Town planners will be able to look to the future after council approved a three-year contract with Parkland Community Planning Services (PCPS).
The request to ratify the agreement came Tuesday, Dec. 16 during council’s regular meeting. The contract with the group will cost $73,000 per year.
“The services provided by PCPS to date have been excellent. The backlog of files that existed when vacancies in the planning department were created last October has been addressed,” said CAO Rachel Kunz.
Betty Quinlan, director of corporate services added this group will help the town prepare for the future.
PCPS helps with the town’s rail spur line
During budget deliberations Dec. 8 and 9, town councillors heard from Meghan Jenkins, planning manager for PCPS.
She discussed the rail spur line owned by the Town of Ponoka in the Northeast Industrial Park that was built in the 1980s. She said administration over the years did not keep up with maintenance and insurance and other items needed to run the spur line, which created issues.
CP Rail refused to put their train cars on the spur line as it was unsafe to do so and the town did not have the authority to operate it.
“In May of this year everything was up to date; you had your operating authority. To date, the town has spent $228,000 with rehabilitation, monthly track inspections and insurance,” said Jenkins.
She says the town is at a crossroads and has to decide if it should manage the spur line, which services three businesses.
“Estimated it would be about $27,000 per year for track inspections, spraying, liability insurance as well as a licencing fee with CP Rail,” she explained.
The businesses that the line services have expressed interest in its continued use and Jenkins suggests planners need to either keep it as a town resource or sell it to the companies, who do not pay any fees to use it.
She added CP Rail has expressed no interest in buying the line.
One issue with the line is that it cannot be expanded much further as the Ponoka County boundary is close to the line.
One more change to the 2015 interim budget
There was little discussion by councillors before passing the 2015 interim budget for the Town of Ponoka.
Council approved the budget during its regular meeting with only one amendment. Administration requested council increase the 2014 paving replacement budget to $400,000 from $200,000.
Quinlan said the adjustment is needed mainly for auditing purposes.