County plans for 9 divisions

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SANDRA M STANWAY
Brooks Bulletin

The county will hold a census in April as it moves forward with its consideration of reducing the number of divisions.
There is no final decision as to the number of divisions and councillors the county may be reduced to, however, the majority of council does agree that nine would be OK which is a reduction of one division.
“The population distribution we have right now is significantly skewed,” said Layne Johnson county’s director of corporate services.
The last population count was four years ago.
“Do we want to update it so that’s it’s something that’s completely current. I think that’s the issue,” he said.
“If we are going to do that it is important to know what the numbers are,” said county reeve Molly Douglass.
The census date would be April 15 but the census would follow a short time later. It’s expected to be completed by the end of May.
The estimated cost for the census is $40,000 which includes a $15,000 online census system fee. Johnson believes that can be reduced to $10,000.
The online census program is being made available by Airdrie.
It will allow ratepayers to fill in the census which is likely to be two questions: how many live in the home and age range.
“It’s unlikely they’ll enter inaccurate information for those two questions,” said Johnson.
He said about 20 municipalities used the program in the past year and 10 are expected to use it this year.
“The first time a municipality uses the system there is usually a 45-50 per cent return rate of residents that use the online feature,” he said.
Enumerators would be issued an electronic tablet which allows them to see in real time which resident has filled in the census online. If it has not been filled in online an enumerator would go to the home for the information.
As for rural address accuracy which has come under question in the past Johnson said he is comfortable the online program will work.
“There have been audits done to try and confirm the accuracy of the rural address system and the assigned address we have in our database.”
County CAO Kevin Stephenson said if council is not comfortable holding a census in 2020 they could wait until the 2021 federal census.
“The only thing I like about the municipal census is they’re usually more accurate to the point of residents than what the federal census is,” said Stephenson.
Federal results would not be available for the 2021 municipal election.
“If that’s one of the reasons for moving ahead, that needs to be kept in mind,” said Johnson.
The funds would come from the stabilization fund and would be an additional spending approval.
“If we’re getting a census done next year by the federal government why are we going to spend this money when we already are borrowing heavily from our reserves.
“I’m not in favour of it,” said Division 7 councillor Ellen Unruh who voted against the motion.
“It’s kind of imperative that we have this information to move ahead. I feel it is an appropriate time to do it,” said Division 10 councillor Lionel Juss.
In December councillors agreed there should be fewer divisions and informally agreed to nine.
They want a better picture of the exact number of residents in each division before presenting anything to ratepayers.