• Lorna Hamilton

Community Conversation


From left, Councillors Gregg Barr, Clint McCullough, Mayor Caroline McAuley, Councillors Robert Pulyk and Richard Yaceyko and Cpl Mike Dunsmore of the Vermilion RCMP detachment, posing at the Community Conversations event. Photo Lorna Hamilton


The Town of Vermilion has been experimenting with different ways to engage with the community and on September 29, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. they held a Community Conversation at the Vermilion Heritage Park Oven.

“We have been trying different ways to get engagement with the community and thought that a more informal way of chatting outside of the Town Hall would be an effective way,” said Mayor Caroline McAuley, who went on to say that she wants people to feel free to ask questions.

During the event, attendees had the opportunity to share their thoughts and ask questions concerning the Town with Mayor McAuley, town council members and Cpl. Dunsmore from the Vermilion RCMP Detachment. Community members were also provided the opportunity to submit a question or comment to the CAO or Mayor by email.

Mayor McAuley addressed the crowd informing them of what the council has been working on and the plans for the next year.

“Council did a strategic plan three years ago now (and it’s hard to believe) we only have one year left in our term so I want to give you an update on some of the things we have been working on, and what’s remaining in this next year and some of the challenges we are going to face and questions we have for you as to how we move forward,” said McAuley.

McAuley informed attendees that they are always invited to attend council meetings and that they have a section on their agenda called public commentary where members of the public can speak to the council whether they are bringing bricks or bouquets.

“Generally it is a two-minute talk, and it can’t be about something on the agenda because we will be discussing that already, but otherwise feel free to come anytime or you can send an email to mayor@vermilion.ca or cao@vermilion.ca and we will bring that forward to council, so you always have a venue there,” said McAuley.

In her opening comments, Mayor McAuley addressed some of the items the Town has been working on as well as some of the challenges they have been facing with the Provincial Government.

“One of the key things we were looking at this term was economic development, so we spent a considerable amount of time and energy bringing new businesses to our community as you have seen on Mainstreet over the last 2.5 years, it’s quite a different place than it was when we came onto the council,” stated McAuley.

McAuley also stressed that the restaurant chain McDonalds was still coming to Vermilion.

“COVID came and they {McDonald’s} were looking at opening over 10 new locations this year but they had to go down to two because of COVID, so they will be coming this spring. In June you will start seeing trucks and equipment there and hopefully be open by the 2021 school year” said McAuley.

She also went on to speak in regards to the changes at the old Webb’s building and announced that the property is now owned by Baddocks.

“They are doing some amazing work in making us more of an Ag centre here so we thank them for building in our community,” stated McAuley.

According to McAuley, the Town hosted a very successful online festival that provided businesses in Town the know-how of online shopping and how to promote their products online. Also, she commented on the progression of the Waste Water Treatment Plant and stated, “We anticipate it will be opening by March.”

McAuley went on to explain that they still need to work on the Ice Plant which will cost approximately $2.2 million, and went on to say that the council has put over half a million dollars in reserves and that they are currently looking at a grant which they hope to receive another half a million dollars leaving the Town still requiring about $1.2 million to finish the project.

“There is a committee that is looking at doing some fundraising, and we are hoping to reach out to the County as well for some support,” stated McAuley.

McAuley informed attendees of an eager beaver who is trying to build a dam and needs to be relocated, how the Town has been very successful with COVID precautions, and that they are in regular contact with AHS (Alberta Health Services), and she also spoke on the new broadband project which was “lit up last week.”

Also discussed during were the challenges the Town has faced with the Provincial Government who have initiated rural communities to pay for policing, have made cuts to grants the Town would normally receive in lieu for provincial buildings.

“We have received a $90,000 bill this year for policing and next year it will be up to $130,000 and after 4 years will be looking at $225,000, so we are working with the province trying to understand what that means in terms of increasing the policing service in our community,” said McAuley who also added in regards to the grant cuts, “Our council is quite committed that we will try to keep taxes at the same level, last year we did not have a tax increase and that is our plan for this, but recognizing that as cost go up there may be changes in service delivery we may have to look at so that continues to be a challenge, we are open to suggestions from community members.”

Cpl Dunsmore who represented the Vermilion detachment said that they are open for business as usual.

“Our front door is locked and closed to the public however there is a phone right beside the front door and if you need us pick up the phone and you will get connected to a dispatcher in the after business hours, but during the day your call will be answered by office staff. If you need something within the detachment we will have that discussion and if we can serve you personally we certainly will and if we can avoid that personal contact if possible we will take steps to do that as well.

As far as the detachment goes, I am happy to report that we are fully staffed, and although there is movement on the horizon, as is normal for the RCMP, in our operations we have taken steps to ensure we don’t get saddled with unnecessarily long vacancies while we wait for members to transfer in.

In the past year, the RCMP in conjunction with the county has secured funding for two enhanced positions; this means that positions have been paid for in part by the County to supply enhanced policing above what’s already in place. What does that mean for Vermilion itself, because again those are coming from the County, that means there are two positions and although they are physically housed out of Kitscoty they are available for the whole County of Vermilion River, that means Vermilion members get much-needed assistance when required without having to draw resources from farther away such as St. Paul with the Eastern Alberta District Crime Reduction Unit who we rely on for bigger and more involved operations,” said Cpl Dunsmore.

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