A recent strategic planning session saw Council and administration for the Municipality of Rhineland plot a course for the year, ahead of budget deliberations.

Rather than generating new areas of focus for 2020, Reeve Don Wiebe says a review of the municipality's current strategic plan was completed and a decision has been made to continue expanding on its six current priorities - sustainable development, infrastructure, protective services, recreation, economic development, and Internet and cell phone service.

"Council and administration reviewed what was accomplished...and concluded that work in these areas was not complete and that we would use these goals to continue into 2020," explained Wiebe.

With regards to sustainable development, the Reeve says while the municipality hammered out a drought plan in 2019, this year's focus will be on watershed management following the province's initiative to redraw conservation districts based on watersheds.

"We think it's a great concept, but in Rhineland, it's so critical that all of this comes with a strategic plan because we have field drains, municipal drains, and provincial drains, and the maintenance of all of those drains is terribly critical, so lobbying work has to continue," said Wiebe.

Additionally, the Municipality of Rhineland will continue to develop an asset management plan this year as part of an effort to track and maintain infrastructure and other services.

Wiebe explains the focus in 2019 was creating a strategy for infrastructure replacement and says in 2020 the work will take on a new perspective of what kind of services are offered and how are/will they be maintained? For example, how the rural roads are graded and what level of support (is required) for snow clearing.

"That's a big exercise that I hadn't anticipated getting into but it's part of asset management," he noted.

As for protective services, Wiebe says Council has committed to working to meet the needs of its fire departments, particularly in Plum Coulee. Up for debate is whether to update the existing station or relocate it to a renovated property elsewhere in the Local Urban District (L.U.D).

Not only is the current facility too small for current and future needs, but its location next to the beach also raises traffic concerns for firefighters responding to emergencies. Additionally, the hall sits on the same lot as a water pump house which, according to Wiebe, is considered a 'non-conforming use'.

"We sort of committed to taking some steps at trying to figure out what would make sense to do there," he added.

As well, Wiebe says officials will be keeping an eye on the provincial government's pending review of the Police Services Act and how it will pertain to the agreement in place between Plum Coulee and the Altona Police Service.

Meantime, some time may be set aside this year for discussions around how to pay for recreation opportunities in Rhineland.

Wiebe explains the municipality has been following through on a recreation plan that was created when the towns of Plum Coulee and Gretna merged with Rhineland, bringing with them a handful of rec facilities. As well, a fair amount of effort and money went into sprucing up the Gretna arena this past year after the municipality took over operation of the facility.

"One of the ideas may be, and we looked at it once before and decided not to put recreation costs on residents...(but) we may visit that again this year," noted Wiebe.

In 2020, Council has also committed to continued support of the Altona/Rhineland economic development group, S.E.E.D., and will sustain lobby efforts for improved cell phone and Internet service throughout the municipality.