A recent shift in jurisdiction over a few portions of provincially operated highways in Lac La Biche County is going to go a long way to improving timelines for road maintenance and providing business opportunities locally. The initiative was officially announced on Aug. 1 and will help reduce red tape and allow county officials to make more decisions to better support community members in the hamlet of Lac La Biche, said Jihad Moghrabi, the county’s communications manager.
“The good news is that it doesn’t just let us fix things more quickly without necessarily going through the province,” he says the redesignation also allows county officials to support business needs along Main Street “or if a developer needs a permit, we can get that approved a lot quicker just because it’s going through our channels rather than the province,” he added.
The provincial highways include the Main Street strip and sections of Highway 36 headed southbound from the downtown core ending just before the Highway 55 intersection. The shift which Moghrabi says has already seen infrastructure services staff perform seasonal maintenance for provincial departments on the highways is a move in the right direction to get the job done.
“We have always been working with them but we started talking to them and basically it was we ‘do a lot of the maintenance already, we take a lot of responsibility for the highway’…we asked if we could have that responsibility over it so the province gave that to us,” he added.
Jurisdiction change benefits
The agreement between the two government branches which is formally called ‘degazetted’ represents the official status change, he says it has also been in the works for several years in order to streamline community operations. While the change means addressing potholes, permit needs, and road and seasonal property maintenance opportunities will be more efficient, Moghrabi says it also gives the province which is already overseeing dozens of highways across Alberta a break.
“It eases their workload and because we’re closer to this highway and it’s within our municipality. We can issue permits and deal with any applications or problems a lot quicker because we have all the context for it and it’s our community so we can respond more quickly than the province would be able to because they have a lot of other priorities.”
Moving forward while the county embraces the new designation, residents are encouraged to utilize and continue to use the county’s See Click Fix App when reporting or notifying officials of concerns to continue streamlining services, said Moghrabi.
“We have that app See Click Fix that people can use to report any issues so. They (residents) have been reporting things like that on Main Street,” he says even though some residents weren’t aware the downtown strip was provincially operated at the time, he added. “For people who expect the county to take care of that street, it allows us to meet that expectation.”