OLDS — A caucus of small town Central Alberta mayors, set up just before Christmas has received support from Olds town council.
Council gave its blessing for the group last month and Olds Mayor Michael Muzychka has been participating .
The group of mayors represents the communities south of Red Deer and north of Airdrie.
Specifically it includes Penhold, Innisfail, Bowden, Olds, Sundre, Carstairs, Didsbury, Crossfield, Trochu, Three Hills and Drumheller and is the brainchild of Didsbury mayor Rhonda Hunter.
Olds mayor Michael Muzychka said it was created because it was found that another caucus of small communities was too “Red Deer-centric.”
This group focuses on Central Alberta communities that are less than 10,000 in population and thus have similar concerns and issues.
As of Jan. 25, the caucus had met twice via Zoom: once just before Christmas and again in early January.
Muzychka said the group’s conversation before Christmas was “phenomenal.”
“I suggested initially that we be called the South Central Alberta Mayor’s Caucus until I realized the acronym was SCAM," Muzychka said, sparking light laughter.
“The group politely thought that we should be the Mayors of Southern and Central Alberta, which does not have ‘scam’ in the acronym,” he added.
Muzychka asked council’s permission to continue the meetings.
“I think it will be something very fruitful,” he said, adding the meetings shouldn’t cost much; likely $500 or less through the remainder of the year because they’re held via Zoom. No one is travelling, due to pandemic restrictions.
Councillors were happy to give their OK.
Coun. Mitch Thomson did raise concern about costs though.
“Our overall budget for honoraria and travel and things of that nature has increased by over $100,000 in the last three years,” he said.
However, other councillors shot down that allegation, saying that alleged $100,000 cost overrun was an error.
“It was just numbers that were not inputed into the budget properly,” Coun. Mary Anne Overwater said.
All other councillors expressed confidence Muzychka easily has enough money in his budget to cover costs for the meetings.
Thomson asked finance director Sheena Linderman to share the actual expenses councillors have racked up over the past three years – including things like honouraria, per diem and travel – compared to the budget.
Linderman said she did not have that information “right that at my fingertips right now” but said she could provide it later.
Thomson also said no terms of reference had been proposed for the group. Muzychka said that will be forthcoming.
Overwater and Coun. Heather Ryan said they’d prefer that the group not get too formalized because they believe casual conversation can be more informative than formal meetings.
Coun. Wanda Blatz suggested Muzychka provide written reports summarizing what’s said during the mayor’s caucus meetings.
Muzyhcka said he’ll provide verbal or written reports. He urged councillors to pass on any concerns so he can raise them during future caucus meetings.