Viability report, infrastructure audit detail Hythe’s challenges

·2 min read

Hythe residents received copies of Municipal Affairs’ viability review report last week.

The report follows an infrastructure audit completed by Beairsto & Associates Engineering in February, which documents deficiencies in village assets.

Hythe mayor Brian Peterson said the report didn’t contain many surprises.

“This is something I’ve been learning (about) over time,” he said.

Peterson said that since the current village council was elected in 2017 it has been exploring the state of Hythe’s finances and infrastructure. The current CAO Leona Hanson as well as the previous CAO Greg Gayton and other village staff pulled together much of the research.

Council made the decision to undertake the dissolution process in April 2020.

Upon receiving council’s request a month later, Municipal Affairs staff sought public input in June and July and carried out research ending in January, according to the report.

Municipal Affairs distributed comment forms to gather input. According to the report, 28 filled out the forms, including 22 village residents, 27 property owners and seven Hythe business operators.

Respondents defined viability as including updated infrastructure, attracting residences and businesses and balancing essential services with reasonable tax rates.

Respondents also indicated they felt Hythe’s small-town atmosphere, sense of community and appearance are important.

Identified concerns include aging infrastructure, a small tax base and high property taxes.

The infrastructure audit began in January, contracted to Beairsto. The audit indicated $14.2 million is needed to support infrastructure for the next 10 years, according to Peterson.

Another $8.5 million would be needed in the decade after that, he added.

The viability report describes Hythe’s infrastructure as being in “fair to poor condition,” with roads requiring $7.1 million in upgrades over the next 10 years.

The sanitary system will require another $3.1 million in the next decade and buildings $2.4 million, according to the report.

The arena, curling rink, lift station and public works shop are among the buildings requiring repair or upgrades.

If Hythe remains a village, Municipal Affairs recommended the councillors undertake financial training and complete a 10-year capital plan outlining priorities.

In addressing needs, an issue Hythe faces is collecting revenue, Peterson said.

Certain properties like churches, schools and seniors homes are tax exempt. The village has Pioneer Homes and Hythe Continuing Care, home to approximately 120 people, or 15 per cent of the village population, according to the report.

The viability report notes 38.9 per cent of property in Hythe is non-taxable, more than in Beaverlodge (17.3 per cent), Sexsmith (23.1), Wembley (23.2) or Spirit River (30.9).

Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News