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Rhineland reeve reflects

Lori Penner

Reeve Don Wiebe says they’ve spent some time looking back at the challenges and accomplishments of 2015.

Reeve Don Wiebe says they’ve spent some time looking back at the challenges and accomplishments of 2015.

ALTONA - 

The Municipality of Rhineland just celebrated their first anniversary as a newly-amalgamated entity.
Reeve Don Wiebe says they’ve spent some time looking back at the challenges and accomplishments of 2015. “We’ve kind of reorganized the municipality in terms of staff. We have a CEO, and a director of public works. We also now have a chief financial officer, and a community development officer. Being able to specialize roles in this way has allowed us to really focus on the needs of every sector in the new municipality.”
He adds that all the employee group agreements for the amalgamation have also been completed. Wiebe says council is also working with policy framework, introducing new policies, including one pertaining to social media. “How we communicate with the public is a vital part of functioning as a municipality.”
“We have with two new LUDs, which influences how we structure the budget. Now we’re looking back at last year’s budget, and how it worked out. It was a bit of a task to put the expenses in the new categories that were created, but now we’ll see how we’ve done, after staff completes their reports.”
The amalgamation also took some physical shuffling. “We still have a satellite office in Plum Coulee and the office in Gretna is now closed. We’re consolidated in Altona with our brand new office officially opening last November.”
“Lots of things have gone well with respect to public works. Communities still want to be cared for, so we really have to work on economic development in Gretna and Plum Coulee. We’ve come a long way, with communication strategy and working with the LUDs. We’ve been able to work in specialty areas, and we hope good things come out of that
The Municipality of Rhineland undertook some major projects in 2015, including the completion of the bridge on Road 9 West. They also received $1.2 million in federal and provincial grants, to resurface a number of priority roads within the municipality. “Progress has been good. We got about half of those done, including some paving and sewer relining projects in Plum Coulee, resurfacing a road near Rosengart, and also completing the walking path in Rosetown.”
Recently, council has been processing the results of a recreation survey which was completed last November. “We had two focus group meetings with service providers, in Gretna and in Plum Coulee where we met with a consultant for the project.”
Wiebe says the survey saw good participation, with about 100 people offering opinions on facilities and programs in the municipality. “That will give us a clearer picture of what’s working and what’s needed, as we respond to urban and rural needs.”
Wiebe says there are five active new subdivisions in and around Plum Coulee. “Some of the development agreements are complete, with negotiations begun on others.”
One of the subdivisions will offer about 60 lots, while some are still in the research and design phase. “This is very exciting for Plum Coulee, as it speaks to the affordable housing market.”
He says he is also very pleased that Manitoba Housing saw fit to rent out facilities in Gretna to Friesens Corp, for their recently expanded work force. “This will bring a big boost to Gretna, with about 17 units of a former seniors apartment used for housing.”
Another aspect of community development, Wiebe says, is talking to businesses, and seeing how they need to be supported. “We really want to get the word out that we appreciate the existing businesses and what they give to the municipality.”
Wiebe says they’re moving into 2016 more empowered and enlightened than they were a year ago. The municipal council will hold a two-day planning session at the end of January, to regroup and reflect on priorities for the coming year.
“We’ll be looking ahead and reviewing our strategic plan from last year. Essentially, we began with five big goals, and we want to take a look at what we’ve done and what still needs to be done in terms of those goals.”
He says the goals are still a good fit for the direction they want to take as a new municipality.
“We want to continue to look at communication strategies. We also want to finish more of the infrastructure work in terms of assessment, utilities and roads. There’s been good progress, but the work isn’t done.”
Good governance is another goal. “We want to continue to ask ourselves how we can remain an affective municipality, where we value the taxpayers contributions and ensure we do the most good where it’s needed.”
Wiebe says they want to develop strong connections with business, recreation, culture and tourism. “I’m on the Regional Connections board, Mark Ratzlaff is on the tourism committee, and two of our members are on the local immigration committee. So we’ve already got some solid connections.”
Another goal is be good stewards of the land. “The Red River Basin conference theme touched on the stewardship of land use. How do we look at our agricultural land base as a resource and how do we maintain it? How do we set it up so it sustains itself for future generations?”