GEORGE BROWN/Ponoka News
Residents on 38th Street who have been at odds with town council over local improvement charges for water and sewer upgrades and a failed dust abatement application will receive a tax credit to make amends.
Four of Ponoka’s seven council members voted to credit the tax accounts of the property owners.
Councillors Rick Bonnet, Loanna Gulka and Izak van der Westhuizen, who live on the street, declared a conflict of interest and left the council chamber.
“In an effort to finalize this matter in a fair and equitable manner, it is suggested a credit totalling $4,801 be applied to property tax accounts of the residents affected by the water portion of the 38th Street local improvement,” CAO Brad Watson told council. The credit will be calculated based on the linear frontage according to the bylaw.
“This amount represents the cost for 10 metres of water main at $410 per metre and the pro-rated engineering costs of $701”
Watson said that works out to $2 per linear foot. A property 80 feet wide would receive a one-time credit of $160.
The water and sewer lines are project-specific and no flankage credit will be considered.
Council and the residents had been at loggerheads since at least 2006 when the street was ripped up and rebuilt when Ponoka tied into the regional water system.
Before construction the road had some form of sealant applied to it, which satisfied the residents.
Council met with the residents May 10, with both sides able to ask questions.
“We have discussed this in a public meeting, as council. I think this would be fair and equitable settlement to these ongoing issues,” said Coun. Doug Gill.
“I think we need to close the file and move on.”
Residents on 38th Street say they received a notice in May 2007 that water and sewer mains would be installed at a cost of $195,070 but nothing was done that year. In January 2008 they were advised the cost of the project would be $521,707 and there would be no leave to appeal.
In 2009 their request to town hall for a detailed cost breakdown was denied. One resident wanted to appeal the levy but was advised neither Ponoka’s assessment appeal board nor the provincial Municipal Government Board had jurisdiction to hear her appeal.
Representatives of the 38th Street residents were given redacted tender documents and censored bills submitted by the engineers. In total, consulting engineers were paid a total of $95,600 on a $521,214 project, well beyond an acceptable 10 per cent of the project cost. Under the terms of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) documents at town hall can be withheld if their release is considered harmful to the business interests of a third party.
The matter became an election issue last fall and Bonnet, Gulka and van der Westhuizen were elected, in part, because they pledged to take a leadership role in resolving the outstanding issues.
“Although these councillors cannot vote, I have asked for their input and I have not seen any strong opposition from the new councillors on this,” Coun. John Jacobs told council.
“At one time they were opposed to this — of course before the election date — they questioned some of the things that had gone through administration.”
“Now they are on this side of the table, instead of being out there, I see their views have changed quite substantially.”
Dust abatement bylaw rescinded The four councillors also voted to rescind the bylaw that levied the local improvement charge for the dust abatement program.
The cost of the dust abatement project on 38th Street from 40th Avenue to 48th Avenue was $14,604. The project was paid for internally, not debentured, and was to be applied to tax accounts over three years. Because 38th Street is considered a local road, council said at the time it was up to the residents who front onto the street to pay to have it paved or dust-proofed, not taxpayers at large.
The cost of the failed dust abatement application will be covered by the town as a budget expense.