association, Robert Ritchie introduced its board of directors: Wayne Sas, April MacDonald, Mike Guillet, James Perry and Kerri Bletsky (secretary).

Ritchie explained that 90 per cent of district businesses have been contacted with requests of participation and he was applauded when he explained that the Kamsack tax gap for business owners has been reduced.

He asked if the Garden of Saskatchewan slogan was still relevant, talked about ways to market the community and its growing social media presence and said it was vital to have an economic development manager hired.

He said a list of volunteers is being compiled and encouraged people to have their names on that list by contacting James Perry.

Discussing policing, S/Sgt. Kirk Badger explained that the detachment has 18 members, including 14 constables, one staff sergeant, one sergeant and two corporals and described its jurisdiction which extends to the Porcupine Provincial Forest to the north, Wroxton to the south, the Manitoba boundary to the east, and Highway No. 637 to the west.

The detachment makes use of 14 guards, who this year alone attended to 121 prisoners. Last year Kamsack had 567 prisoners and 3,743 calls for service, he said. Of those calls, 1,529 were from Kamsack; 80 from Norquay; 640 from Cote First Nation; 511 from Keeseekoose First Nation; 110 from The Key First Nation, and 873 from the surrounding rural municipalities.

He said there has been a decrease in reported property crimes, and explained that with the new cannabis legislation there may be an effect on impaired driving. The legislation will lessen the burden on RCMP relating to the enforcement, but it is expected to contribute to a significant increase in related activities, he said.

Organized crime in the province is seeking to expand, Badger said, adding that gangs within the detachment area have continued to grow and become more prevalent over the past five years and are expected to continue to exhibit similar growth in the future.

Regarding impaired driving, a person suggested the high incidents of impaired driving might be attributed to the fact of no public transportation, and Badger commended younger people because often now, a carload of young party-goers would include a non-impaired driver, whereas that was not the case several years ago.

Badger told the community to expect another P.A.R.T.Y. (Prevent Alcohol-related Trauma in Youth) exercise in the community this year.

During the meeting informational displays were set up by Assiniboine Health and Wellness Foundation the Kamsack Recreation Board, the fire department, the Kamsack Business Association and SIGN (Society for the Involvement of Good Neighbours).