One way or the other, Ponoka County was going to have to pay.
That was the consensus of council at their meeting on Tuesday, July 12 regarding a request from the Meridian Beach Homeowners Society to fund the operation and maintenance of several public facilities at the resort.
Ponoka County chief administrative officer Charlie Cutforth explained to council that when the area was being developed, with the blessing of the council of the day, the developer would build a number of community facilities that would eventually be absorbed by a homeowners association and that the county would be expected to contribute to maintaining these facilities.
“That took place this spring and now has come the request, so this isn’t a surprise,” he said.
The request is for an annual amount of about $17,200 to operate and maintain a community hall, boat launch, two beaches, a beach volleyball area, two playgrounds and three washroom facilities.
Cutforth added that the community presently allows the public to use these facilities and if the council decided not to go through with the request, it’s quite likely the society would turn it all back to the county who would then be obligated to provide those services and likely more.
Council approved the contribution although they also decided it would be looked at each year through its budget process instead of simply placing it in as something that would be expected each year.
Cutforth informed council that the county, as of the end of June, has outstanding tax arrears of around $2 million – a figure that in normal years is about $400,000.
“Of that amount, $900,000 is from 2015 and about half of that number is from the two oil and gas company bankruptcies we are dealing with,” he stated.
A majority of remaining outstanding amount is from other oil and gas companies that are struggling with their cashflows, he added, explaining that the county is looking at continuing to work with those that are trying to make payments and will accommodate them if they come to them with a schedule to complete those payments.
“Unfortunately, that approximately $450,000 will likely remain with us until the bankruptcy issues are resolved,” Cutforth said.
However, the overall budget outlook remains good with one bonus being that drilling permit revenue is triple the $25,000 that was originally projected. One other positive is that the two county fire departments are generating some significant dollars after a large capital spending spree this spring.
Up to June 30, revenue received was about $142,000 with the majority of that figure coming from Alberta Transportation and Infrastructure for attendance at motor vehicle collisions. The West District (Rimbey) department – which has responded to 67 calls in the first six months – has invoiced about $67,000, while the East District department – that has responded to 43 calls – invoiced about $47,000 since they began operations on April 28.
Roads moving forward
Contractors and county crews are doing well on completing road work in spite of the rainy weather lately, according to the public works report from superintendent Herb Schwingel.
Grade work is done on three projects so far – including the major widening of Menaik Road (Township 442) – while chip sealing has been completed on four roads with others planned to start soon if the weather holds and more than one third of the road upgrades planned for the year are now finished. Paving has been delayed – especially the Westlake Road turning lanes project and boat launch – because of the rain pushing back several of the contractor’s other projects. Schwingel stated they expect that project to be done around the end of August or early in September.
He added the county will exceed the number of dust abatement treatments done last year, as they have already done 200 applications with a third set slated to be done this month.
Meanwhile, the work on Dakota Road (Range Road 273) is waiting on wetlands approvals from Alberta Environment with Schwingel stating it’s questionable whether it will move forward this year as a result.
Cutforth added that the province requires compensation be paid to the department if any work is done in or will disturb a wetland with that money being used for whatever project the department deems necessary.
“Instead, we would like to see us be able to use our own projects – such as the plan we have to turn the Anderson gravel pit into a lake at the end of its life – to offset or be used as compensation,” he said.