BANFF – The municipalities of Banff and Canmore are applying for provincial dollars to help initially fund a full-time shared position to develop a regional emergency management plan.
The maximum grant for this coordinator position, which would help with emergency planning on a regional scale from wildfires to floods, is $200,000.
Officials say the grant should be enough to fund the program in its first two years, noting if there’s interest to keep the position once the grant funding ends, both councils would see a budget request with funding split equally between each municipality.
“I’m hoping this is a good news story,” said Silvio Adamo, Banff’s Fire Chief and director of protective services, adding he hopes to find out if the grant is successful in the next couple of months.
“If we’re successful, then we’ll have a much clearer picture of funding. We would obviously bring back to both councils a more detailed budget and impacts based on the actual amounts, if successful, we receive.”
Strengthening emergency management and wildfire preparedness is a key strategic priority for the Town of Banff, with the threat of wildfire in recent summers bringing the issue to the forefront.
During the brief summer months, the wildfire risk can be extreme in the Bow Valley and is expected to get worse with climate change. In 2017, a wildfire in neighbouring Kootenay National Park forced the evacuation of Sunshine Village.
In December, Banff town council tentatively approved additional funding of $3,400 in 2020 and $1,075 in 2021 based on getting the provincial grant and the Town of Canmore’s participation.
However, council stopped short of supporting administration’s request for $55,000 in 2022 to cover wages and benefits of the shared position moving forward.
Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen said she was concerned about putting $55,000 in the budget now, preferring to debate that at a future service review meeting once more details are known.
“I’m more than happy to support these small amounts in 2020 and 2021, but I won’t support the 2022 ask,” she said.
“Let’s get the grant and let’s assure that Canmore is partnering with us and let’s talk again with what the future looks like.”
Canmore council agreed to apply to the province for the grant in October, but hasn’t set aside any budget dollars at this point.
Mayor John Borrowman voiced support.
“This certainly reflects conversations we’ve had back over the years around combining resources with the Town of Banff,” he said at the October meeting.
“We both have similar jobs that we need to do and we can’t always individually resource that work, so working with our municipal neighbours, I think, is a great idea.”
In 2019, Banff council tasked its administration with presenting options for emergency management coordinator and options for creating a regional emergency management plan following a workshop with the protective services department the year before.
Other options presented to Banff council, but not considered at this time, included having both communities tax fund the program starting January 2021, or Banff to recruit a half-time candidate to maintain a Banff-specific emergency plan and conduct training and exercises.
The Alberta Community Partnership is a provincial granting program designed to improve the viability and long-term sustainability of municipalities by encouraging working together on a regional scale.