The first of two payments — a total of $124,457 — to Ponoka County in connection to the termination of fire services agreement has been approved by Ponoka Town Council , however, the additional expense has to come out of the town’s general benefit reserve.
The payment was not accounted for in the town’s 2016 budget, explained CAO Albert Flootman during the regular meeting Tuesday, June 14.
One of the reasons the payment was missed appears due to organization challenges during the times between when interim CAO Doug Wright’s contract finished and when Flootman was hired.
Coun. Teri Underhill said with this expense, and the demolition costs of a town-owned building costing $40,000, the general benefit reserve is dropping. The account was sitting at $377,000, down from $467,000, after the two unplanned expenditures.
She added that the town may need to consider if paying for the Ponoka Fire Department as a standalone department is feasible.
Regardless of the cost, the town must pay it, offered Mayor Rick Bonnett. “We are legally responsible to pay this money back to the county.”
The payback requirements include the difference in the cost of rescue vehicles, some equipment and a portion of the Fire Hall, which the county had paid for.
Coun. Loanna Gulka took issue with Underhill putting the home demolition and fire separation payback in the same category. “I don’t think it’s a fair comment to lump the house in with the fire department,” said Gulka.
She suggests there are two separate payments for two different items.
Coun. Carla Prediger asked if there is a way to use the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funds to help with the payment. However, MSI funds cannot be used with operations and this cost may not be allowed under the grant.
Underhill voted against the motion.