Tiffany Cameron and Liza Park, representatives of Prairie Gateway Tourism (PGT), attended the virtual Town of Virden Council meeting on Feb. 22 to report on activities over the past year and plans for 2022.
The development of a new tourist guide, highlighting key attractions and opportunities for shopping and dining out in the Kenton, Elkhorn and Virden areas, was a focus of 2021.
A successful application for funds from the federal Youth Canada Works grant program through the National Trust resulted in the hiring of student Taylor Wegener, now in her senior year at Elkhorn School. Wegener has been retained on a casual basis to assist with maintaining PGT’s social media presence.
“We thought we would have a good chance of receiving that grant, because the National Trust had actually supported us with the Boost Committee and the National Trust Main Street Boost Program,” Cameron said. Wegener was kept busy throughout the summer. “She worked with us in getting social media off the ground, creating business welcome packages and contact spreadsheets, going on day trips, conducting historical research and assisting with the development of promotional materials,” Cameron said. Wegener also visited area businesses to raise awareness and promote the organization within the corporate community.
“That’s how we’ve been able to get some traction this year, and launch, is by having board members and Taylor being able to get out there and do some of this work,” Cameron said. The efforts did not go unnoticed, as in November the Economic Developers Association of Manitoba presented Prairie Gateway Tourism with a Marketing Excellence Award for its brand launch.
Photography and collection of footage for promotional videos was impacted by the lack of events in the area during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are getting back out to some sites and making sure there’s people in the shots, making them livelier and more tourism-oriented,” Cameron said. “There’s lots of content, with the intention that the videos be shareable and get people interested in the area.”
Production and distribution of a revamped visitor’s guide is in the works for later this year, as well as a possible coupon book. Plans also call for a trade show booth to be set up at events such as the Brandon Home & Leisure Show in April.
Over the longer term, opportunities are being explored for partnerships with area businesses and organizations to pursue cooperative promotional opportunities. Research is being done to find a suitable product development consultant to help make this happen.
“We’re looking for somebody who will come in and help us start the conversation and planning we need to work with local businesses to create tourism experiences,” Cameron said.
A visit from a Travel Manitoba blogger, possibly during the Virden Indoor Rodeo & Wild West Daze in August, is being considered. The person would experience the area first-hand and document it on social media.
A new member, Chelsey McInnis, has recently been welcomed to the Board of Directors.
Westman Detachment Sgt. Scott Fefchak presented a brief monthly policing report to Council, which showed a decrease in call volume during the month of January. Keeping the detachment staffed continues to be a focus, with three members transferring out and one new cadet arriving from the training depot in Regina in March. Vacant Staff Sergeant and Corporal positions are now up for promotion, and one Constable position remains unfilled.
Council and Town staff were authorized to attend the 2022 Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) Spring Convention, which will be held in-person April 19 to 21 at the Keystone Centre in Brandon. There will be a public works trade show and program, as well as an education workshop entitled “Dealing With Harassment of Elected Officials and Municipal Staff” at a cost of $50 per delegate. Mayor Murray Wright and Chief Administrative Officer Rhonda Stewart will take part in the annual Mayors, Reeves and CAOs Meeting while at the conference.
The Town will be a platinum sponsor of the U18 AAA Telus Cup Western Regional Hockey Tournament to be held at Tundra Oil & Gas Place from April 28 to May 1, 2022. This will include an $1,000 contribution as well as in-kind work done on behalf of the committee by Economic Development Manager Liza Park.
Any available members of Council were authorized to attend the 2022 Assiniboine River Basin Initiative Conference “Co-operative Water Management in a Future of Extremes” at no cost to the Town. The conference will be held virtually with two half-day sessions on March 3 and 4.
Council held a public hearing to consider a variation application submitted by Doug and Michele Wright of Virden for the construction of an attached garage. Development Officer Cory Nixon explained that in designing the garage, Wright determined that it will need to be constructed within two feet of the property line. This prompted the variation request, as it is less than the four-foot setback stipulated in the Town’s Zoning By-Law.
Council discussed the potential for setting a precedent, but decided to grant the application subject to the conditions identified by Nixon in his presentation. He stated that the wall of the garage which runs parallel to the property line needs to be designed to meet the Manitoba Building Code specifications regarding spatial separation between houses.
“The building code allows for it as long as fire rating is put in place,” he said.
Citing a lack of information, Coun. Karel Munchinsky abstained from voting on the matter. Chief Administrative Officer Rhonda Stewart emphasized to Council that any and all questions pertaining to a variation request should have been asked and answered during the hearing while, in this case, the applicant was present to address them. She asked that this be followed in the future. As an alternative, Council may see fit to adjourn the hearing to a later date to permit more details to be obtained before making a decision. Coun. Whitney Baker, Wright’s daughter, declared a conflict and did not participate in the hearing. No objections were received.
Council set the tax sale date to be Nov. 29, 2022 at 6:30 pm at the Town of Virden Council Chambers. This will apply to properties whose municipal taxes are in arrears for 2020 or prior years.