Annual Christmas market in limbo

A conceptual drawing of the future Forestburg visitor information centre. ECA Review/Submitted
Written by Terri Huxley

Forestburg council was tasked with determining if the annual Christmas Market held the last weekend of November will run this year at their meeting on Thurs. Sept. 3.

A mix of feelings was expressed towards holding it.

Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Debra Moffat said that under normal circumstances the market is booked solid by this time for tables willing to enter.

This year, however, with COVID-19 still prevalent, council has chosen to table the matter until a later meeting to determine if it will run or not.

Mayor Blaise Young was highly against hosting the event as he considers himself a ‘high risk’ person and felt this would put people in danger by being ‘reckless’.

Coun. Elaine Fossen had a different position, stating the market could be possible if done differently by thinking outside the box.

“These things can still be done,” said Coun. McNabb. “It’ll just take a little more work.”

Most of the councillors agreed with this statement, suggesting they use two facilities like the hall and curling rink lounge to host with stringent check-in spots in case an outbreak occurs.

Another location would be the arena but council chose to hold off on any decisions until the annual general meeting takes place for the arena committee to see if they will be putting ice in this year or not.

No Santa pictures or food would be permitted.

A conceptual drawing of the future Forestburg visitor information centre. ECA Review/Submitted

Wanda School House move

Mayor Young gave a presentation on his vision for a new Visitor Information Centre as part of attracting and keeping visitors in Forestburg for economic development.

He shared a couple of hand-drawn images made by a committee member of what this may look like with the restored Wanda School House as the centerpiece.

Mayor Young asked council for a letter of support for the Forestburg Community Development Committee to begin applying for various heritage grants.

No financial commitment was needed at this time.

“I think this would be an incredible addition to Forestburg,” he said.

Question period

Fred Dibben sent in a letter prior to the meeting but mentioned a few things during the question and answer period conversation with council.

Dibben was concerned the swales near his home hardly ever get cleaned out and are never sealed properly but feels they should be at least twice a year to avoid major damage to the infrastructure.

He questioned council as to why that is the case.

“If we soon don’t look after this end, we will be like the arena,” he said.

He suggested they give their work experience students clearer directions rather than just sending them on their way.

Mayor Young said that he has been in touch with Motor Paving to arrange a meeting with them once the high season is over so they can go over all the new methods and products available to help with this issue.

Animal Control Bylaw

After no public feedback was received other than a question about where the pound would be set up, council passed final reading, solidifying the new bylaw for animal control.

Council was tasked with asking the head librarian what they thought of using the library as an educational space with animals.

She thought it was a good idea but was also leery as one of the recurring visitors is deathly allergic to animal hair, making it a tough call.

Council understood and mentioned that the bylaw will be in place but will give the final say to the head librarian whether to have animals in or not.

Bylaw officer

Council approved retaining the services of J.A.G. Security 2018 Inc. and to appoint Wayne Niback as the new Bylaw Enforcement Officer for the Village of Forestburg.

A private session commenced for roughly five minutes before returning to the public setting to establish this.

Traffic Bylaw

Council went over the Traffic Bylaw during the Aug. 6, 2020 council meeting.

Council directed administration to make no changes to the off-road vehicle permitting but did bring forward some minor changes to the bylaw.

The only change brought forward from that discussion was removing references to the golf course, campground and school grounds.

First reading was not given so CAO Moffat instructed council to give all three readings at the current meeting.

Councillor McNabb and Coun. Fossen visited the insurance company prior to the meeting to see about some details in the bylaw. One of which was about golf carts and also changing wording to say that the village is not liable and that no non-licensed drivers are permitted.

Golf carts will now only be permitted for an annual license usage while quads and dirt bikes are not.

If people are seen riding a quad or dirt bike in town, they will be subject to the bylaw officer’s enforcement.

Pothole repairs

Council approved a motion to use Border Paving to do pothole repairs at a cost of $30,015 with the funds to be taken from the 2020 public works reserve transfer as per the 2020 operating budget.

Franchise Fee

The annual review of the ATCO Franchise fee for the village was talked over.

The village increased the franchise fee from nine per cent to 10 per cent last year.

The maximum franchise fee allowed is 20 per cent.

Council, after discussion, agreed to raise the franchise fee another one per cent which will result in an increase to monthly electric charges of approximately $1.23 per residential bill.

This means Forestburg will get an additional $9,000 in one year which they hope to put towards police funding or other things that may come up.

In total, for an 11 per cent rate, the village will receive $100,375 which will be a part of general revenue to offset taxes.

“It doesn’t hurt anything and gives us that little bit of buffer I think,” said Coun. Fossen.

The increased franchise fee charged will be effective Jan. 1, 2021.

CAO recruitment

During the special meeting of council held on Aug. 20, 2020, Coun. Fossen was directed to provide a list of executive search consultants to assist with the recruitment of a new CAO.

It was decided during the meeting to hold a closed session later on for this discussion.

After their talk, a motion was made to authorize negotiations with two executive search companies.

Stimulus funding project

Since the last time council talked about this funding, the rules have changed to give more flexibility in terms of where they can spend this extra money.

Forestburg specifically has been allocated $104,000 with many projects they agreed they could put this money towards.

Council chose to move forward with repaving and building 47th Avenue, moving up the five-year schedule by combining this money with their annual Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding.

“There will be so many people running around there that will be so happy,” said Mayor Young.

Pool liner invoice

On Nov. 7, 2019 council approved the tender from Austin Carroll Pools to replace the swimming pool liner at a cost of $150,714.29.

The installation of the liner started in July 2020, however, significant damage was discovered on the walls of the pool once the liner was removed.

On Aug. 6, 2020, council authorized Western Recreation to carry out the necessary repairs to the pool walls so that the liner can be installed.

Western Recreation will not be able to start the repairs until Sept. 8, 2020.

Administration has contacted Austin Carroll Pools to schedule the liner install and it does not appear that they will have time until next spring.

To date Austin Carroll Pools has provided the product required for the liner installation and spent approximately one week removing the old liner and portions of the fleece from the walls of the pool.

As per contract, the village paid Austin Carroll Pools $45,214.29 on Feb. 10, 2020.

Since then, Austin Carroll Pools invoiced the village $89,500 on Aug. 5, 2020 which would leave only $16,000 left to be paid to them.

Administration was concerned that if the total invoice was paid as requested, they may have difficulty in scheduling Austin Carroll Pools to return in the spring to complete the installation.

Administration understood that Austin Carroll Pools needs to be compensated for the time spent on the project to date but feels that prepaying 90 per cent of the project cost was ‘excessive’.

Council accepted administration’s recommendation to pay 50 per cent ($30,142.86) of the total contract.

Regional emergency services

Flagstaff County has submitted a request in regard to the Flagstaff Regional Emergency Services Society (FRESS).

They have been considering continuing with the creation of FRESS with the condition that agreement be amended to give Flagstaff County veto power on the annual budget; and that an affordable plan be developed to demonstrate cost savings to meet the region’s needs; and that their portion of the budget does not exceed $450,000.

The county has asked that the regional CAO group develop a revised business plan addressing their concerns.

Council was not in favour of these conditions.

Each municipality in the society pays a certain amount. CAO Moffat mentioned the county has only in its history of the group been under this $450,000 threshold while all other years have been over as the majority of calls are within the county.

“They are not the only entity that is experiencing financial hardships,” said Coun. Fossen.

“They are the only ones who didn’t raise their tax rate which is known to be quite less than in town,” added CAO Moffat.

“I do not like the veto. I do not like the ceiling,” said the Mayor. “I think we should all be equal and protected by all the same fire departments.”

Council passed a motion directing administration to send a letter similar to Sedgewick in that they do not agree with any of these conditions.

Terri Huxley

ECA Review

About the author

Terri Huxley

Terri grew up on a grain farm near Drumheller, Alberta with an eye for the beautiful and uncharted. Living in such a unique and diverse area has helped her become the photographer and reporter she is today.

Coming from the East Central region getting this newspaper on her dinner table growing up, it helped her understand the community she now serves.

In May 2019, Terri was awarded Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association (AWNA) Canada's Energy Citizens Photographic Awards Sports Action – First Place as well as first for the same sports action image nationally with the Canadian Community Newspaper Association (CCNA). Fast forward to 2020, she has won second in the same category for the AWNA.