RM of Portage la Prairie deputy reeve Garth Asham delivered the State of the RM Address last week in Portage la Prairie. The Address has not been made in two years due to the pandemic.
Among the many highlights of their efforts over a challenging time, Asham says things are looking up, despite it all.
"We are pleased, at a time having plenty of industrial farm and residential land, we continually look for opportunities for development," says Asham. "Our Economic Development team is working very hard to explore all opportunities to develop new input and to develop new industry. The Poplar Bluff Park is ready and available. Two lots have recently been purchased with development starting this year."
He notes in 2021, they saw over 70 new builds and activity, and notes this year remain steady.
"The RM has leased land to the Delta Marina Group who constructed a Marina, and we understand that most of the spots have all been rented out there," continues Asham. "There's also a convenience store now at Delta Beach, the Pelican. There's also a very well rebuilt beach resort out at St. Ambrose run by Mr. Sterling Ducharme that has weekend events there, which is open to all, and it's a very nice setting there."
Asham says drainage is always being upgraded for ag producers in the RM.
"We're lobbying the province to work well on their third order drains that have been neglected over time, and we always have to have the area clear where the water is going," continues Asham. "Hopefully, that doesn't fall on deaf ears with the province, and they keep their maintenance up on those. We look for grants wherever possible and with our water supply in the RM, we always have maintenance to do with finding and fixing leaking pipes, and that saves us money in the long run, although the initial output costs money."
He adds the RM set the tax rate with a very small increase of 0.1 per cent from 2021.
"This translates to a 0.1 on the municipal mill rate and a dollar on residential property valued at $100,000," notes Asham.
Asham explains the RM of Portage was the first-ever in our province to establish a tax-sharing agreement between municipalities which set an example for a lot of other municipalities. He adds it's such a forward initiative and has shown other municipalities that they can work together as partners.
"More recently our partnership proved its strength as we lobbied for and secured $8.05 million from the province for the regional reservoir in the Poplar Bluff Industrial Park, which will service industrial users in the industrial park area and customers outside of the municipality, like MacGregor and Westlake-Gladstone," says Asham. "On a smaller financial scale, grants to various groups totalling approximately $16,800 are being distributed throughout the year from the Hextall Fund."
He notes the RM is one of the largest municipalities in the province with approximately 864 square miles requiring a fleet of 6 graders to cover this large network.
"We try to do it as efficiently and as fast as possible," continues Asham. "When there are snow storms and rainstorms, maintaining our roads is the highest priority as well as the cost to our municipalities to service our taxpayers and travelers on these roads. Our roads are gravel which requires a lot of maintenance, especially from the wet year we've had, and it's a constant job but a constant responsibility of ours to keep these in good shape for all our ag producers to travel on, and the general public along with school buses."
Asham adds over 29 miles of road were reconstructed in 2021 and shoulders were expanded on the roads to Delta.