I'd like to start out by thanking and acknowledging the hard work of the people who have been guiding our city through this COVID-19 pandemic.
The doctors, nurses, retail sector employees, truck drivers and all others; our Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) team; our first responders; our police; our staff enforcing bylaws, communicating and maintaining community safety; those in our city supporting their neighbours; those who are supporting community organizations with donations of time and money; and those working in food distribution.
Thank you to everyone following the guidelines and recommendations of the relevant health authorities. It is crucial we all follow and maintain these protocols. Please continue to listen to the advice of health professionals, especially the daily directions from Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health. For questions on testing and response to health questions, please call 811 or visit alberta.ca/covid.
We have been fortunate to this point in the South Zone, but we also can't become complacent. We know the many changes put in place may seem overly precautious, but I cannot stress enough how keeping people at home and physically distancing is the best way forward in combatting this pandemic. The message of staying at home, practicing good hand hygiene and physical distancing are taken directly from the experts. Our ECC works directly with the provincial government and the health experts to ensure the messaging and information we provide to you is accurate and timely. Our City Manager sends a daily update from the ECC to City Council and we are briefed on any changes to the local pandemic situation.
I have been asked many times recently on the municipality's role and that of the Province of Alberta. We have included a helpful graphic to showcase the jurisdictional responsibilities.
I have also been asked 'what are the Mayor and Council doing?' Approximately 16 subcommittees have been formed to address and support the community during the pandemic and to tackle everything from loneliness in our elderly residents to how to remain active outdoors safely for families and our youngest residents.
I am on weekly conference calls with the Premier, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and various other cabinet ministers. I am on regular conference calls with representatives from AHS South Zone and weekly phone calls with mayors from Alberta's mid-sized cities. The purposes of these consultations is to share information and co-ordinate next steps.
City Council recently heard a presentation from the Lethbridge Region Economic Recovery Task Force, a newly-formed group of key business stakeholders, who presented their short- and long-term plans to help the business community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and into the recovery period. City Council looks forward to receiving further updates and recommendations from the task force.
People have been asking why City Council is continuing projects such as 3rd Avenue reconstruction and development at Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden. These shovel-ready projects will provide jobs as well as economic recovery after the pandemic. The funding for these projects is solely provided by other orders of government for capital projects and can't be redirected to other means.
Lethbridge residents have the option to defer City utility payments for up to 90-days when faced with financial hardships related to COVID-19. The deferral program does not cancel these payments but it will provide temporary financial relief for those who need it. Anyone requiring a deferral of payment on City utilities including: electric, water/waste water and waste and recycling is asked to contact Lethbridge 311.
Some people have been asking what the City of Lethbridge will do with property tax due dates in 2020. I understand the financial stresses this pandemic is bringing to many households and want to assure residents that thoughtful and measured consideration is being given to this subject. I look forward to discussing it further with my fellow Councillors at an upcoming City Council meeting.
I have heard that some donation bins in the city have been either overflowing or being used as a dump site. If you are wanting to donate any items, please contact the organizations to see what their needs are and the best way to make your donation.
It is imperative that we limit social interactions and all do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19. Listen to the experts, be informed and ensure you're getting your information from factual and credible sources. The City has put together a single webpage with everything we're doing from a municipal standpoint plus some provincial, federal and World Health Organization resources, too. You can find all of this information at Lethbridge.ca/COVID19
We will get through this together, but only if we all take responsibility and do what we can to adhere to these public health messages. It's our responsibility to maintain a healthy community. I want to again thank everyone for doing their part.
I'd like to end my column on a lighter note and send my congratulations to Lethbridge's Kris Versteeg on his official retirement from the NHL. The two-time Stanley Cup winner has always been gracious with his time and philanthropy to his hometown. I wish him the best in what comes next. Kudos also to Lethbridge Hurricanes GM Peter Anholt for being named the WHL's Eastern Conference Executive of the Year. Well done, Pete. See you next season. And a final thanks to everyone who participated in the recent Green Shirt Day in honour and recognition of organ donation and of Lethbridge's own Logan Boulet and his family.