Town council has decided to refund $74,000 to 38 Street residents over local improvement overcharges.
Mayor Rick Bonnett and Coun. Loanna Gulka recused themselves from the meeting May 29 as they live on 38 Street and could be seen as being in conflict of interest. Coun. Carla Prediger chaired the meeting while acting CAO Betty Quinlan spoke on the proposed refund.
Interest in the decision was not lost. Long-time advocates for 38 Street residents Nick Kohlman and Bill Kuncio were in the gallery as well as former Mayor Larry Henkelman.
“There’s been numerous discussions over the years,” Quinlan explained.
She said the proposal showed the actual costs of the local improvement at $516,000, including engineering. The total proposed adjustments remove $3,500 in gas line crossings, $33,600 to move a water line for a fire hydrant and $14,700 for a water line on 46 Avenue. Quinlan said some engineering costs totalling $17,508 were also removed from the local improvement costs.
Quinlan said she made an error on the individual water lines costs when the project first started and proposed those calculations should have been assigned to each individual property owner. “We’ve pulled those out of the calculation.”
After the new calculations and adjustments, Quinlan said there were three properties who were found to be owing money totalling $2,886, the Town of Ponoka being one of them.
“We would not ask somebody for more money back. We are proposing that we would just waive those additional fees,” she said.
If council approved the refund, Prediger said if any 38 Street residents who don’t have any legal representation still had issues, then they would need to speak with council or administration directly.
“Should there be any further discussion regarding the local improvement as agents, that discussion would have to occur with our lawyers, as agent to agent,” she explained.
Bill Kuncio and Nick Kohlman are most known to act as agents for 38 Street residents and any requests for assistance on their part would have to occur with a town lawyer, added Prediger.
Still unanswered questions for Kohlman
One of Kohlman’s claims is that the water line that was moved for the fire hydrant does not exist. He suggests the refund does not answer the question of why residents were charged. He also wonders how he, as an agent of three residents, will be able to find answers to his questions.
He wondered who would be responsible to pay for dealing with the lawyers, the 38 Street residents Kohlman represents or the taxpayers.
“I don’t understand why they’re doing that unless they simply don’t want to deal with us,” Kohlman added.
Kohlman said one town councillor feels he will never be happy with 38 Street issues. However, Kohlman suggests there are underlying issues with town planners that have affected taxpayers over the years.
“They are refunding less than half of the overcharges and they’re calling it a resolution,” he stated.
Kohlman said he was unsure what to do next because he feels town administration is stonewalling on his requests, which makes people want to give up. Kohlman has a claim with the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA), who is currently investigating the issue.
The decision passed unanimously. Quinlan said recipients would be receiving a cheque with their refund amount. Refund amounts range from $1,163 dollars, at the lowest, to $12,675 at the highest.