Big Valley village council moved ahead with repairs to its water reservoir, boosting budgeted funds slightly to cover interior work. The decision was made at the May 27 regular meeting of council.
Village Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Tracy Mindus presented councillors with a quote on repairing to the water reservoir.
Mindus stated her recommendation was to proceed with interior repairs as soon as possible and repair the exterior later. She noted councillors budgeted $140,000 for the repairs.
Mindus presented a quote from Knibb Developments of $104,475 for the interior reservoir lining. She stated Knibb’s bid was competitive and their references are good. Bids from two other companies were received.
However, Mindus stated bids for the exterior work came in at $164,000 or higher. She noted some equipment can be re-used to reduce the cost of both projects.
Coun. Harry Nibourg asked if the village can pay for the work now and be reimbursed later by grant money. Mindus stated she would investigate that.
Councillors unanimously agreed to go with Knibb Developments to repair the reservoir’s interior and to boost the budgeted amount to $150,000 to cover the project.
Tax recovery sale
CAO Mindus updated councillors on plans for a tax recovery sale next fall. She stated, as per the Municipal Government Act (MGA), councillors must pass a resolution setting the minimum bid for properties auctioned by the village to recover unpaid property taxes.
Mindus noted it’s possible the village may have to conduct an auction Nov. 4 at 10 a.m. The terms and conditions were also presented to councillors.
Coun. Harry Nibourg asked if this topic should be discussed privately in closed session, to which Mindus responded, “Why?” Nibourg, along with Mayor German, answered it seemed the information. should be protected.
Mindus responded that public auctions aren’t closed session items. She added the MGA sets out the rules municipalities have to follow for tax recovery purposes. If unpaid tax bills aren’t settled by the auction date and time, the sale will go ahead.
Coun. Tizzard stated everything sounded reasonable. Councillors unanimously approved the reserve bid and other terms of the tax recovery sale.
Return on investment
Mindus provided councillors with a report on the village’s reserves, and how they are invested. The CAO stated they are invested to generate a return for taxpayers.
Mayor Clark German stated he requested councillors discuss this topic as he wanted to look at making that money work harder for the village.
As an example, German noted the Parkland Library System has done well with their reserves, making about four per cent interest. In comparison, the village, with roughly $600,000 reserves, made about $4,000 in interest.
Coun. Art Tizzard responded, “Ridiculous. We gotta do something different than that.”
German stated the village should explore what options are available for a better return on the reserves. Councillors approved a motion that the CAO return with investment options at a future meeting.
Property tax penalty
The CAO stated the village would soon be sending out its tax notices, and she wanted to know if councillors would push back property tax penalties due to the pandemic similar to what was done in 2020. She noted tax notices needed to go out before June 1.
Normally, the village charges penalties on July 1, August 1 and January 1 for unpaid property taxes. Last year, due to the pandemic, councillors approved pushing the penalty dates back to October 1 and January 1.
Mindus stated the economy hasn’t really changed since a year ago and the financial situation doesn't seem much better.
All councillors agreed to stick with the October and January dates in 2021 due to financial pressures from the pandemic.
The CAO noted that taxes would still be due June 30, but penalties won’t be applied until October 1.
Fibre optic upgrade
The CAO gave an update on internet company Netago’s plans to place new high-speed fibre optic lines in Big Valley.
She stated the company needs to install a battery-powered box at the village office, but Mindus stated she felt the box should be placed outside the office as she wasn’t comfortable with Netago employees having access to the village office.
Nibourg noted the village office already has high-speed internet, but this is for the rest of the community.
Mindus stated this is another option for Big Valley residents. While reading the report, Mayor German noted Netago has permission to use ATCO’s power poles. It was stated Netago would need from four days to one week to finish the work. Councillors unanimously approved the franchise agreement with Netago.
As councillors discussed an RCMP funding model letter on their agenda, the topic of discussion turned to the efforts of many Alberta municipalities to voice support for the national police force as the Alberta government ponders replacing the RCMP with a provincial force.
Coun. Nibourg stated he felt the RCMP could have done a better job handling the rail shutdown. He added that it seemed the RCMP just took Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s orders to “stand down.”
Mayor German asked if council has enough information to make a decision about police forces for Alberta. He said offering a personal opinion is one thing, but speaking on behalf of the village is another.
Coun. Tizzard stated the cost of a new Alberta police force would be too high and having the provincial government in charge of its own police force isn’t a good idea.
Nibourg responded other jurisdictions have their own police forces, such as Calgary and Ontario. Councillors accepted the funding model letter as information.
Fire ban policy
Councillors read a proposed fire ban policy and report from Regional Fire Chief Mark Dennis regarding fire bans.
Dennis stated in a memo that simply following what the County of Stettler does may not be best for the Village of Big Valley as the county may need a ban, but the village may not.
Dennis stated he will advise when a fire ban has been declared in the county and the CAO should have the authority to declare one in the village when needed. Council would ratify the fire ban later.
Mayor German stated the regional fire chief knows what he’s doing and that council can trust his judgement. Nibourg added that it’s good for the CAO to have some latitude with fire bans.
Councillors approved the fire ban policy.
Cleaning it up
Mindus presented councillors with a report on the Hurland reclamation plan for a parcel of land at 4-26-35-20 W4.
She stated this property is located outside the village but in the required radius, so the municipality was notified.
Councillors accepted the notification as information.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review