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Vital service providers update new town council

ELK POINT - Two vital services within and beyond the community were represented at the Nov. 22 meeting of Elk Point Town Council, as delegations from the County of St.
County and EP FCSS

ELK POINT - Two vital services within and beyond the community were represented at the Nov. 22 meeting of Elk Point Town Council, as delegations from the County of St. Paul and Elk Point FCSS and Northern Lights Library System updated council on their programs and the benefits they bring to area residents.

The Town of Elk Point joined forces with the County of St. Paul FCSS in July of 2015, with both municipalities providing funding and both receiving provincial grant funding to keep the service going, FCSS director Janice Fodchuk told council. Community counselling is one of the roles for the joint FCSS, and Fodchuk told council there has been “a huge increase” in those seeking counselling, with “Elk Point our highest user” of the service, to which she feels the key is prevention, not intervention.

Other programs are many and varied, and cover all age groups, from moms and tots activities and a variety of summer programs for youngsters to family outdoor movies, assistance with income tax preparation, the annual Information Night, Meals on Wheels for seniors and prior to the COVID pandemic, annual Seniors Week barbecues and pre-Christmas Seniors Festivals.

Grants help the FCSS to function, and Fodchuk said that over the past 18 to 20 months, her department has received $80,000 in grant funding, an amount “phenomenal for a small FCSS. It’s hard work getting the grants done, and I’m now working on a New Horizons grant for seniors’ programs.”

CAO Ken Gwozdz is “pleased with our FCSS program, there’s no way we could do this by ourselves, the programming couldn’t be done and Janice is very good at grant finding. I’m very grateful for the partnership.”

Coun. Wanda Cochrane is the Town of Elk Point’s new representative on the FCSS board and received a warm welcome from Fodchuk, who will also be interviewing applicants for the positions at large on the board in coming weeks.

Coun. Jason Boorse said he felt FCSS is “kind of an umbrella group “ for which there is “a definite need in the community.” Mayor Parris Tung agreed, and told Fodchuk, “Thanks for looking after us.”

Northern Lights

Director James MacDonald and board chair Vicki Lefebvre of the Northern Lights Library System (NLLS) also welcomed Coun. Cochrane to their board as the town representative, a position that Mayor Tung held for a number of years during his terms on council.

Northern Lights is one of seven regional library systems across Alberta, and serves 55 municipalities with a total of 49 libraries, MacDonald told council, adding that the system gives municipalities such as the town “a big bang for your buck.”

NLLS “is not just books,” he said. “In 2020, including interlibrary loans, we brought through the headquarters 850,000 books, a value of $18 million worth of material.”

Elk Point’s $8,600 levy returns $267,700 to the community in circulation value, MacDonald said, adding that the local library is allotted $3,000 to purchase new books, of which 98 per cent has been spent so far this year. In addition to the book allotment, the library can access the expertise of professional librarians and information technology staff, and make significant savings via bulk purchasing of library supplies. “You get $31.83 worth of value for every dollar invested.” The library saved $1,632 on acquisitions and $888 on cataloguing, he added. “We do a lot for our members.”

Elk Point Municipal Library is a “net lender,” according to MacDonald, meaning that more people in other locations, borrow from Elk Point than Elk Point borrows from other locations, 4,133 items loaned from Elk Point in 2020 versus 2,647 items borrowed.

The comment was made that the library is one of the only services left in the community with no expectation to spend money. It is open to all and a significant boost to the community.

Board chair Lefebvre remarked on the “very good relationship” between NLLS and the town, and told council that she has more than 50 per cent new board members and will be looking for a new executive. “Communication has improved, we now have weekly reports and there is no budget increase this year. We are working more on technology and there is more to come. I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

Mayor Tung thanked the delegation for their report and said he was “always a big supporter” of NLLS, and was glad to see MacDonald, who worked here some years ago, back at NLLS.

Coun. Cochrane said she had enjoyed a tour of the headquarters with MacDonald and is eager to be part of the board, while Coun.  Tim Smereka said he has “nothing but praise” for the library system. Coun. Jason Boorse called it “a big boon to our town,” while Gwozdz said, “I like James’ vision.”

Later in the meeting, council agreed that Lefebvre and MacDonald did “ a really good job of presenting” the library system and all it does.