What’s Happening at Swan Valley West?

Submitted by:
Reeve, Verne Scouten
On behalf of the Council for the
Municipality of Swan Valley West
To say that the Municipality of Swan Valley West has had an interesting start would be somewhat of an understatement.

The amalgamation of the RM of Swan River and the Village of Benito has not been without its challenges. It has been up to the new council to find a way to manage the successful merger of two very distinct entities with their own unique needs and issues. Understanding this, each member of our council continues to be committed to doing their best to create a municipality that is run efficiently and effectively.

After over 100 years of the RM and the Village operating as independent neighbours, the new council and their staff have been given the arduous task of creating a brand new municipality while still managing to maintain the day-to-day needs of the new entity. There has been a very steep learning curve for the members of council and the municipal staff, but we feel we are up to the challenge and look forward to creating a new & vibrant municipality.

The role of council has also changed significantly from that of previous councils as a result of this amalgamation and the new focus on roads and drainage that have been neglected for several years. Councillors must now take a little more of a ‘hands on’ approach to running the municipality in order to improve the roads & drainage and to ensure that well established policies and by-laws are developed that meet the needs of both the urban and the rural areas of the municipality. This more involved role of council has resulted in an increase in indemnities for those members who have been appointed to more time consuming committees as approved by the council. This makes it impossible to compare the current indemnities being paid to council with the indemnities paid to the councils in the past. As more of the organization, planning and policy making is completed, there will be less time required of the members of council, which should in turn result in lower monthly indemnities. Having said this, any ratepayer who has a question or concern about the decisions and expenditures of the council is encouraged to contact the CAO or myself (as the head of council) for an explanation.

This municipal council is committed to being open and honest. Not all questions can be answered immediately, and may take a little time for a complete and accurate answer to be provided. Although we may want to provide the answers to all questions, there are privacy issues, legal restrictions and ongoing negotiations that may restrict those answers. In the end, it’s your money we’re spending, so we will make every effort to be transparent. We assure you we are devoted to doing our best for the ratepayers of the Municipality of Swan Valley West.

This first year we have regular maintenance and 2014 flood repairs to complete, as well as taking on a fairly ambitious schedule of new projects in the rural area and in the Benito LUD. It is going to take all members of the council and the municipal staff working together as a team in order to reach our goals. People will notice a recent flurry of activity at the Benito Water Treatment Plant, the Benito Access Road and several other roadways in the rural area. There is also maintenance being done on secondary roads, which may not have seen any attention in well over 10 years. The reality is that the new farm equipment is bigger, heavier and more expensive than ever before. A rough old dirt road, half covered in grass, overgrown with willows, is no longer adequate access for today’s farmers. With the higher values placed on farmland today, and the amount of taxes collected from these producers, there is no such thing as ‘a road to nowhere’.

The process of building a new municipality and reclaiming some of our neglected municipal roadways will take some time and will cost additional money, but we feel we are headed in the right direction and are off to a pretty good start. This council feels strongly that, in the end, this will be money well spent and, when spread out over several years, will not be cost prohibitive for the ratepayers.

Municipal Government is the level of government that is closest to the people, and we welcome the input of the ratepayers (including their concerns) because we believe that your contributions help to make us a better council.

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