By Cole Parkinson
Not many will look back fondly on 2020 as the pandemic halted normal life from the spring right until the last day of the year.
While it brought plenty of challenges for everyone, the Town of Vauxhall is happy with how they handled the process of bringing case counts down throughout the majority of the year.
“(It was) challenging but we persevered. COVID brought many challenges and changes to our community, just as it had so many others. Parents became teachers and assistants, some of us worked from home, and our indoor recreation became a thing of the past. However, with education and respect for each other, we followed the rules and lowered positive numbers,” said Mayor Margaret Plumtree. “We (town council) learned how to hold meetings online which was a little different when trying to hold important conversations but we adapted.”
Normal, everyday life may have looked and felt different but the Town of Vauxhall also was able to tackle several projects over the 12 months. While their biggest project — Vauxhall’s Centennial Celebration — was cancelled, they were still able to hold a small gathering to commemorate the centennial clock, which was installed in the late summer.
“As for community, the chamber and the centennial committee worked together to raise funds for the centennial clock which allowed for some celebrations and something that can remind us of our past and future when all other events were cancelled,” continued Plumtree.
Even with 2021 showing on the calendar, the first month of the new year has felt very similar to 2020, and town council is still quite aware of the challenges the pandemic continues to bring. Vaccines have started rolling out across the province at a slow rate but with general roll out now projected until fall, COVID-19 will still be on the minds of many for a large portion of 2021.
“As most of us have never faced a worldwide pandemic before, the mental health of each one of us is challenged. Never before have we faced restrictions like these in our day to day lives. People are mostly social beings, limiting contact to friends and family to just phone calls, text messages, and virtual means can leave us all feeling lonely. Therefore, I see our biggest challenges are for people to do the right thing and not visit each other’s homes and stay the course. I have seen these infractions continue by those who do not believe in the pandemic or those who believe their god will save them. The pandemic is real, it is a worldwide phenomenon, and god gives us the resources to protect ourselves. If we do not use the science and the medical advances available to us, we have no one to blame but ourselves. After all, if someone you know continues to do things that will harm them, like not wear a coat in the winter, do you feel bad for them when the inevitable happens? We have the science, technology and education to survive this, but will we use it?” asked Plumtree.
With the centennial celebration delayed until 2021, the hope is to celebrate the community’s birthday this coming summer, as long as the pandemic allows it. As the event is going to be held outside, everyone involved in planning for the celebration is confident it will be held sometime this summer. Along with the birthday, the town has several other projects they hope to see completed.
“Well, we did not get to celebrate our centennial last year, the committee will be getting together to make plans for this year, most likely with a focus on outdoor activities. I also look forward to residents getting the vaccine so we can open business, schools and recreation back up. The Town, the hall committee with the Vauxhall Ag Society have been working on funds for the Community Kitchen. Public works have completed the demolition and the work will begin soon,” said Plumtree.
“Thank you to all those who have made this much-needed renovation a reality,” continued Plumtree. “Last year things came to a stop due to COVID, although it is still here, it is time to get back to work. Through my work with the Brooks and District Chamber of Commerce, I will work with Danna from the Vauxhall and District Chamber of Commerce to get our businesses online this year and part of the regional online marketplace. COVID has expedited the need for businesses to be online to be competitive, I am excited to be assisting businesses to do just that.”
Come fall, along with the hopeful general distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, Vauxhallittes will be heading to the polls in the municipal election.
While Plumtree has spent the previous eight years on council, she still has yet to commit to another term this fall.
“It is a decision that cannot be taken lightly, as I will have completed eight years as mayor by then. The first four years were amazing. The library and pool were built, the new subdivision was created and council took a firm approach with the old barbershop and the building was renovated. However, the last four years have not produced much movement forward which if frustrating for someone like me. Although, I do have to remind myself that the community kitchen will be completely renovated this year. So, I have to ask myself, will another four years produce productivity and vitality for our community? Will I be allowed to bring ideas and vision to our council and committees?” asked Plumtree.
Another issue weighing on Plumtree’s mind is the turnover for a new council and how long it takes for a new council to get acclimated to the high-speed political landscape.
“However, the other consideration is that the UCP has been very fast-moving. Politically, this could be disastrous if the turnover in councils across this province is high. Anyone who has been on council can tell you, there is a plethora of information to learn and it is constantly changing. It takes about two to three years to really get a handle on everything. If we have a high turnover, who is going to know how to correctly navigate the municipal advocacy side of things? I spent five years on the Small Communities Committee at AUMA doing just that. I know some of our regional MLAs and MPs, ministers, regional partners and mayors and reeves from all over Alberta. I have the knowledge, I know the history, I have the connections and I love my community. So my biggest question just might be, do I have the time and want to make the sacrifices to run for another four-year term? Stay tuned.”
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