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Town of Ponoka’s year-end audit delayed due to data breach

Sale of old library building means community market looking for new space

Ponoka town council dealt with a few urgent matters during several special meetings recently.

The first matter was about the fallout of an unauthorized digital breach by a third party.

According to the council agenda, the breach resulted in the loss of two-and-a-half months of data that now has to be re-entered.

Administration said the data re-entry would take a significant amount of time and resources and would delay the completion of the town’s 2023 year-end audit.

Municipal Affairs requires municipalities to submit the Financial Information Return (FIR) statement with the respective auditor’s reports by May 1, 2024.

During their meeting held over zoom on May 5, council approved administration’s request to apply to Municipal Affairs for an extension to Sept. 1, 2024.

The extension would allow the financial department time to re-enter the lost data and then finalize the year-end requirements.

On March 4, the town sent out a press release stating it had experienced a digital breach of its network.

The crime is currently being investigated by the RCMP and the town has been working with cyber security experts.

The town’s database is undergoing forensic investigation to determine if any personal data was compromised. The town advised any impacted individuals will be notified as soon as the investigation in complete.

Council is meeting again later today, March 15, to discuss the request to Municipal Affairs.

Utility bills

On March 7, the town posted on its Facebook page that town utility bills would be delayed due to their system being temporarily down.

The next bill residents will receive will include billing amounts for February and March. The post stated there would be no late payment penalties applied until regular billing resumes.

Monthly auto pay will continue uninterrupted for those who are signed up for automatic withdrawals. Amounts will be based on an estimate of the previous billing amount.

Sale of library building

Town council held an in-camera session during their special meeting on March 5 to discuss a private land matter, and again during a second special meeting on March 7.

When the open session of council resumed a motion, to declare the library building and parking lot as surplus lands, was carried.

The building, located at 5110 48 Ave., has a market value of $259,000 according to an appraisal completed in December, 2023.

Council then voted to accept an offer to purchase the building and parking lot for $259,000 from the Ponoka Legion Branch No. 66.

In a social media post on March 12, the Ponoka Community Market, which has been using the library building, said they would be looking for a new home as a result of the sale.

“They don’t have another property for us, so we’re busy looking for one,” said Debbie Lamey, community market manager, adding they’ve had a few suggestions for available spaces but nothing is confirmed yet.

“(The town) has been very, very, very kind to us,” Lamey emphasized, responding to negative comments she’s seen on the post about the sale.

The market has donated over $52,000 to the Ponoka Arts, Recreation and Cultural Society (PARCS) raised through vendor table fees. PARCS has the goal of building a new fieldhouse.

The market started up for the season in late February and usually runs until mid-December.

According to Lamey, the market has until April 7, to move out of the building. The last market will be on Monday, April 1, from 3 to 7 p.m.

Council vacancy

Due to the passing of Coun. Ted Dillon on March 9, there is now a vacancy on Ponoka town council.

During a special meeting on March 15, council voted to authorize Mayor Kevin Ferguson to submit a request to Municipal Affairs to allow the town to wait until the next general election to fill the vacancy.

Emily Jaycox

About the Author: Emily Jaycox

I'm a reporter for Ponoka News and have lived in Ponoka since 2015.
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