Sunday November 23, 2014

SMA winners offer inspiration


“When someone tells you that your community isn’t big enough or it won’t work here, they are almost always wrong.”

“When someone tells you that it is too expensive or you won’t find the money, they are almost always wrong.”

The above inspirational came from Maple Creek’s successfully entry in the 2012 Saskatchewan Municipal Awards honouring excellence in local governance. And while it may have been the above words from the Maple Creek that caught the judging panel’s attention this year, even more inspirational was determination and optimism in overcoming adversity that was reflected not only in Maple Creek’s entry but also several other entries for this year’s SMA awards.

In fact, as solid and success a submission as Maple Creek’s entry was it was even the biggest winner. In a year that seemed all about rural communities overcoming adversity, there was an even more impressive entry.

For the sixth consecutive year, I was honoured to be on SMA’s selection committee along with fellow judges Holly Hetherington, President of Executive Source, Jim Angus, RM administrator of Harris Bob Linner, former City of Regina manager and Senator Pamela Wallin.

In the Heritage Conservation category, Maple Creek won for its Main Street Revitalization Program that emphasized restoration as means of tourism development. The determination in getting this accomplished, especially while this community also coped with the impact of severe flooding, was truly impressive. The runner-up was a solid entry from Moose Jaw to restore the 1949 Peacock War Memorial.

The judges further recognized the Maple Creek entry as the winner of the economic development leadership category where it topped a solid entry from the town of Assiniboia, village of Limerick and RMs of Excel, Lake of the Rivers and Stonehenge that created a regional economic alliance to support local development and policy making.

In the Municipal Innovation and Service Excellence category, the Town of Carrot River and RM of Moose Range won for its Pasquia Trust, a first-of-its kind in this province that has become an invest vehicle for worthwhile community development projects. The runners-up were from the villages of Paradise Hill and the RM of Frenchmen Butte for converting the close hospital into a Level 1- and 2-care facility.

In the Regional Leadership and Partnership category, the town of Fort Qu’Appelle, RM of North Qu’Appelle, and communities of B-Say-Tay, Katepwa, Fort San, Lebret and Lipton won for its Calling Lake Planning District Commission. The runners-up were the joint entry from towns of White City, Pilot Butte and Balgonie and Village of Edenwold that got together on the White Butte Regional Commission to enhance local fire and protective service, utility service delivery and highway safety.

The Environmental Stewardship Award went to the town of Unity that worked with Siftco Salt Mines to build a six-kilometre underground pipeline to carry town wastewater to the mine for needed use.

Unity was also the runner up in the Community Life Enrichment Award for its compelling Unity Community Resources Centre, a non-profit, volunteer-run facility that now houses a food bank, second-hand clothing store, toy exchange, parent mentoring and support program and a high-school equivalency program.

In a normal year, Unity might have been the hand-downs winner, but it had to compete with City of Yorkton’s Aviva Project that turned the devastation in that city’s downtown after the July 2010 flood into a skateboard park. Using social media, it secured a $150,000 prize needed to finance the construction.

And for turning the devastation into something productive, the Yorkton project was awarded with the special judge’s award only handed out on two other occasions.

This was indeed a great year for rural communities showing what they can accomplishment, especially in the face of both the elements and naysayers suggesting they couldn’t.   



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