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St. Albert still below COVID-19 curfew threshold

City adds security to Woodlands skate park, city hall
St. Albert Place
Percy Janke, director of emergency management, gave an update on COVID-19 in Alberta to the city's emergency management advisory committee meeting on May 3. STOCK PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

While COVID-19 cases have reached historic numbers in St. Albert, the city is still well below the threshold of cases required to trigger a potential curfew. 

Percy Janke, director of emergency management, gave an update on COVID-19 in Alberta to the city's emergency management advisory committee May 3. On April 29 the province announced municipalities with active case rates exceeding 1,000 per 100,000 people could impose a curfew. 

As of May 4, St. Albert sat at 366 cases per 100,000 with 255 active cases. The city has a meeting with Alberta Health Services on May 17, but curfews won't be part of that discussion, according to the city. 

Last week, Mayor Cathy Heron told the Gazette she would prefer to see municipalities take a regional approach with COVID-19 restrictions. On May 3, chief administrative officer Kevin Scoble said St. Albert council and other municipal councils would likely have to declare a state of emergency to do this.

Coun. Ken MacKay asked whether the city was successful in getting the province to open up a vaccination site here. Janke said the city did offer to open up a centre at a city facility, but the province declined for a few reasons. 

"They said they would stick with pharmacies, but they also said they had staffing issues and staffing capacity issues that limit the number of vaccination centre sites they could have. That's why they opted for the Expo Centre ... it's in close proximity to St. Albert, Strathcona County, and other municipalities," Janke said.

Coun. Natalie Joly asked about whether the province was considering offering vaccines to people who are homebound. Janke said there's been no action to create a formalized program, but there are opportunities for the city to advocate for that, potentially at an upcoming meeting with AHS. 

More security

During the committee meeting, Scoble presented a review of how the city's $1-million COVID-19 fund has been used so far this year. Part of that is $49,326 of janitorial and security costs, including additional security at the Woodlands skate park.

Since opening March 20, the skate park has been a busy spot in St. Albert with attendance varying from two people to 87 people at one time, said Diane Enger, recreation facility director. AHS has been in contact with the city over public-health-order compliance at the skate park, according to Janke, but complaints have since been resolved.

In response, the city hired security staff April 23 to help manage the numbers at the skate park. The city said the cost to place a single security guard at the skate park is about $1,250 per week, 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends.

St. Albert RCMP Inspector Ryan Comaniuk said the skate park has been a "community issue" with non-compliance complaints, and smoking and vaping issues. He suggested RCMP work with municipal enforcement in a blended approach.

Aaron Giesbrecht, manager of policing services, said municipal enforcement officers are on site to remind users of the rules. If rules aren't followed, they can tell people to leave the facility before pursuing further action under the trespassing bylaw. To date, no tickets have been issued under the smoking bylaw or trespassing bylaw.

"It's one of those things that we are monitoring and maybe meeting later this week to discuss options to increase compliance in that area," he said. 

During a Facebook live session on May 2, Mayor Cathy Heron talked about security concerns at St. Albert Place as well after a security guard was harassed.

Kerry Hilts, deputy chief administrative officer, said additional security at City Hall started on May 1 and will last for two weeks. The cost to add a second security guard at St. Albert Place is about $1,750 per week for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, according to the city. This second guard is in addition to the one guard already stationed there. 

Brittany Gervais

About the Author: Brittany Gervais

Brittany Gervais joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2020. She writes about city hall, business, general news and features.
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