Town writes off $7,500 in uncollected utility bills

Town council was asked to write off $7,577.44 in uncollected accounts.

Town council was asked to write off $7,577.44 in uncollected accounts.

The amount is mainly for utility accounts from rental properties and town staff work diligently with people owing to bring collect funds, explained CAO Brad Watson to town council Dec. 11. “They do a masterful job in follow-up.”

The town generally recuperates 10 per cent of the bills sent to collections.

In 2009, $21,013.48 was written off and those numbers have declined with town staff collecting the debt. The 2012 write off is slightly higher than 2011, which was $6,773.26.

Coun. Shayne Steffen asked if there is a way to enforce a deposit for renters. Betty Quinlan, director of corporate services, said the town does operate that way and a deposit has already been taken off the debt owed on the 33 accounts past due. She feels of the more than 3,500 accounts the number of accounts owing is small.

The uncollected accounts can eventually affect the debtor’s credit ratings.

“We do everything we can not to do it but these are people that have escaped and not told anybody where they are going … the staff really undertake to work with people,” explained Watson.

In-camera delegation

Councillors met behind closed doors with a company called N.E.X.T. Legacy Technologies. Watson could not give details of the meeting but said in an email representatives had a strong interest in Ponoka and they appeared to appreciate what Ponoka has to offer.

The website for N.E.X.T. Legacy Technologies states the company uses a new non-toxic blend of compounds to assist in hydraulic fracturing. The site states they use a fraction of the water normally required during a fracturing process.

Water utility increase

Councillors gave three readings for an increase in water utilities. The increase comes from the Red Deer Regional Water Commission who informed its members the cost of a cubic metre of water was expected to increase to $2.04 from $2.01.

At the time of the meeting, councillors were informed the increase is actually going to be $2.03 but Quinlan said it is too late to change the budget but extra money they do receive goes to pay for upgrades and improvements of the system.

“The impact is we may pay $7,000 less in water costs during the year,” she explained. “If we don’t sell it, we’re not going to collect the money.”

The number could be changed for the final budget when the mill rate is set. A home that uses 25 cubic metres of water a month should see a $5.95 increase to their bill. Service remain unchanged.

Airport commission reappointments

Councillors supported airport commission reappointments of Sid Gregr and Norman Clair for three-year terms for Jan. 1, 2013 to Dec. 31, 2015.

Coun. Shayne Steffen said they have also received two applicants after advertising one opening in Ponoka News Nov. 14 and 21.

The applicants are brothers from Edmonton and own property in the Ponoka area, explained Watson.

“The interest is to use them on ad hoc committees.”

Specialized skills needed for appeal board

Councillors have re-appointed former councillor Jerry Siemens to the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board for a three-year term from Jan. 1, 2013 to Dec. 31, 2015. Watson said Siemens’ role is relatively specialized due to the training needed for board members.

“I think Jerry has sat on, in his term, two hearings,” said Watson.

The board is quasi-judicial and hears appeals regarding subdivision and development.

Zamboni advertising potential

Businesses will have an opportunity to bid on a three-year contract to advertise on the Ponoka and Recreation Complex Zamboni, explained Wes Amendt, director of community services. “We’re going to auction of the rights to the Zamboni advertising.”

Invitations have been sent out to Ponoka and area businesses and an auctioneer will take bids Dec. 20 at noon at the arena. The idea came to Amendt after a business owner asked him what such advertising would cost.

Outdoor skating rink

Councillors asked when the Scott Seaman Outdoor Rink would be ready for skaters. Amendt said the hope was to be ready by Dec. 14 but even if there weather is cold, sun reflecting on the boards causes the ice to soften. “The sun still has enough strength to soften it.”

Coun. Izak van der Westhuizen feels there should be a plan to have the ice in sooner. “We’re putting the ice in on the shortest day of the year and the days are getting longer as the ice is in there.”

He suggested they consider a plan to have the ice in sooner if the fall season is cooler than normal. “They’re talking about pond skating for the last six weeks.”

Cross-country ski trail builder needed

Amendt is looking for a new cross-country ski trail builder as the person who normally builds them has decided to cease his work in Ponoka. Salt and sand on the highways has affected his equipment as he travels from the Pigeon Lake area. Amendt is looking for either equipment or someone to take over the role as they do not have anyone to take over the seasonal position.