News Rockies

Jasper’s new CAO a former Grande Prairie mayor

Bill Given was appointed as the municipality’s Chief Administrative Officer at the Jan. 5 regular council meeting. Given is from Grande Prairie where he served as mayor for 11 years and as a councillor for nine years. (Photo supplied)

JASPER – Jasper municipal council welcomed Bill Given after officially appointing him to the position of Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) at their Jan. 5 regular meeting.

Given hails from Grande Prairie where he served as mayor for 11 years and a councillor for nine. He thanked council “for the opportunity to serve and for the invitation and privilege of joining you as a Jasperite.”

“I’m looking forward to my family joining me later on this spring,” Given said. “My thanks to council for the selection, and I am committed to working to ensure that your direction is implemented because I know you have the interests of the community at heart.”

Given thanked the members of administration as well.

“The welcome that I received at this early stage is exemplary. I am so pleased to be joining a high-functioning team, with Jasper administration.”

Mayor Richard Ireland gave credit to John Greathead, interim CAO for the last two months, saying the service from him was exceptional.

“I want to acknowledge you met and exceeded our expectations. You held the ship together in a remarkable stormy seas and exemplary fashion.”

An eye on COVID

The Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) team has kept an eye on COVID numbers over the last two weeks locally, across the province and in Canada, according to Gordon Hutton, Buildings and Asset Manager.

“There is some optimism out there,” Hutton told council. “Although we still see some staggering numbers across the country, it does appear that in many regions the active cases are trending down. In Canada as of yesterday, we had over 600,000 total cases. Alberta topped out at over 105,000 (total cases) and Jasper was sitting at 181. We are down to nine active cases.”

Hutton thanked those who have adhered to provincial guidelines and recommendations to bring the case count down in Jasper.

“We did experience one local death (over the holidays) for a total of five,” Hutton said.

He said those out and about were respectful of distance, mindful of masking and willing to comply with what the town is asking them.

“It’s not a time to let our efforts down though,” Hutton said. “We are still a resort town that has seen visitors come to travel and ski our wonderful settings. We do see a couple of reports of variance in the COVID virus coming out in different locations around the world, and we’re hoping this does not play significantly, but it’s all something we’re monitoring.”

Coun. Bert Journault noted vaccinations commenced in Jasper as of Jan. 2. He described this as a “good start.”

Updates to Face Covering Bylaw

Council gave third reading to a Bylaw #231, a second amendment to Bylaw #228, the Temporary Compulsory Face Covering Bylaw. The change makes wearing a mask mandatory for indoor public places in a way that covers the nose, mouth and chin.

The amendment also included the addition of indoor workplace, “which means any part of a building, structure or other enclosed area in which any group of people in excess of one, attend for the purpose of work or employment, including… attending for the purpose of performing a contract, or for performance of a trade, profession or calling.”

The bylaw is subject to application if Jasper returns to enhanced classification under provincial legislation. Ireland noted the municipality received certification for the amending bylaw from Parks Canada on Dec. 9. 

“It’s an interesting situation,” Ireland said. “We don’t know yet what the province will do at the end of the current regulatory regime (on Jan. 12).

Given reiterated provincial regulations would take precedence, and the bylaw is ready if needed.

“Even though we don’t need it now — we’re not enhanced — we may need it in the future if the numbers climb again and if the provincial guidelines change,” said Coun. Helen Kelleher-Empey. “It’s temporary. I don’t think there’s any harm in passing this today and having it on the back burner. Otherwise, we’re going to have to start the whole process over again.”

Coun. Scott Wilson agreed that having it available when and if needed is a good plan.

Utilities Fee Bylaw passed 

Jasper residents will see a few changes to utility bills after council gave third reading to the Utility Fees Levy and Collection Bylaw #232, for 2021. 

Council directed a 3.5-per-cent increase to water and sewer and a five-per-cent increase to garbage and recycling, resulting in an overall 3.94-per-cent increase to all levies, collectively equaling $176,176 over the 2020 levy amount of $4,469,142. 

In residential estimated changes provided by administration, based on 30 cubic meters water consumption over a two-month billing cycle, the water rate is $41.43, a 15-cent decrease; the sewer rate is $70.68, an increase of $7.26; and the garbage rate is $54.27, a decrease of $2.36. The recycling rate remains the same at $197.50.

In commercial estimated changes, based on 1,000 cubic meters water consumption over two months, the water rate is $1,378.24, a decrease of $4.90; the sewer rate is $2,342.23, an increase of $240.69; and the garbage rates is $288.35, a decrease of $12.53. Recycling remains the same at $31.12.

Wilson was opposed to the bylaw, saying with large commercial developments in town, the already-ailing infrastructure in town will be impacted even further, and Bylaw #232 as presented does not allow enough of an increase to help pay for infrastructure costs.

“I support a larger increase,” he said. “I feel all of a sudden we got cold feet.”

While other council members agreed with Wilson’s concerns, they said 2021 is not the year to implement bigger increases because of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on local businesses.

“We need to plan for future years, but this is not the year,” said Coun. Jenna McGrath.

“To a point, he’s completely correct,” Coun. Paul Butler added. “We have to find more revenue and direct it to our… infrastructure.”

Ireland said he shares Wilson’s views, but said, “We need something to move forward in the budget.”

Kelleher-Empey noted fees could be changed later in the year.

By Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Jasper Fitzhugh