Although it was quite a difficult year due to COVID-19 and all that came with it, the Town of Rimbey went forward with a number of projects and initiatives to assist residents during 2020, the year that was like no other.
“It was, and still is, quite the circumstance with the pandemic,” said Rimbey Mayor Rick Pankiw in an interview on Jan. 7.
“It’s been quite the 12 months.”
The regular annual maintenance and repair work went ahead, such as road repair and sidewalk replacement where needed.
One larger project was repairing infrastructure and replacing the sidewalk in front of the Rimbey Junior Senior High School, as there’d been a number of issues there over the last couple of years.
The road repairs needed at the intersection south of the hotel will be a $5 million project, but the town did some overlay work in the meantime. They hope to begin Phase I of the repair project come summer 2021.
Although the Peter Lougheed Community Centre has been closed for a good part of the year, and no one has been able to see them, the town undertook a “massive” washer upgrade at the centre, says Pankiw.
A back up generator was also installed at the centre and a new Zamboni was purchased for the arena.
Extensions were made to the Evergreen Walking Trails this year and the town completed Phase I of the streetlight replacement program on the west side of town on Hwy. 53.
A new well was dug and installed in order to continue to provide an adequate water supply for the town.
With less taxes coming in, and arena, community centre and fitness centres closed for most of the year, the town had little to no cash flow for the year, so used reserves and operational funding provided from the province.
Rimbey was one of the few municipalities in the province to defer all property and utility taxes without penalty right up until Dec. 31, 2020, says Pankiw.
The town will undergo budget deliberations for the 2021 operating and capital budgets in February and March, and Pankiw says he’s confident the town will produce a zero per cent tax increase budget, as it has for the past two years.
He says during this time where people are either not working, or working less, it’s the town’s duty to not increase taxes.
The town is also proud to be able to say it retained all of its staff, though if difficult times continue into 2021, different decisions may need to be made.
Until now, staff were either reassigned to different departments or to other tasks such as maintenance.
“We did not lay off a single staff member due to COVID-19,” said Pankiw.
“We’ve done our best to retain our staff because they’re good staff.”
The pool opened in July and at the start of winter, the arena had opened, but was closed in December due to the four-week provincial shutdown.
Now the town, with the rest of the province, is waiting to hear if restrictions will be lifted as of Jan. 12, or if they will be extended.
“We still don’t know what’s next … we’re all waiting to find out.”