2022 started off with repeated Colorado Lows and heavy rains, setting the stage for a very different year. That from Don Wiebe, Reeve for the Municipality of Rhineland.
"A lot of time and energy went in to clean-up and repairing roads, crossings, etc. The Border Road again, that repair alone was a big project because it really got tested in the spring flooding," said Wiebe.
At the end of the day, the Municipality submitted a Disaster Financial Assistance claim as a result of the wet spring exceeding $6 million.
While the year got off to a wet start, the Municipality was able to check a few projects off the to-do list. That includes getting started on $4.8 million in improvements to its priority grain roads network.
Concrete work through the Rhineland Ag Park, north of Altona, was completed. Crews weren't quite able to finish concrete work to the road at the Rhineland West Ag Park near Winkler by the time the season came to an end, but Wiebe says they've been assured it will happen first thing in Spring. Phase two of the project, which will see drain tile installed along some of the priority roads, is also set to begin in 2023.
Additionally, old mechanical water metres in homes and businesses throughout Rhineland were replaced with new digital units that can be read remotely, saving administration time and improving the accuracy of readings.
In Plum Coulee, the landfill hit capacity and was decommissioned in 2022, with local waste now being routed to the Altona/Rhineland Landfill.
Meantime, Wiebe says the intent is to finally begin converting an old card box plant in Plum Coulee into a new fire hall and public works shop for the town this coming year. The highly anticipated project has been delayed since tenders came back nearly three times the estimated cost. A revised renovation plan has been finalized with a new budget of about $800,000.
Economic development was also a success for the municipality this past year. Building permits matched 2021 figures, and the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot Project was extended. As well, a development agreement has been completed for phase 2 of Rhineland West Ag Park.
As well, water and watershed management remained a municipal priority in 2022 and will continue to be so in 2023.
The Municipality of Rhineland joined the Pembina Valley Watershed District, allowing local producers access to various programming opportunities.
Wiebe is also encouraged by the Province's announcement to push forward with an updated water management strategy, however, he says it must include a holistic approach that encompasses municipal and provincial drain maintenance.
"One of the primary concerns that the management of municipal and provincial drains needs to be an integral part of that strategy," said Wiebe. "We (also) need to create a timely response to spring flooding or heavy summer rains, and to this, we are advocating for a collaborative and coordinated approach between the Municipality and provincial departments. It's so critical that, in the event of a spring flood, the drains and bridges are open in a timely fashion."
In addition, the Municipality, in tandem with the Pembina Valley Water Co-op, continues to seek out a long-term, dependable future supply of potable water. Wiebe says this is tied to economic and community growth.
2022 also saw some new faces around the Council table and in the municipal office.
As a result of the October civic election, Brad Wiebe and Hank Froese have joined Council. There is a new member of the L.U.D committee in Rosenfeld, and Travis Derksen was reappointed to the L.U.D. of Gretna committee filling a vacancy left after the election. An open spot remains on the L.U.D. of Plum Coulee committee, and Wiebe says the intention is to fill it in the New Year.
Additionally, John Blatz has been hired as the Municipality's new Chief Financial Officer, and Curtis Wall has come on board as a building inspector. As well, Scott Goddard has been hired as Safety Officer, a position shared with the Municipality, Town of Altona and the Border Land School Division.
Further planning for 2023 is also underway. Council recently wrapped up a community consultation exercise in advance of its 4-year strategic planning session.