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May 2023 Mayor's Column

While many people may be excited about the hot forecast heading into the May long weekend, I urge residents to please exert caution in your actions and to be mindful of situations happening elsewhere in our province.

Alberta has nearly 100 wildfires currently, with nearly 12,000 people displaced from their homes (as of Thursday) in the central and northern parts of the province. About 25 per cent of those fires are classified as out of control by Alberta Wildfire.

On behalf of Lethbridge City Council, I want to send my best wishes and we will offer whatever support we are able to.

Last week, several City of Lethbridge staff, including our Emergency Planning & Risk Manager, were part of a provincial response team sent to assist with efforts in Drayton Valley. A team of four firefighters from Lethbridge was then deployed to help battle the Buck Creek Fire, with a second crew of four firefighters replacing them last weekend.

Through coordination with Alberta Health Services, Lethbridge also recently took in about 50 evacuees who were part of an assisted living facility and have been connected to similar sites here.

Kudos to all those who have helped in these efforts. I applaud each and every one of you.

As our hot and dry forecast settles in, I again strongly implore everyone to be aware of the high fire risk. Lethbridge Fire & EMS are asking residents to be responsible this summer and take action to prevent future wildfires around the city and region. More information is available here.

The City of Lethbridge is also advising residents to take care when outdoors as wildfire smoke has drifted into the city and area this week. The smoke is from wildfires currently burning in northern Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. There are no nearby fires contributing to the smoke being seen in our area. You can view our current Air Quality Health Index here. For a visual of the current wildfire and associated smoke, residents can follow the forecast map.

Another timely matter at hand is managing encampment concerns in our community.

City Council this week approved a coordinated Encampment Strategy. Working in partnership with Lethbridge Police Service, it has several goals including:

  • Supporting the most vulnerable by connecting them to housing and social supports
  • Ensuring parks and open spaces are safe and enjoyable for everyone
  • Preventing entrenchment to minimize health and safety concerns
  • Informing residents of how to report encampments
  • Keeping the community informed on encampment responses

Addressing homelessness takes significant resources, compassion and collaboration. We know we can’t solve homelessness overnight, which is why we have developed this strategy. It will help us manage the growing numbers of people experiencing homelessness in our community which, in the warmer months, we see in the form of encampments. More information on our Encampment Strategy is available here.

Council this week also approved the implementation of Harmonized School and Playground Zones – thus soon creating a single speed reduction zone with uniform year-round timing. This change will help create a safer environment for our children.

The new 30 km/h zones – combining existing School Zones to Playground Zones to create one zone – will be effective 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day of the year, starting in September 2023, to coincide with the start of the 2023/24 school year. This will also make Lethbridge consistent with municipalities in Alberta with existing Harmonized School and Playground Zones including Calgary, Medicine Hat, Red Deer, Edmonton and Coaldale. More information is available here.

This week marked the first city-wide collection of green carts in our city. They are collected on a different day from blue and black carts. Green carts will be collected weekly until October with bi-weekly collection from November to April.

Want reminders about which cart goes out when? Download the free smartphone app, Lethbridge Loop. Along with curbside pick-up dates, the Loop can notify residents about planned City services like neighbourhood street sweeping, planned electric outages and snow route notifications (hopefully we won’t have to deal with this one during the May long weekend, lol). If you have more questions on green carts and curbside organics, we have a Frequently Asked Questions section available here.

Last week, several members of Council were part of the official unveiling of the Organics Processing Facility, located at the City's Waste & Recycling Centre. It will receive and process all green cart materials collected from both the residential and commercial programs.

The opening is a step forward in positioning our city to be more sustainable. It will help us reach our target of diverting 65 per cent of residential waste from the landfill by 2030. Most importantly, it creates environmental benefits for Lethbridge now and into the future.

The curbside organics project, including the construction of the facility, cost $10,629,000 with funding support from both the Government of Canada and the Government of Alberta. The Government of Canada provided $5,879,000 from the Canada Community-Building Fund for the construction of the facility. The Government of Alberta provided $4,750,000 from the Municipal Sustainability Initiative to support the curbside organics program.

Residents will be able to collect free compost at three upcoming events in June and we look forward to finalizing the details of the compost program in the coming weeks. City compost will also be used in City parks and gardens and sold to agricultural partners for commercial use. Read more about the opening here.

Albertans will soon go to the polls for the 2023 Provincial Election. As a Municipality, we have many areas of interest and we will be excited to work with the next Provincial government to advance Lethbridge’s priorities.

Congratulations this month to:

  • CASA 10 year-anniversary and celebration last weekend
  • Christa Deguchi, who lives and trains in Lethbridge, who recently won a gold medal in the women’s under-57-kilogram at World Judo Championships in Doha, Qatar
  • Lethbridge’s Aaron Parsons, who recently won $55 million in the Lotto Maxjackpot
  • To all the high school graduates in our region this year. Congratulations on your accomplishment and best of luck in your future endeavours

Be kind to one another and Happy Victoria Day weekend, everyone!

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