Special Areas Offices Closing to Public Access Effective Monday, March 23, 2020 – Special Areas Board

Special Areas Offices Closing to Public Access Effective Monday, March 23, 2020

To ratepayers and residents in the Special Areas,

First off, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to read this message. I know there are a lot of conversations happening about COVID-19 in our communities, and that the sheer amount of information can be very overwhelming. Thank you for taking time to hear how we are responding to this serious situation.

Our focus right now is protecting our long-term ability to keep delivering critical services you rely on: safe and clean drinking water, emergency services, waste management, and key administrative functions like paying bills and delivering paycheques. These are unprecedented times for many of us, and I truly believe the most important thing we can do as your municipal government is to keep providing responsible and accountable governance. Since last Friday, we have significantly changed how we are operating behind the scenes. We have reduced our administrative offices to minimum staffing levels, shifting the bulk of our workforce to remote working, whether that means working from home or out in the field. We are continuing to work with our employees to support public health measures and reduce the risk of transmission in our workplaces.

This situation, and our response to it, continues to evolve. Based on the aggressive public health measures ordered by the Province, and to protect the critical services you rely on, we will be closing all our offices to the public effective Monday, March 23, 2020. These restrictions will impact all our offices, including district offices located in Hanna, Oyen and Consort; our adminstrative office at the Youngstown Service Center, and the Board Office in Hanna.

Although our offices will be closed to public access, I want to be crystal clear- we are not shutting down. We are continuing to work diligently to protect and deliver the critical services you rely on. Our work continues; it just will look a little different.

What does that mean for you, our ratepayers? If you have critical business with any of our offices, we want to hear from you. Call your local district office to let us know how we can help. We may be closed to the public, but we will have staff available inside our offices who can answer your call. Our mandate to serve you – the public – has not changed; we just won’t be doing it face-to-face over the front counter for the next little while. I want to assure you if you reach out, we will there to help you.

This decision was not made lightly, and was grounded in our commitment to protecting critical services. As your local municipal government, we are committed to supporting effective local governance. We will be using new platforms to support our Advisory Council and Board over the days and weeks to come.

I hope we do not witness first-hand a significant impact from COVID-19 in our region over the weeks and months to come. If this is not the case, and we do see COVID-19 here at home, our primary concern will continue to be the health and safety of our employees, our residents, our families, and our friends.

I strongly encourage each of you to take this situation very seriously, and to listen to the clear direction being given by the province and leaders in our public health system.

If you are sick, stay home.

If you have returned from outside the country since March 12, stay home. You need to self-isolate for 14 days and consult www.alberta.ca/COVID19 for more information.

If you have a friend or neighbor who has returned from outside the country since March 12, tell them to stay home and self-isolate for 14 days.

Be informed. Get your information from reputable sources like www.alberta.ca/COVID19. Share this information with your friends and your neighbors.

Reach out and support your neighbours, your families, your friends. Get supplies like groceries and important medications for those returning home who need to self-isolate. Check in to see how people in your network and your communities are weathering this storm. Be kind to one another.

The decisions we make today will have dramatic impacts to our families, our friends, and more importantly, our local health care providers and medical professionals, especially our hospitals. We all have a critical role to play in protecting those among us who are the most vulnerable: the elderly, the immuno-compromised, those with underlying health conditions. Especially in our rural remote area, we are all connected. We all must do our part to slow the spread of this virus and flatten the demand on our public health system.

Thank you for your patience and cooperation as we work together to navigate through these unprecedented times.

Jordon Christianson, Chair
Special Areas Board