Council approves over $1 million in capital spending

An interim capital budget was approved by Ponoka County council as it looks to have the equipment ready for spring work.

An interim capital budget was approved by Ponoka County council as it looks to have the equipment ready when the work needs to start in the spring.

At its meeting on Jan. 10, council formally passed a motion that will see the county purchase three new graders along with two new gravel/snowplow trucks, two new service trucks and a vehicle for administration use, all for about $1.1 million overall.

This is not unusual for the county, as the graders are part of its regular trade-in rotation along with the plow trucks. The graders were ordered late last year and are due to arrive later this spring, at a cost of about $1.5 million, while the truck order at $220,000 each was placed last week following the meeting. It isn’t known when the purchase of the two service trucks and other vehicle will be made.

It is anticipated the trade-in values for the graders, trucks and old administration vehicle, will bring the difference in cost to that $1.1 million figure. Public works supervisor Herb Schwingel explained the new graders are each about $50,000 less than last year and that the three-year old graders being traded in are going to fetch some good prices at auction later this spring as construction companies, mainly in the U.S., are paying good money for good equipment.

CAO Charlie Cutforth explained to council the approval was being asked for now, prior to the official budget being presented, as the dump trucks need to be ordered as the turnaround to get them ready for work in April is about three months, therefore timing is important.

Both new service trucks will be stationed in Ponoka, while the old ones will be repurposed one will replace the current one being used in Rimbey and one will be flipped to replace the present truck being used at the Ponoka transfer station.

In addition, two department managers waste management and the financial controller received performance-based wage increases that also bring them more in-line with their counterparts in the organization.

Budget update

The capital approval came after Cutforth led council through the county’s current financial picture, which he said should wind up with a reasonable surplus once the auditing procedure is completed.

As of Nov. 30, revenues were up by about $500,000 with expenses down around $1 million from the same period in 2015. However, Cutforth stated those figures didn’t include all of the cheques and final bills for December, but added the numbers still look positive overall.

There were a pair of variances in 2016 that were brought forward by Cutforth both being overages in the public works department.

The capital budget for public works was just over $2.23 million, missing the budget estimate by more than $60,000, while the landowner preliminary agreements was off target by more than $200,000.

“The capital spending was higher mostly due to the new Mecca Glen shop construction,” said Cutforth.

“We spent about $505,000 on fencing because of the substantial amount that was required on a number of projects. When budgeting, I didn’t think it would be that extensive. As it was, we would have been slightly over budget anyway because of the increased payments made on some projects this year.”

Higher contribution

Coun. Mark Matejka put forth a motion, that was approved unanimously, that will have the county increase its overall recreation contribution to the towns of Ponoka and Rimbey by five per cent for 2017.

Matejka said, “I felt this was necessary to do as the Town of Ponoka recently approved a five per cent hike in recreation user fees.”

The hike will mean $23,000 more for a total of $507,000 designated for recreation spending from the county. Matejka added the county has increased its recreation contribution by 41 per cent over the past five years, without any requests from either town to do so.

Other business

The Ponoka Kinsmen Club is hoping to get a lease on the property where the present toboggan hill named the Tom Hamilton Memorial Hill sits, in order to proceed with some future projects.

It was explained to council the club wants to know exactly how much of the land, located on 36 Avenue west of 67 Street, the county can make available. Cutforth stated there is an appetite from administration to sign over title due to potential liability issues, though added the proper zoning and protecting the possible expansion of the county’s public works yard need to be done before anything can happen.