The Town of Altona and Municipality of Rhineland have come together to once again share a Municipal Emergency Coordinator (MEC).
That was the arrangement for many years in the past, a role filled by Bob Stoesz. But when he retired, the two communities went their own ways in filling that gap - the Town hired an outside agency and Rhineland opted for a local official. However, in the summer of 2022, the Town reverted back to a local coordinator and hired Perry Batchelor, while the Municipality has been without one for some time, relying on its CAO to fill the role.
"After the spring flooding in 2022, we realized that the workload of being both a CAO and Emergency Coordinator was overwhelming, stressful and not sustainable. So, a new approach was warranted," explained Rhineland Reeve Don Wiebe."
So, in Spring 2023, the two communities began formulating a joint agreement that would see Batchelor serve as the MEC for both.
"Sharing this resource will allow for better collaboration and communication between our communities in the event of an emergency," added Altona Mayor Harv Schroeder. "By contracting a shared Municipal Emergency Coordinator, we can be sure that both of our communities are well-prepared and ready to respond in an emergency."
Essentially, a contract has been hammered out and Batchelor will take over dual duties effective January 1, 2024.
"In reality, it only makes sense," said Batchelor. "When the RM is dealing with a problem, chances are the Town of Altona is probably dealing with the problem. And if it's a case of us dealing with separate problems, now we've got the ability to move into two EOC's (emergency operation centres). By doing this, we've increased our human resources and [...] we've also increased our ability to have more equipment."
He noted, for example, this could apply to policing during an emergency.
"Some of the equipment that the Town of Altona has when it comes to policing, the Municipality of Rhineland obviously has with the RCMP, but not at their fingertips. So, it's not that Altona Police Service would be now policing in the municipality, but in the event of a disaster, we've got a conduit directly to the RCMP through our Police Chief. So, it just ties emergency response together very nicely."
Or extra boots on the ground during a mutual emergency, like a tornado that first tears through the rural landscape of the municipality before turning towards the town.
"You've got to get through the initial disaster. You've got to get through your evacuation. You've got to get through the terrible things that happen in a situation like that and then into recovery. So, you could be in a very prolonged event. Well, now we've got extra human resources to tag in and tag out and ensure that we're not overwhelmed, because the EOC is manned by human beings that need to be looked after. It just really makes sense," added Batchelor.
While sharing a MEC isn't a new concept for the two municipalities, having a secondary or assistant MEC is, and has been included as a term in this latest agreement. He wouldn't offer up the name of the person who will fill that role as the details are not yet final, but Batchelor assures us it is a highly qualified professional.
And while he maintains that the timing was right for a new joint MEC agreement between Altona and Rhineland, Batchelor says part of his job now is to ensure it is sustainable into the future by putting a succession plan in place.
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