The ongoing saga of whether Ponoka County will complete the trade-in deal for three graders has taken another turn, yet no one can say whether that turn will be left, right or a u-turn
Council heard at their Tuesday, Dec. 22, meeting from chief administrative officer (CAO) Charlie Cutforth that staff continue to keep an eye on the pricing situation regarding the replacement of the equipment, which had been given approval by council in November under the right conditions.
Those conditions included being able to get a good trade-in value for the three graders, something Cutforth explained at the meeting is being made difficult with the current resale economics at auction.
“December is usually the worst time of year for trades, and at the latest auction graders similar to ours were going for around $235,000,” stated Cutforth.
“We are going to keep on (observing) how things go over the next couple months, but the best thing we can do is continue on and hope to get a guaranteed value from Finning and trade-in amount from Ritchie Brothers Auction.”
One positive Cutforth added was the deal made to conditionally order the three graders locked in the price when the Canadian dollar was worth 75 cents against the American greenback. The Canadian dollar has since fallen to about 72 cents and may fall further.
Still on budget
Cutforth presented council with the current financial position of the county, explaining they are in excellent position with regards to staying on target with the numbers estimated in the 2015 budget.
He stated the county is right on mark with about $25.7 million in taxes received. However, the amount of tax penalties – sitting at $178,000 – is up considerably this year, with Cutforth believing the economic climate surrounding the non-renewable resource industry making up the majority of that figure.
There remains the possibility some of those delinquent accounts could apply to make payments over time, Cutforth did express concern there could be some that would fall into uncollectable status eventually.
“Right now, we have a $75,000 reserve for uncollectable accounts, something I would like to see increase for 2016 using some of that money taken in penalties this year,” Cutforth explained. “As I suspect there might be a need for it as there could be more and more oil and gas and pipelines companies pay less due to the economic climate and, unlike dealing with land and business taxes, the only way the county can collect is by going through the court system.
One other up side in the budget was the rise in revenue derived from public works selling a number of used culverts due to a huge increase in demand as well as the number of subdivision – 54 – and development permits – 217 – remaining steady.
However, Cutforth extended some caution to council about the long term economic future as they head into budget discussions.
“It looks like 2016 is going to be okay on revenue side, but 2017 not so much. I expect (subdivision and development permit) numbers to drop if the current climate continues. We need to prepare for changes, but the good thing is right now we have room to make adjustments,” he said.
Also in his CAO report, Cutforth explained to council a number of residents have contacted the office to express concern over recycling given the soon-to-be instituted changes to the Town of Ponoka’s recycling program.
As of Jan. 1, the town will be moving to a curbside recycling system, meaning the recycling area downtown will soon be closed and leave county residents – who also used the facility – with nowhere to take their recycling. In talking with the town, Cutforth stated county residents should be able to use the town’s recycling area at the present refuse transfer station until March, with hopes of finding a solution to the situation before that time.
Council approved lease agreement renewals for several road allowances throughout the county as well as a lease for a municipal reserve in Grandview Estates – for the purpose of those residents gaining more control over the area meant for their enjoyment.
They will also take into consideration, through their 2016 budget discussions, a request by the Rimbey Historical Society for additional funding of $90,000 to construct an expansion to their present cramped facility in order accommodate growth in use, tourism and to make the space more efficient. Along with the request, the society stated that despite being turned down for several grants recently, they will continue to search out other grants and fundraising solutions.
Reeve Paul McLauchlin updated council on the new Rimoka project in Rimbey explaining that tenders were opened in Edmonton that morning and that transition to local management continues to progress smoothly. He anticipates shovels going into the ground on the new project in March with the facility estimated to open in fall 2017.
Lastly, Justin Babcock with the county’s Agriculture Services Board provided council with the annual update on their activities. This included covering 11o miles of roadside to conduct weed control and seeding 22 miles of roadside – adding there is a need to catch up in the spring to do more of both throughout the county – that the collection of chemicals from the various sites went far better this year with the implementation of a new contractor and that the inspections of the two seed plants went very well.
In addition, the recently county-hosted solar and wind energy forum was well attended with 174 taking in the event and maybe showing some keen interest in the topic as well as that they are looking into replacing some mowers in 2017.