Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Notes from December 2014 meetings of MD of Pincher Creek Council

MD of Pincher Creek No. 9 Council December 2014
Rear: Councillors Fred Schoening, Grant McNab, Garry Marchuk
Front: Reeve Brian Hammond, Deputy Reeve Terry Yagos
  • FCSS delegation
  • Minister of Health promises funds for Pincher Creek Health Centre emergency room project (link)
  • Letter of credit for Goat Creek Bridge project approved
  • Staff thanked for snow removal efforts
  • Grant process begins for Beaver Mines connection to regional water system
  • Unsightly Premises Bylaw passes first reading
  • Maycroft Road solutions approved
  • Handi Bus Society to receive letter of support
  • Bruder Bridge tenders higher than estimated
  • Noise bylaw passed
  • 2015 Operating Budget presented

Chris Davis

Council for the Municipal District of Pincher Creek No. 9 met on December 2 and again on December 16. In attendance at both meetings were Reeve Brian Hammond and Councillors Terry Yagos and Garry Marchuk. Absent at the December 2 meeting were Councillors Fred Schoening and Grant McNab. They were present at the December 16 meeting. Also in attendance at both meetings were Chief Administrative Officer Wendy Kay, Director of Development and Community Services Roland Milligan, Director of Finance and Administration Mat Bonertz, Director of Operations Leo Reedyk, new Finance Manager Janene Day, and Executive Assistant Tara Cryderman.

FCSS delegation

David Green of Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) appeared as a delegation to update Council. The information he presented was largely the same as he presented recently to council for the Town of Pincher Creek. Click here for that story.

Letter of credit for Goat Creek Bridge project approved

Bylaw 1257-14 (a Letter of Credit Bylaw) passed all three readings unanimously. The letter of credit was requested by the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans in the amount of $31,185 for work to proceed on the bridge, which was damaged in the flooding event of 2014.  According to  the report of  Director of Finance and Administration Mat Bonertz on the subject the letter is required so there "is a guarantee that funds will be available to complete the project if the Municipality walks away from it".

"This is the first letter of credit the Municipality has been asked to provide that I am aware of."

Staff thanked for snow removal efforts

Council was unanimous in recognizing the MD's staff for their efforts during the snow event of late November. "The work crew deserves all the credit, they put in a lot of hours" said Director of Operations Leo Reedyk. 10 graders were used during the event. Two of them broke down while dealing with the heavy snow.

Grant process begins for Beaver Mines connection to regional water system

A study was conducted to estimate the costs of connecting Beaver Mines to the regional water system, as planned in 2012.  In his report on the subject Director of Operations Leo Reedyk notes "The Hamlet of Beaver Mines currently relies on wells, cisterns, septic fields and septic pump out for water and sanitary service."   

According to council documents "MPE (Engineering) was commissioned to prepare the report including updating cost estimates, providing conceptual design, evaluating alternatives for providing the services, providing a regulatory review and defining possible grant opportunities for the project".

The "Beaver Mines Water and Sanitary Service Study" was completed and presented to Reedyk by MPE Engineering at the end of November.  In the report MPE notes that the Cowley-Lundbreck Regional Water Treatment Plant "was completed in May of 2014 and is currently supplying potable water to the Village of Cowley and Hamlet of Lundbreck. This system was designed with additional capacity to eventually provide water to surrounding communities including the Hamlet of Beaver Mines." 

MPE Engineering provided some costs breakdowns as follows.

Estimates for the order of magnitude costs of the proposed systems:
  • Potable Water Transmission Pipeline and Storage $5,450,000 
  • Water Distribution and Wastewater Collection Systems $5,380,000 

Wastewater system alternatives were identified:
  1. Conventional Wastewater Lagoons $1,460,000
  2. Sequencing Batch Reactor Mechanical Plant $3,380,000
  3. Regional Sanitary Transmission Line to the Village of Cowley $3,970,000
conceptual alignment of a potable water transmission pipeline between Cowley and Beaver Mines and potential locations for booster pump and chlorine injection stations
proposed conceptual layout of the Beaver Mines potable water distribution system and potential service connections.
Maps of other options and aspects of the project were included in MPE's report.

MPE estimated a total cost for the project of $3,970,000.

Council decided to follow Reedyk's recommendation and direct administration to begin the grant application process for the project.

Unsightly Premises Bylaw passes first reading

Director of Development and Community Services Roland Milligan answered questions from council regarding Bylaw No. 1258-14, the Unsightly Premises Bylaw. According to Milligan, fine limits for some infractions are set by the Provincial government. Milligan said that his research indicated that a wide range of penalties were possible, but $250 was the average for a first fine, and $500 for a subsequent infraction. Milligan also said a $500 subsequent fine could be doubled if the infraction tag was for the same property during the same year.

The bylaw passed first reading, and is to be the subject of a public meeting in early 2015.

Discount and Penalty Bylaw review causes dissension

* clarified

Director of Finance and Administration Mat Bonertz answered questions as council debated the merits of continuing to offer a discount to ratepayers who pay their taxes on time, which he said had about an 87% success rate. The Discount and Penalty Bylaw 1249-14 was passed in the spring of 2014, to be in effect January 1, 2015 "and will remain in effect until amended or repealed".
It was slated for a review before the commencement of the 2015 taxation year.

The bylaw reduces the discount for early payment of taxes from 2% to 1%  and increases the November 1 penalty on current taxes to 6%.

"The discount and our penalty regime was intended to encourage our taxpayers to provide us with the operating money that we need," said Bonertz, explaining that getting the money sooner rather than later would "reduce our dependency on borrowing" in dealing with day to day expenses.   He said the discount cost the MD "about $200,000" in 2014.

"Perhaps one of the key points is that allowing that discount in fact is a cost to all of our taxpayers," said Reeve Hammond.  "Because somebody has to absorb the equivalent sum..."

"There is also a second issue which is the cost of borrowing to cover the shortfall in receipts through the year."

Reeve Hammond said he would like to see a plan to wean taxpayers from the discount system,  to the 1% in the bylaw and then to be eliminated entirely, and objected to that eventual elimnation not being part of the bylaw.  "I feel that piece is missing." He suggested the discount disappear entirely by January 1, 2016.

Councillor Schoening said he didn't want to commit to eradicating the discount entirely before the end of 2015 before seeing what impact the  change to the previous bylaw might have on the taxpayers.  "If at the end of the year we find that there's a big impact on ratepayers because of what we've already done we might have to rethink it."

In response to a comment by councillor Yagos that the bylaw made for happy ratepayers Reeve Hammond said "Of course they're happy. Lots of people are happy when they get a bonus for doing something they're obligated to do by law anyway." Councillor Marchuk was the most vocally opposed to continuing the practice, citing the potential  $100,000 loss in 2015 to the MD's tax revenue. "Somebody explain to me how that's in the vested interest of the Municipal ratepayers to do that," he said. Councillor McNab wondered if council was trying to fix something that wasn't broken. Reeve Hammond said the sophisticated business plans of modern agricultural industry makes allowances and plans for paying their taxes on time. Councillor Yagos said the issue wasn't just about the agricultural industry, making reference to seniors on a budget and other residential ratepayers with financial difficulties.

Councillor Marchuk moved to repeal the bylaw effective January 1, 2015. Reeve Hammond suggested a friendly amendment to make the date of repeal effective January 1, 2016 instead. Councillor Marchuk at first accepted that amendment, but when he was informed by administration that a repeal of the existing bylaw would require drafting a new bylaw he reverted to his original motion, saying "I'm not going to play this game every year". Councillor Schoening asked for a recorded vote, after expressing that it was the council's responsibility to review taxes every year.

Reeve Hammond and councillor Marchuk voted in favour of Marchuk's motion to repeal the bylaw effective January 2015. All others were opposed, so that motion failed. Bonertz' report on the subject was ultimately received as information.

Maycroft Road solutions approved

According to a report from Director of Operations Leo Reedyk, an engineering assessment of Maycroft Road from Highway 22 to the Forestry boundary "for a total length of approximately 14 kilometres" has been completed.  Based on that assessment Reedyk made the following recommendations to council:
  • Lobby the Province to upgrade the intersection of Highway 22 to allow for a safer intersection with the Maycroft Road.
  • Administration contact the landowners where road right of way is required, to purchase the land for the 30.48m right of way, on the existing road alignment.
  • Public works include segments of road on the road right of way that deteriorate quickly requiring significant grading in their heavy maintenance program for the 2015 construction season, time and weather permitting.
  • Existing dust control product test segments be monitored and additional segments be added, to help determine the best long term option for the Maycroft Road.
Council approved Reedyk's recommendations.

Handi Bus Society to receive letter of support

Council agreed to provide the The Pincher Creek Handi Bus Society with a letter of support for their application for a Community Initiatives Operating Grant.

Bruder Bridge tenders higher than estimated

CAO Wendy Kay informed council that tenders for the Bruder Bridge project came in over the estimated budget.  The issue will come back to council at their Tuesday, January 13 meeting.
Noise bylaw passed

Noise Bylaw 1256-14 passed third and final reading on December 16.

Notes and comments (in their entirety) from Director of Development and Community Services Roland Milligan were as follows:
  • The MD advertised and held a Public Meeting to present the bylaw on the evening of November 24, 2014.
  • The Public Meeting was attended by approximately eight MD residents and two Councillors.
  • Issues that were brought up at the meeting were both urban and rural in nature.
  • Hamlet residents were divided as to the 24 hour application of the bylaw and the time constrained application between the hours of 11 :00 pm and 7:00 am.
  • The bylaw provides the bylaw officer with discretion to apply the bylaw regardless of the time if the noise is indeed a nuisance. The time constraints give a guideline as to when generally common residential noises should be allowed and up until what time.
  • The specific issue of the use of the outside deck at the Lundbreck Hotel was raised. Research into the issue found that this concern was raised in September of 2000 when the deck received its development permit. A request was made of the MD at that time about the possibility of implementing a noise bylaw. At that time there was no desire to have a noise bylaw, instead there was communication with the owner of the establishment to monitor the deck noise and not have it in use after 11:00 pm. Communication with the current operator of the establishment should take place to inform of the concerns and ensure that the deck noise issue is addressed.
  • Rural issues that were brought up were farm noise, such as late night harvesting or operations that are required due to time constraints and the use of firearms on private land.
  • Normal farm practice is addressed in the bylaw.
  • A question came up about who is contacted with a complaint when one occurs.  The bylaw will be provided to both the Crowsnest Pass RCMP and the Pincher Creek detachments.
According to the bylaw "A Person who is guilty of an offence is liable to a fine in an amount not less than $500.00 and not exceeding $10,000.00".   Fines are set at $500.00 for a first offence and $1,000.00 for any subsequent offence.

2015 Operating Budget and Capital Plan presented

Director of Finance and Administration Mat Bonertz presented the 2015 Operating Budget and Capital Plan to council.  It includes a projected revenue of 14,651,510 and expenses of $14,651,500.  It includes a 4% increase in the tax revenue from 2014. According to Bonertz' report "A total of $122,710 was transferred in as revenue from the Mill Rate Stabilization Reserve to achieve the $10.00 surplus."

Tax revenue for 2015 was projected to be $12,450,170.  

The three biggest expense items:
  • Public Works $5,542,510
  • Requisitions $3,193,880
  • Administration $2,012,250

According to Bonertz' report,  a total of $5,459,370 will be spent on capital. "Of this total $3,924,370.00 is coming from reserves, 1,520,000.00 from Provincial grants and $15,000.00 from the 2015 operating budget. Council's direction to include a Capital Management Plan system and Maycroft Road land acquisition costs has been included. The allocation for a second electronic speed sign has been increased $1,500.00 to $15,000.00 as the latest quotes have been adjusted for the drop in value of the Canadian dollar and increased freight charges. The new administration vehicle proposed for the Director of Operations has been delayed to 2016 and will be re-evaluated next fall. The 2016 plan is projecting $1,538,050.00 in capital expenditures, the 2017 plan is projecting $2,011,290.00 in capital expenditures and the 2018 plan is projecting $1,648,360.00 in capital expenditures."

Bonertz also included an operating plan for 2016-2018 in his presentation to council.

The 2015 Operating Budget and the Capital Plan was approved by council.

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