Council allocated $35,000 in the 2023 budget for community organizations for programs and such that qualify under the Family and Community Support Services mandate. The first round of grants happened back in April and left over $27,000 in the account.
For the second round, the town had received three grant applications, totaling $14,485.40.
The biggest of these three was from the Northwest Central Alberta FASD Services Network Society: $10,000 for its Parent and Child Assistance Program. But it doesn’t qualify under the FCSS rules, town FCSS Director Darcy Comeau told council. Because the organization already receives funding from the federal and provincial governments for the program, it isn’t eligible for FCSS grants.
That left the applications from the High Prairie and District Children’s Resource Council (CRC) and the Lesser Slave Lake Regional Arts Council (RAC).
The CRC had asked for $3,370.40 for its Teen Program. It is described in Comeau’s written report as “everything you need, but won’t learn in school.’ This includes setting goals, dealing with distractions, time management, critical thinking, emotional intelligence and more. It is available for youth 12 – 17 years of age.
Councillor Ali Mouallem asked Comeau how many teens have taken part in Teen Program. It started out with six, she said, and ended with 10.
The Arts Council was requesting $1,115 to help with the cost of its recent Art in the Park event.
Comeau said both the CRC and RAC programs had received FCSS grants last year. In both cases, this year’s requested amounts were half of what was granted in 2022.
The FCSS grants fund now has $22,914.60 left in it. A further round of grant applications was not anticipated, but Comeau said she would like to do another one before the end of the year.
Let’s get the word out, said Mayor Francesca Ward.
Ec/Dev action update
Jason Swanson, the town’s economic development and communications manager, brought council up to speed on how the town’s economic development action plan is coming along.
It has four ‘pillars.’ These are:
· Economic development
· Business, investment and labour attraction
· Strengthening and supporting local business
Swanson went on to provide a few details on each of these, but before he got started, Councillor Ali Mouallem suggested putting the third item above the second one, as being more important.
“The priority should be supporting what’s already here,” he said.
Progress on the economic development pillar includes the ‘re-branding’ exercise the town did over the past couple of years, the hiring of an economic development officer and developing promotional materials.
The development of a business advisory council has been done, Swanson said. It has eight members and will meet quarterly.
Most of the questions from council were on the tourism side of things. Swanson was asked about a Destination Marketing Fund, for example. There had been one attempted once, he said, but it fell apart. It’s where hotels add a bit to their room rates and the money goes into a fund that can be used to promote visits, or events that bring visitors. It would be a project of a Destination Marketing Organization – which also existed once but doesn’t anymore.
It was noted that tournaments and such bring in lots of business. Could the town be promoting more of those, or even organizing some?
Typically, the town role is to facilitate, pointed out CAO Jeff Simpson; other groups – such as minor hockey or minor baseball – do the organizing.
How about bigger events, asked Councillor Shawn Gramlich, such as Alberta Winter Games or Arctic Winter Games. We’ve looked into it, Simpson said, but we lack certain infrastructure.
“A ski hill,” said Gramlich.
Next steps in attracting people to town are an “old-style tear-off map,” Swanson said. Also a marketing package aimed at getting more people to attend events, tournaments, etc.
State of the Lake
Whitefish visit – Mayor Ward mentioned a visit she and some councillors made recently to Atikameg at the invitation of Chief and Council of the Whitefish Lake First Nation. The town reps attended a community open house and later were guests at a meal. She said the Whitefish leaders made a point of thanking the town for welcoming Whitefish residents in the spring, who had been evacuated due to a wildfire threat.
“It was a lovely meal,” she said. “Kind words.”
Also, Ward said, “it was fascinating to see how another community operates.”
Besides Ward, Councillors Hughes, Gramlich and Mouallem attended.
by Joe McWilliams