The Ponoka Visitor Information Centre to be sold

Town council briefs

The following are brief items of interest from the Town of Ponoka’s regular council meeting on Oct. 8. Coun. Carla Prediger was absent.

Visitor Information Centre sale

Town council declared the Visitor Information Centre and its associated lands as surplus property during its meeting Oct. 8.

The declaration will allow the town to sell the property, which has sat empty since 2018.

The centre was constructed in 2009 and the parking lot was paved in 2010.

From 2016 to 2018, the building was used for town operations and was the location of the planning and development department.

Financials from 2015 to 2018 indicate an annual operating deficit average of $32,970.

As per the town’s land disposition policy, an appraisal of the property was done in order to set the market value of the property. The appraisal, done by a qualified commercial real estate appraiser, set the value of the property at $385,000.

In a private, in-camera session, council was presented with the appraisal and voted unanimously to set the sale price at $385,000 for the information centre.

Council will review the asking price after 60 days if the property remains unsold.

ATCO franchise fee

Town council voted to decline the opportunity to increase its franchise fee percentage for ATCO gas and to look at the matter next year.

The deadline for responding in order to raise the fee for 2020 was Nov. 1.

Mayor Bonnett didn’t want to make a decision before council had a chance to look at it during its budget deliberations and said now wasn’t a time to create more tax.

A five per cent user fee increase would add about $27 to the average user’s gas bill per year, says Lund.

“You call it a user fee, I call it a tax,” said Bonnett.

“We are still in a very struggling economy. I hate to put more burden on people right off the bat without knowing what the consequences would be at this point in time for our finances as well.”

Coun. Underhill agreed with Bonnett, saying while Alberta’s economy was strong it would have been alright but now people are struggling to pay their utilities.

“This is not the time for us to be increasing in my opinion, this is the time we need to be holding the line on our spending, looking at some cuts and not increasing more users fees, taxes or anything else.

“I want things to happen in this community but I don’t think (the cost can come on) the citizen’s back.”

Ponoka Community Market

Debbie Lamey and a few vendors from the Ponoka Community Market came before Ponoka town council on Oct. 8 to give an update about how the market has been growing.

The market’s penny market was well-received and the children had a good time despite the wet weather, says Lamey.

Mayor Rick Bonnett said there are no future plans for the old library site at this time and council will wait to hear from administration about plans going forward for the market.

July 31, 2019 Capital Statement

Sandra Lund of the corporate services department presented council with the July 31, 2019 capital statements.

In 2019 there are 43 total projects (20 new and 23 carry forward projects).

The total capital budget for 2019 is just over $6.9 million.

There has been expenditures of $910,871 as of the end of July as most of the projects are now underway.

The wellness centre project makes up about 38 per cent of the budget.

The full report included status reports on the projects.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many actually projects started, going, and it looks like going into budget we’re actually going to maybe have less carry-forward projects and that makes this councillor very happy,” said Coun. Teri Underhill.

July 31, 2019 Operating Statement

The town has a net operating surplus of $931,653 as at July 31, 2019.

To-date revenues of $10,633,247 have been received and there are expenditures of $9,412,518.

Municipal tax revenue and transfers to capital are calculated and accrued on a monthly basis.

Revenues are on target for this time of year at 58 per cent, says Lund.

Expenditures are slightly under budget at 51 per cent of the year’s budget, mainly due to the seasonal timing of expenditures and water costs are lower this year because of the wetter summer.

Tax penalty waiver

Town council voted 4 to 6 to waive tax penalties in the amount of $773.04. Coun. Underhill and Coun. Clayton Nelson were opposed.

The town’s tax clerk contacted the homeowner on Aug. 12, 2019 regarding the outstanding taxes and penalties from 2018 and 2019 and discovered the property owner believed her taxes were still being paid through the Seniors Property Tax Deferral Program.

However, the homeowner learned her participation in the two-year program ended in 2017. The program is an initiative of the provincial government that allows seniors to defer municipal property tax payments through a low-interest home equity loan.

The homeowner has since extended her agreement with the program and will pay the remaining $4,553.52 in outstanding taxes.

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