Chunks of broken pavement on Elkhorn Road could be a big headache for Ponoka County.
CAO Charlie Cutforth and Director of Operations Peter Hall informed council at their May 12 meeting that a large section of road, beginning about 2.5 miles south of Hwy. 53 and running for a least a mile, has completely failed and needs immediate attention.
The pavement throughout most of the area is completely broken up and this is the latest issue for the road that has seen water and heaving issues for years.
Cutforth explained the county has engineers working on a solution and that it will be repaired. However, the cost could reach as high as $300,000 in a worst case scenario. He added that council will be provided updates on the progress of the project.
As of the end of April, the county has seen 31 development permits issued along with seven rezoning applications and six subdivision applications. That compares to the same period last year with 52 permits, four rezoning, and 13 subdivision applications.
Coun. Nancy Hartford issued a concern of reports of at least one Airbnb operating around Gull Lake and whether that would be taxed by the county.
Cutforth wasn’t sure and will follow up on that for council, but agreed it would effectively be a commercial business.
McLauchlin added this may be another land use assessment and taxes piece that needs to be looked at.
“Better to do it now, because it is coming — understanding that we have public infrastructure that is being impacted by those uses,” he said.
“There is also the likelihood that some industries are creating some tremendous efficiencies so we will see more remote work and home-based businesses.”
This led council to discussing the recouping of costs of county services.
Coun. Doug Weir wondered if requests for items like culverts should be borne by the county.
“Those are the kind of things that we need to start to look at, because we have been giving that away as a service,” he said.
“The bottom line now is we can’t afford to do that. We have to start charging for things and looking for other ways to derive revenue.”
Cutforth agreed there has to be a better balance.
“Historically, what rural people did on their property was their business, so long as it didn’t adversely affect others. The question now though is what does that really mean?” he said.
“We have got to look for every source of revenue that we haven’t needed in the past and it isn’t unreasonable for people generating revenue to pay their fair share, as long as they are not pounded with taxes.”
McLauchlin added that while the county has been successful to-date, that model is no longer viable.
“We have to look at people paying their own way for things that are over and about what is a standard level of service. The issue comes in redefining what that standard should be,” he said.
Council approved cancelling about $48,000 in taxes and penalties for Forden Energy, a small energy company that had taken over a number of wells formerly owned by two now bankrupt companies — Waldron Energy and Sequoia Energy.
The request was granted as the money was part of previous write-0ffs and this would allow Forden to obtain federal funding to reclaim abandoned or shut-in wells.
“This company is one ray of hope that already has six gas wells in production and about 200 potential wells. That could make him a serious taxpayer if we play ball right now,” Cutforth said.