Steve Upham is running for his third term as Reeve for the County of St. Paul. Upham says he would like to see the County progress in the direction is has been going.
“I like the changes that we have been making,” Upham was the first elected Reeve for the County of St. Paul, taking the chair in 2010. Prior to being elected, the reeve position was appointed by Council. The FCSS Department is one of Upham’s examples of the great work the County has been doing, under his leadership. “One of the jobs was completely dismantling the FCSS Department and hiring new staff because I didn’t see that it was fulfilling its mandate, under the government. I’m very proud of the FCSS we have now.” The County, with the Town of Elk Point, has grown its FCSS enormously and offers a large variety of programming for seniors, families and youths.
There are on-going infrastructure development projects, Upham says he is so happy to be a part of; including road development and waterlines. “We’ve been able to facilitate funding from both the provincial and federal governments. I want to see those come to conclusion.” One of the major projects he would like to see completed is the waterline from Ashmont to Mallaig. The waterline is in preliminary design & engineering. It is expected to be completed in the winter of 2018-19. “Good quality water is one of the biggest components to quality of life. The water that we’ve had in our small communities has been very adequate; but we have a great product coming now, out of Epcor, to service those communities.”
I do love my job. We’ve done a lot of good things, and I’d like to see that continue. – Steve Upham Incumbent Reeve for the County of St. Paul
Watching the Budget
“One of my key priorities is to watch the budget,” Upham says there’s a lot of factors that may change the budget for the County, “we have a lot of unknowns coming at us. We’ve got wellhead shut-downs. The oil industries is getting out of leases that aren’t profitable and that affects our bottom line.” Along with the oil industry slowing down, Upham says the overall property assessments will play a huge factor at budget time, “assessments are going to start to drop, because the market has been dropping for a couple of years.” Changes in property values can take around 24 months for the County to feel the affects in their budget. “Unfortunately, residents have seen an increase [in assessment] the last few years, they’re going to start to see a decrease; which means, we’re going to start to see a decrease in residential assessment and that’s going to hit us hard.” Planning and anticipating these fluctuations, with fiscal responsibility, is how Upham plans to guide Council through the budget. “I’ll be right on top of our budgeting process to make sure that we continue, as we have for the last seven years, to present balanced budgets with small surpluses.”
Recreation & Livability
“Recreation is a big part of livability in the County. In the last seven years, we’ve really moved to help with funding to ensure the volunteer groups have a solid base to improve their communities.” Continued investment in neighbouring communities’ facilities and programs will be a priority, should Upham be successful. “We invest heavily in Ag Societies to ensure that recreational facilities are able to be sustainable and be improved and further developed.” Upham explains the County works with groups to encourage they apply for CFEP (Community Facility Enhancement Program) Grants. The County has matched such grants in the past.
Relationships with Neighbours
“We’re going to have to develop close relationships with our urban partners,” Upham notes that the County has done a great job supporting facilities in Elk Point. “Elk Point is a community that has a lot of rural participation in the town. We’re happy to be a part of that.” This year, the County helped fund improvements and repairs to the AG Ross Arena, the Curling Rink and funded $6,000 towards the Canada 150 Celebrations.
Upham anticipates funding to continue as the new Municipal Government Act (MGA) and the Inter-Municipal Corporation Plans (IMCP) come down through the Provincial Government. “A collaboration framework, through the new MGA, brings us to the table, to discuss these issues, like we never have before.”
“We have a good inter-municipal relationship with Elk Point and St. Paul. We’ve partnered on a lot of [initiatives], such as fire prevention, emergency management services. A lot of the things that we’re being asked to come into conversation with, we’ve got covered off.” Upham says there’s some work to be done in regards to recreation and relationships with St. Paul. He hopes to be able to see these efforts through.
“It’s an ongoing effort,” Upham says there is a committee formed between himself, the reeve of the Municipal District of Bonnyville, and the mayors of St. Paul, Cold Lake, and Bonnyville. “We’re looking at how we can get more health services, within the three communities, in a way that we’re not overlapping. So each community offers something different. So we can be within close proximity of what we need, without having to leave the region.” Moving forward with a regional health care partnership is another project Upham would like to see completed. “Talks have been promising, but they’re not completed. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done. That’s a negotiation that’s going to take some time.”
“It’s a serious issue in the County,” Upham says he recognizes the need for the County to assist in crime reduction measures. “Without any kind of presence, the County appears to be open season. The RCMP are stretched to the maximum, they have nothing more to give us.”
Upham says it starts with strength in neighbours, “nobody lives in an individual family silo, we need everyone to be a part of the community. We have to be looking out for each other and each other’s interests. Looking out for suspicious vehicles and each other’s yards.” Beyond that, Upham says the County has a strong Rural Crime Watch organization, which has a County Councillor that attends meetings, that are held at the County office. Upham says he would continue to support this group and encourage them to remain visible.
“There’s been some talk about bylaw officers and peace officers. It’s been brought up by Administration for the last couple years and we want to put the question out to the people [as to whether or not officers are wanted/needed].” Once hearing from the residents, Upham says there needs to be some research done, before moving forward.
Federation of Canadian Municipalities
Upham was elected as a member of the FCM (Federal Canadian Municipalities). The seat gives the County of St. Paul the opportunity to have representation at a federal level; something that isn’t available to all municipalities. “It doesn’t take away from my County job, but it does give us an unparalleled opportunity to be at the table and bring, not only, the zones issues forward, but the issues of the County. That’s an invaluable opportunity.” The seat is funded through the zone, so it comes at no cost to the County for Upham to be on the FCM.
“I really love that work, it’s part of my passion to continue as Reeve, to be able to continue to do the great advocacy work; both with the federal and provincial government.”
“I encourage you to get out and vote. This is going to be one of the more interesting elections that we’ve had, for the Reeve position, since it was initiated in 2010. It’s imperative, if people want to see the great process that we’ve had in the last seven years to continue. I encourage everyone to get out & vote to support whichever candidate you choose… and hopefully that’s me!”
Advanced voting for the County of St. Paul is Saturday, October 7th at County of St. Paul Council Chambers and Elk Point Senior Centre from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Election day is October 16th from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm. For more information as to where to vote or special polls, visit county.stpaul.ab.ca.
Lakeland Connect supports all candidates in the upcoming election. If you would like an interview, contact Jena 780-207-5898 or [email protected]