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COVID-19 Recovery Plan Update, February 2021

Feb 9, 2021 | 0 comments

COVID-19 Recovery Plan Update

February 2021

 

In May 2020, Innisfail Town Council approved the Town’s COVID-19 recovery framework. Three areas of focus were identified to help the municipality respond, adapt, and eventually emerge. While recovery efforts remain underway, the following update offers a look at the progress that’s been achieved as of February 2021. All of the items presented were either developed or adapted as a direct result of the pandemic.

 

Click here to download a PDF copy of the update


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  • In 2020, the Town managed to complete all capital projects that had been approved prior to the start of the pandemic.
  • To account for pandemic-related expenses and avoid a tax rate increase, the 2021 Budget was carefully reduced by four per cent.
  • The Town has maintained its usual service standards while adjusting to ongoing new restrictions in the workforce.

 

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Community Resources

A resource request form and a resource information/contact card were developed and shared as a means of ensuring Innisfail residents had uninterrupted access to the various supports available to them. Referrals and information were provided accordingly.

 

Online Programming

Town social, cultural and recreational programs have been optimized for the digital realm. Yoga and ‘Movers & Groovers’ are among those now offered online to keep Innisfail residents active and healthy during prolonged periods of homestay.

 

Friendly Callers

The Town amped up its Friendly Callers program as a means of reducing loneliness and isolation among community members in light of increased restrictions around public and social gatherings.

 

Innisfail Connects

The Town supported and helped facilitate the Innisfail Connects program, designed to provide ongoing interaction for older adults through programming offered by phone and through digital media.

 

Referrals & Information

Town FCSS (Family & Community Support Services) staff have provided community members with ongoing information, referrals and guidance pertaining to a variety of topics, including financial assistance, mental health and more.

 

Winter Activity Kits

The Town supported and helped facilitate the creation and distribution of Winter Activity Kits, designed to stimulate and encourage mental and physical activity for community members of all ages.

 

Facilities Safely Reopened

As a means of encouraging safe, socially distanced physical activity, the Town reopened a number of Town facilities to public use, developing and implementing a set of facility-specific guidelines for each (playgrounds, dog park, skatepark, arena, pool, etc.).

 

Outdoor Rink Addition

To increase the availability of safe outdoor spaces in light of increased restrictions around social gatherings, the Town added another outdoor ice rink to the community. The new rink opened at Centennial Park in December 2020.

 

Facility User Fees

Recognizing the detriment of the pandemic on local sports teams and facility users, the Town refrained from increasing facility user fees in 2020, despite a review of the Town’s facility fee schedule having been scheduled.

 

Fee Assistance Program

The Town introduced a Fee Assistance Program aimed at removing barriers to participation in recreation and culture programs as a result of financial hardship. Recipients may receive up to $200 toward eligible programs and activities.

 

Community Funding Support

The Town, through the Community Grant Program, continued to support events and activities optimized for, and adapted to, pandemic-related restrictions. In partnership with Elemental Energy, a new Community Benefit Program was also introduced, providing funding for eligible community-based projects, events and initiatives.

 

#StayHome Superheroes

In a bid to boost morale among the community’s youth, the Town’s Fire & Protective Services Department facilitated a number of birthday ‘drive-bys’ featuring a convoy of emergency response vehicles.

 

Men’s Mental Health

The Town supported and helped facilitate the delivery of the Real Talk with Men 2021 men’s mental health calendar campaign. Thousands of calendars, coasters and posters were printed to help end societal stigma around men’s mental health issues.

 

Dementia Friendly Community

The Town supported and participated in the Dementia Friendly Community initiative, helping raise awareness of the needs of community members living with dementia. Town staff undertook training to learn how to recognize signs of dementia — and how to support the individuals experiencing them.

 

Youth Engagement

Recognizing the importance of engaging and mobilizing youth both during a pandemic and otherwise, the Town continued to build capacity in engaging the community’s youth demographic. Work through the Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) saw a number of ‘COVID-friendly’ events and activities take place. 

 

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Letter to Premier Kenney

Mayor Romane, acting on behalf of council with the intent of supporting small business, submitted a letter to Premier Jason Kenney in January 2021 advocating for the easing of restrictions in a manner that directly aligns with a region’s number of active cases.

 

Economic Development Plan Adopted

Council in November 2020 adopted a recovery-focused economic development plan encompassing a series of action items to be carried out over the coming year. A number of the plan’s items — including the development of an urban design plan — were provided for in the 2021 Budget.

 

Budget 2021

As a means of providing some financial relief to the community’s residents and businesses, council in December 2020 approved 2021 Operating & Capital Budgets with a zero percent tax rate increase.

 

Park Use Pilot Program

To further enable and support businesses in being able to adapt their product and service offerings, council in February 2021 approved the creation of a pilot program allowing for private businesses to hold certain organized recreation/leisure activities in parks.

 

Utility Bill Penalties Waived

To help residents and businesses navigate the earliest stages of the pandemic, the Town in April 2020 waived late fees on all outstanding utility bill balances for a period of several months.

 

Property Taxes Deferred

The Town also waived late fees on the payment of municipal property taxes during a period spanning July 2020 to January 2021. The measure was intended to provide temporary financial relief to both residents and businesses.

 

Economic Development Plan Implemented

Town staff in January 2021 initiated the first steps toward implementing the recently adopted Economic Development Plan. A number of stakeholder engagements were held, and early research was undertaken into the potential development of a new entity/governing body that would help foster and facilitate local economic development.

 

New Business Welcome

The Town introduced a ‘New Business Welcome’ feature into its various communication streams. The brief message brought awareness to new business licenses issued over the course of the preceding month, creating awareness of the new businesses to which they were issued.

 

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Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC)

The Town in March 2020 activated its Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) as a means of mobilizing the staff and resources needed to respond and adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. The ECC continues to meet regularly to work toward and ensure the community’s safety.

 

State of Local Emergency (SOLE)

The Town in March 2020 declared a State of Local Emergency, allowing for enhanced intergovernmental coordination and creating the ability to exercise special authority in the interest of public safety, if needed. The SOLE lapsed in June 2020.

 

Organizational Structure Adjustments

A number of adjustments were made to the Town’s corporate structure with the intent of strengthening the municipality and resulting in enhanced services to the community. The appointment of Meghan Jenkins to the previously vacant Community Services Director position was just one of several such adjustments made.

 

Ongoing Stakeholder Engagements

The Town continues to regularly engage and liaise with stakeholders at all levels of government — and with the various public health authorities associated therewith. The resulting ongoing dialogue ensures Innisfail remains well positioned to both adapt and respond to quickly changing circumstances.

 

Business Continuity Plan

The Town continues to effect the provisions of a Business Continuity Plan developed and implemented in direct response to the pandemic. The plan provides for the continuation of essential municipal services in the event of a wide-scale pandemic-related disruption. 

 

COVID-19 Updates & Information

The Town continues to issue regular updates on municipal operations as they relate to, and are affected by, the COVID-19 pandemic. Updates and information have been posted on an ongoing basis to social media, through the Town website and in print via the ‘Town Voice’ newspaper ad.

 

Council Meetings Live Streamed

When gathering restrictions eliminated the ability to meet in person, council continued to conduct all of its public meetings remotely via ‘Zoom’. Although meetings have since resumed in person, live digital streaming continues to take place.

 

Facilities Staff Reassigned

When COVID-19 forced the closure of recreational facilities, the staff who managed and operated them were reassigned to other municipal departments. The move allowed for the uninterrupted continuity of staffing and created efficiencies by enhancing the services of other departments.

 

Digital Public Engagement

Although circumstances prevented the Town from holding in-person engagements over the course of the year, a number of previously planned events were successfully optimized for, and held in, the digital realm. Feedback and information sessions were held for the Innisfail Heliport, economic development planning, the Policing & Safe Community Committee and more.

 

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold in the weeks and months to come, the Town will continue to both monitor and respond to changing circumstances on an ongoing basis.

 

For updates as they become available, visit www.innisfail.ca/covid19.

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