Red Deer County approved a five-year road map for filling in gaps in community services identified in a 2017 needs assessment.
The Community Services Strategic Plan will guide the development of policies, services and initiatives through 2022.
The strategic plan provides new goals, objectives and initiatives in a wide range of areas, including recreation, culture and volunteerism, family and community support services, open spaces, seniors and affordable housing, library services, heritage and transit.
Five objectives are mapped out in the plan followed by a number of initiatives on how they could be met.
For instance, one objective is to foster facilities, programs and services in rural areas. Among the initiatives are co-ordinating, and adding in cases, recreation, preventative and social support programs.
Evaluating the development of a Springbrook community facility, establishing a trails task force, introducing a regional transit system pilot project and developing a long-term strategy for community halls are among the initiatives proposed to meet the objective.
Other objectives focus on improving funding, liaison and engagement with community partners, aligning the service system structure, developing and enhancing policies and procedures and improving department organization.
There are no budget implications this year but boosts will be required in budgets beginning in 2019. Among the proposals is to change the duties of one staffer and hire two more community services staff. Financial decisions and changes in service levels will come back to council for approval.
Jo-Ann Symington, county community services manager, said the goal is to roll out new programs and initiatives over years.
“They’re not all being completed at the same time.”
The plan reflects that residents expectations are changing, with many expecting the county to initiate, develop and invest in more programs, services and facilities.
At the same time, county populations are growing — especially in areas such as Gasoline Alley and Springbrook — and becoming more diverse, which could increase affordable housing demand.
As well, an aging population, with many hoping to live at home as long as possible, also influences what sort of services rural areas need.
Mayor Jim Wood said the plan clearly recognizes how important the communities throughout the county are when delivering services and other opportunities for rural residents.
Wood points to fast-growing Springbrook, which is now home to 1,500 people, as an area that county will be looking to offer more. A community hall is needed and the strategic plan proposes starting a recreation and culture board.
In Spruce View, residents have asked for more library services as another example.
“So, I could see that that would be something we focus on,” he said.
“Also identified was the needs of our community halls and are they being adequately funded. I think that’s something we’re going to have to take a hard look at.”
Councillors praised the plan.
Coun. Christine Moore said it showed that the council heard “loud and clear” residents’ comments in the needs assessment.
Coun. Jean Bota said the plan also recognizes that intervention and prevention is important when tackling rural crime.