CLEARWATER COUNTY COUNCIL MEETING HIGHLIGHTS
By Marianne Cole
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
1. Summer Tour--- This was first held last year and was organized by our Ag Services Department in cooperation with the North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance. It involved a canoe trip on the North Saskatchewan River with provincial rural caucus members and other dignitaries. This year an ATV trip is being planned for August, potentially in the Rig Street or Big Horn areas. The purpose of this would be to promote the benefit of designated Public Land Use Zones (PLUZ), along with advocating for the work the county has been doing on maintaining west country trails.
2. Clearwater Regional Fire Services--- Pivotal Project has been retained as project manager for the construction of the new Condor/Leslieville Fire Hall. They in turn advertised for a request for proposal (RFP) for a Primary Consultant who would be in charge of engineering and design. The successful applicant for this, BR2Architecture, was chosen after to scoring the highest on a summary evaluation. Their fee for service will be $291, 165.
(Note: It is stated in the agenda package that “Section 1.8 of the RFP states that the County is not bound by the lowest bid in evaluation and award of the RFP.” This is most interesting as other instances of RFP’s have noted that the county must accept the lowest bid, which raises the question, why the difference? )
3. Nordegg Historic CIBC Bank Building--- Due to its deteriorated physical state and hazard to public safety, the building had been slated for demolition. A very generous offer from TdB Construction (Ted deBoer)has been put forward to reinvest the demolition cost into stabilizing the structure and maintaining its original façade. This would allow for future development/use of this historic structure.
4. Pine Beetle Resilience Project--- Mr. Rob Friberg, a PhD student from the University of British Columbia outlined his proposal to work with communities on the western side of Alberta to study strategies that might make our forests more resilient to pine beetle attacks. His proposal would involve interviews with local residents, elected officials, and industry personnel as part of a focus group. County council voted to support his endeavors.
5. Financial Matters
> Federal budget--- Highlights noted were the $28.5 million deficit, funding for “green” water (mostly for First Nations), affordable housing, and the gas tax fund. Councillor Maki suggested that our council reps who attend the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference should make every effort to pass on to the appropriate federal politicians that the “green” infrastructure must include funding for the internet in rural Canada.
> Reserve Transfers--- Because some projects budgeted for in 2016 didn’t materialize there is an unallocated amount of $629, 128 in unrestricted reserves. Discussion took place on what to do with this…leave as is or put into a restricted fund. Leaving it as unrestricted gives council flexibility as to its use, and it was also suggested that council can review the current reserve balances at its A & P (Agenda and Priority) meeting next week. It was also suggested that it may be prudent to review the tax rate bylaw before making a decision on reserve transfers.
> 2016 Audited Financial Statements--- Phil Dirks, representative from Hawkings Epp Dumont, along with Rhonda Serhan from the county, reviewed the 2016 audited financial statements. He noted that the county is in a healthy position financially, that the county staff was very helpful, and that accounting procedures are very satisfactory. Two concerns that had been raised by taxpayers were addressed: a.) The Regional Waste Authority financials will now be under the control of the county as we are a managing partner, and b.) The debenture servicing costs relate to the renovations done on the Westview Lodge, and that the penalty for paying off the loan would be greater that the interest costs. A key note of interest for taxpayers is that revenue last year was $3.3 million higher than expected, and that the accumulated surplus per capita is $5,500, just over the average of $5, 300 for the jurisdictions Hawkings Epp Dumont compared.
> Tax Rate Bylaw--- Discussion took place on setting the 2017 tax rates. It was noted that a budget deficit of $213, 757 could occur due to a decrease in revenue resulting from lower assessments. However, it was also mentioned that well drilling dollars are already up for 2017 so that could alleviate a deficit. In the end it was decided that there be no increase in municipal taxes, though there will be a 1% increase in Education Tax (government controlled).
6. CCTA Letter of Invitation--- Following a motion made at its March meeting, the CCTA had sent a letter to each councillor inviting them, as taxpayers, to attend any of the CCTA’s monthly meetings. Subsequently this letter was discussed today.
It was noted that perhaps a policy is needed before a decision on this is made and that the new MGA is proposing a matrix for such a policy. Councillor Laing suggested it should be left up to each councillor to decide on what community meetings they might attend if invited. It was noted that administration is in the process of preparing a draft policy for the next A & P meeting of council on this matter.