With the town’s impeding sale of the airport, Ponoka County is taking some steps to ensure its interests will be covered.
Council discussed the subject at its Feb. 25 meeting, with Coun. Mark Matejka questioning what will happen once the sale is approved.
“What will happen with policies, control, direction? We’ve had several complaints over the years about usage,” said Matejka, who represented the county on the town’s airport advisory committee.
“What if a flying school or more stunt flying happens? It’s something that county residents will have to deal with.”
He also questioned what the county is going to do about property taxes and issues surrounding water, now that it’s back to being the county’s responsibility.
CAO Charlie Cutforth explained the county has not yet met with the Ponoka Flying Club that is purchasing the airport and doesn’t know a lot about it as the county hasn’t dealt with the airport since the advisory committee was established.
“We do need to meet with them to see what their structure will look like and what role the county will play as we do become the governing authority once again,” he said.
Meanwhile, Reeve Paul McLauchlin feels the group needs to know that the county will need a plan for the airport site going forward.
Cutforth believes the town has planning documents in place already, but that the county will need to receive that and look at it as part of the process.
As for the topic of taxes, Cutforth explained it’s too early to know what will happen as there remains the issue of how the airport will be operated.
“Should it be a non-profit, then the common area will be exempt, but the private hangers will be taxable at our industrial/commercial rate,” he said.
“While not ready for this year, the county under the new Municipal Government Act has the ability to establish new rate classifications that could deal with issues.”
A new contract has been approved that will see the cost of animal bylaw control services rise slightly for Ponoka County.
Under the new five-year deal with Old MacDonald Kennels, passed at council’s Feb. 25 meeting, the company is responsible for responding to and investigating complaints under the county’s bylaw as well as apprehending animals at large and impounding those animals.
Cutforth explained the contract is technically a renewal, with some price increases, of a deal that was signed 10 years ago despite it having expired some time ago.
“There has never been an increase or change in the terms of the contract since it was originally signed in 2000,” he said.
“It boils down to, we have paid about $24,000 per year, depending on the level of activity. This new deal, with the same level of activity, might bump that by about $5,000 annually.”
The county will pay $98.50 per hour, plus GST, for each call out with that rate increasing five percent annually through the length of the contract. The rest of the contract lays out that the county will pay $750 per month and up to a $75 per animal (three-night maximum) boarding fee for those that go unclaimed.
Once the nightly maximum is reached and the animal has not been claimed, the county will pay $100 and the animal will then become the responsibility of Old MacDonald.
If an animal, whose owner has not been identified, is taken in and needs immediate medical care, the county will pay for any medical expenses needed during the three-day maximum period.
In 2019, the county issued its lowest number of road permits — about 2,200 — since 2002.
McLauchlin explained his contacts in the oil and gas industry have said the current uptick on work is a blip.
“All of this is due to run out at the end of the third quarter. What we are seeing is some capital investment, but it will not be carried through and we will see another dip in activity before the end of the year.”
Rod Schaff with Central Alberta Raceways in Rimbey was at council to put forward a request for help in purchasing a new all-weather public address system for the track.
He explained the group has about $70,000 that could be used, but that amount is just under half of the $150,000 price tag and hoped that council would consider some sort of donation when they talk budget later this month.
The group has applied for a grant, but are hoping to use those funds for more pavement in the pit area.
“We have found that wetter weather last season limited our events and access to the track. The track dries within an hour or so, but the cars can’t run because of the muddy ground in the pits,” he said.