Town of Ponoka Mayor Rick Bonnett addressed a number of topics during the Ponoka and District Chamber of Commerce monthly lunch meeting on Oct. 15.
Proposed Derelict property tax incentive bylaw
Mayor Bonnett proposed administration begin work on a derelict property tax incentive bylaw during council’s regular meeting on Sept. 10.
Since then, Bonnett says he’s seen some of the questions and comments online that people have had about the proposed bylaw.
“There’s been a lot of misinformation out there on that,” he said.
“The proposed derelict potential bylaw is just something that we just introduced and is in very preliminary discussions.”
Some of comments asked why the town doesn’t give incentives or tax breaks to people who are taking care of their property already.
“We want everybody to take care of their property and at the end of the day it comes down to, maybe not the person who has made the property look bad, but the people who are picking it up and cleaning it up, are finding out that their taxes are going up so they don’t really want to do to do much to it.
“We all like a nice, beautiful-looking town so we want to try to find ways to incentive-ize, to make sure people are first and foremost, taking care of their properties.”
Ponoka has a lot of “brownfields,” which are old gas stations, for example, or environmental cleanup properties that nobody wants that sit vacant, says Bonnett.
The town wants to work with the Alberta Government to find ways to clean up those sites and make them productive again.
“When you hear about the crazy mayor coming out with some derelict property tax incentives it’s more about wanting to find ways to make people more accountable to their property and the way that we actually go forward helping the town look and feel better.
“Everybody knows that in a community where it’s looking nice, everybody feels much better about the community they’re living in.”
The provincial budget is expected to be announced on Thursday, Oct. 24.
Municipalities have been told to prepare for cuts, although it won’t be as bad as 1993, says Bonnett.
Communities may have to “tighten their belts” and when prosperity comes back to Alberta, the province says it will share.
“I guess we all have to have some hope and some want to move that forward.”
The town remains interested in pursuing a new field house for the community as a priority in its economic development strategy for the town, despite a lack of encouraging information from the province.
The town has met with the Alberta Government’s Minister of Infrastructure regarding the project and was told a “pretty stern ‘probably not for awhile,’” said Bonnett regarding funding support.
Council is still working with the PARCS crew and is developing conceptual designs and still hoping to work with the Town of Stettler because there are some savings if two buildings are done together, says Bonnett.
“We are continuing to pursue this at this time, but our chance for government funding at this time are slim-to-none.”
The town’s Transportation Master Plan is well underway and the town is looking for a partner for the West Area Structure Plan to get sewer, power and water services to Hwy. 2 off of Hwy. 53.
The civic building’s new parking lot is coming along and there is a park plan included for the future as well.
The town has started developing a plan for a new civic downtown square at the old library site that they will work with the downtown group and chamber on.
Bonnett says in towns he’s visited that have municipal squares for celebrations or special functions right in the downtown core, there is a huge boost to downtown economies.
The other unknown for the future of Alberta is the outcome of the federal election and the affects that will have.
Bonnett says it’s “one of the biggest kickers for our Alberta economy.”
When the mayor was in Montreal for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ mayors’ caucus (FCM) in June all the leaders promised their federal government would make sure municipalities would have enough money to take care of their infrastructure but so far none of those promised dollars have been forthcoming, says Bonnett.
“I have not heard one leader … speak about what they’re going to do about the infrastructure deficit we face in this country.”
Municipalities own 80 per cent of the infrastructure in Canada (buildings, sewer, etc.) but they only take eight cents off every tax dollar, so they rely on the federal and provincial governments for funding.
“One of the biggest problems for Canada is that we’re the second largest country in the world but we are the least populated country in the world so we have a vast amount of roads, highways, bridges and infrastructure that we need to take care of and maintain.”
Bonnett added, “If there’s a country in the world that needs a pass on climate change and carbon tax it’s Canada.”
The following are brief items of interest mentioned during the chamber lunch on Oct. 15.
Festival of Trees will be held at the Stagecoach Saloon from Nov. 14 to 17.
Mark your calendars for Almost Midnight Madness on Nov. 22.
Plans are being made for a Santa Clause parade. Anyone wishing to enter should contact Heather Bendera at the chamber.
The Town of Ponoka and Ponoka County are sponsoring fireworks this year, which should attract people to downtown for the large annual shopping event.
There are two new chamber members: Stampede Esso and Ponoka Minor Hockey.
Bendera thanked all the volunteers who helped make the political forum on Oct. 8 a success.
The Ponoka District and Chamber business awards will be held on Oct. 25 at the Ponoka Legion.