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Municipality of Jasper campaigning against COVID

Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter | reporter@fitzhugh.ca

‘Working together to support each other and local businesses’ is part of the message in a new campaign in Jasper, Be the Reason Jasper Stops COVID-19. 

Jasper residents are being encouraged to continue following measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19, with local and provincial masking mandates in effect in public places.

Mayor Richard Ireland delivered a message on video, asking potential visitors to Jasper to consider provincial directives and local circumstances before coming to town.

With 43 active cases of COVID-19 in Jasper on Dec. 21, and 34 on Dec. 22, the municipality remains in the top 20 communities in the province with the highest case rates per 100,000 population.

Gord Hutton, Buildings and Asset Manager, presented an Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) update at Jasper Municipal Council’s committee of the whole meeting Dec. 22.

He said there has been a decrease in cases both in town and province, although hospitalizations were “quite high”. As of Dec. 22, there were 802 Albertans in hospital with the virus, 152 of whom were in the ICU.

“Locally, we’ve done what we can,” Hutton said, noting rates may be affected over the Christmas season. 

He said the ECC team will be monitoring the situation.

Councillor Bert Journault asked Hutton, “Has there been an area that caused us to go so high, so quickly?” 

He wanted to know why numbers climbed and how they can be reduced. 

Hutton said Alberta Health Services is reserved about details in cases, in general. With contact tracing, Hutton said it’s effective only if people choose to use it.

As of Dec. 22, 16 of Jasper’s 34 active cases were connected to Alpine Summit Seniors Lodge, operated by the Evergreens Foundation.

Deputy mayor, Paul Butler, is chair of the Evergreens Foundation. He said staff at the lodge “have been nothing short of exemplary” in their care of residents. 

“I hope the community realizes these things happen, despite heroic efforts to avoid an outbreak,” he said, acknowledging the efforts of both medical and Alpine Summit staff.

Balancing utilities

Deciding what direction to take with the 2021 Utility Fees Bylaw was a balance between setting rates that will support the town’s infrastructure needs and being cognizant of the financial hit residents and businesses have taken in the turmoil of the COVID pandemic. 

Council decided to go for a flat consumption rate, with an increase of 3.5 per cent for water and sewer rates and a five per cent increase for garbage and recycling rates. 

Following the meeting, Natasha Malenchak, director of Finance and Administration, said  “Collectively we are looking at about $175,000 extra in revenue on water, sewer, garbage and recycling.”

First, second, third and final readings for the 2021 Utility Fees Bylaw are scheduled for council’s Jan. 5 regular meeting.

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