Aug. 16, 2022
Downtown ‘still on track’
Councillors had only one question for CAO Jeff Simpson before getting into the meat of the agenda. ‘What’s happening with the downtown revitalization project?’
Fear not, said Simpson. Concrete pouring on the bigger part of Rennie Hall Plaza will start tomorrow.
“It’s still on track to be completed by All-In (Aug. 26 – 28).”
More unpaid utility bills shifted
For the third time this year, council was asked to approve the transfer of unpaid utility bill amounts to people’s property taxes. This is standard practice when bills remain unpaid for over 90 days. The idea is the town has a better chance of collecting the owed amounts if they are attached to property taxes.
The amount transferred this time was $40,939. That brings the 2022 total to $105,752.
Multi-year budgeting gets the nod
The town is moving towards a practice of setting up budgets for several years at a time. This is different than the normal method of doing budgets for one year at a time. Apparently the province is nudging municipalities toward this multi-year approach.
Presenting the report, Garry Roth said Grande Prairie, as one example, has been doing it this way for some time.
How it works is once the multi-year budget is done, it comes back to council annually as something needing review and adjustment – not a blank page needing to be built again from scratch.
“I like this idea,” said councillor Francesca Ward, kicking off the discussion.
Ward said as a new councillor, she would have appreciated seeing an already-existing budget in need of a few adjustments. Having a template document would have been a less-daunting task.
“It offers continuity as well,” she said.
Her colleagues agreed, and passed a motion to make it so.
Rescue truck over budget
One of the Regional Fire Service vehicles is due for replacement. The town budgeted half a million dollars for it in 2022, but perhaps not surprisingly, the price is higher than estimated. How much higher council found out from fire chief Alex Pavcek, who was at the meeting.
It turns out $500,000 might have covered it a year or two ago, but in 2022, the price is $168,000 more than that. Pavcek told council he’d secured a commitment of a minimum of $100,000 sale price for the rescue truck being replaced, reducing the budget over-run to $68,000. It was that figure Pavcek was asking council to approve, with the money coming out of the Fire Services Capital Reserve account.
Councillor Brice Ferguson asked Pavcek how the extra expense might affect future capital expenditures for firefighting equipment.
“We’ll have to get creative,” said Pavcek, suggesting some “downsizing” might be in order.
Council approved the request as proposed.
No decision on development fee waiver request
In council’s package was a letter from a lawyer representing a local school society, requesting that the town waive an $84,000 development charge it says it didn’t know about when it bought the property.
The charge was levied on the property now occupied by the Slave Lake Koinonia Christian School in 2014, when it was owned by the provincial government. The town had upgraded the alleyway (including the storm sewer). The town calculated the government, as a benefitting property owner, should pay the above amount.
However, it hadn’t paid up when it sold the property to the Slave Lake Koinonia Christian School Society in 2020. The purchasers were not informed of the amount owing, says the letter. Further, the development charge was not levied against other property owners adjacent to the alley in question.
Development charges aren’t registered against the title of a property, council heard, so the buyer wouldn’t have found out that way. Whose responsibility it is to share such information is a good question. It seems if the question isn’t asked, it might not get answered. Local law firms have been advised by the town to be aware of such factors and inform their clients, but it didn’t happen in this case.
Not comfortable making a decision, council tabled the matter until a meeting in September and asked for a formal report on it.