New shop comes in under budget

Work has begun on Ponoka County’s new shop in Mecca Glen.

Work has begun on Ponoka County’s new shop in Mecca Glen.

Ponoka County council heard an update on the project from chief administrative officer Charlie Cutforth during their regular meeting on Tuesday, June 14.

Cutforth explained the land transfer was approved by trustees of Wolf Creek Public Schools last month and recommended council approve the tender from Eagle Builders for construction of the two bay concrete shop.

The project is worth about $395,000 well within the original budget of $500,000 though Cutforth added it had grown slightly due to the fact a new water well had to be drilled.

Sagas continue

The county is remaining vigilant on a pair of issues that have dogged them for sometime.

The financial insolvency of Waldron Energy, which owes the county more than $440,000 in taxes, has been in receivership for several months and a recent potential sale has now fallen through.

“While our legal representation has told us there may be cause for action, with the sale being a no go, we are now back at square one. This is going to take some time to resolve if it can be,” Cutforth said.

Back in April, the county approached their legal counsel on the issue and found there may be language in the Municipal Government Act that might given them priority over all other creditors, but it has never been tested in court. So last month, the county went to their lobby group the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC) in an effort to combine the legal interests of all the counties affected by similar situations.

However, Cutforth explained to council the AAMDC isn’t willing to take on that challenge right now, so the full cost of any potential legal fight would be on the county.

“We just have to keep doing what we have been and that means increasing our reserve for uncollectable taxes, which we did this year to $175,000, since legally there are some problems and the association has no appetite to take this on at the moment,” he added.

Meanwhile, there has been a bit of movement on the situation of recycled tires at Cutting Edge Recycling.

A letter has been drafted by the Alberta Recycling Management Authority that allows them to take the program tires off the property, which will soon leave more room so that the large tires can be moved off of county property.

Cutforth stated a few of those large tires have also been taken away by their owners, but moving them is a tedious process, so the county will continue to stay on top of the issue.

“We are still reviewing all options, though the urgency is to deal with those program tires,” he said.

“However, there remains the issues surrounding their compliance in meeting the fire codes.”

Tower grant

While the newly purchased $100,000 digital communication system for the county’s fire service has considerably improved their ability, council approved a request for a grant application for a new 300-foot communications tower east of Bluffton to provide enhanced coverage for the western portion of the county.

Cutforth explained there are still dead areas with the present 100-foot tower located in Rimbey and the new tower would solve that problem.

“It is not critical for this year as they have been managing with this problem for some time, so my recommendation is to budget this for 2017 and approve an application through the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure grant program,” he said.

The grant, which the federal government put forth to celebrate the country’s 150th birthday next year, will provide up to $150 million for projects that provide long-term benefit and a lasting legacy to the region.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $30,000 with the grant expected to pay for half and the county paying the rest.