ATCO refuses to pay fire suppression costs

Paintearth Council was asked to approve the write-off of two ATCO Electric bills at their regular Nov. 27 meeting.

In August, the County invoiced the company for fire suppression costs at a cost of $775 and $1,075 respectively.

In turn, ATCO did not accept the position that they were responsible for fire or resulting fire suppression costs as they found they were not the ones liable for the incident after conducting their own review.

The government also outlines in the Forest and Prairie Protection Act who is assigned the responsibility of expenses to those who own or control the land.

This is something an easement and/or a right of way does not constitute.

Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Michael Simpson suspects this will be a more common issue as infrastructure in the region continues to age.

“They are well aware of that and they are trying to avoid creating circumstances they can be held to in municipalities,” said Simpson.

The one option that was identified that council could potentially try in the future is to go about the situation through a different bylaw.

Administration found the bylaws they currently have don’t work for the purpose they are after. Looking at one or more of these bylaws could bring together fire bans and everything in between that would allow the County to send the bill to the occupant of the land, not just the owner.

The CAO, Assistant CAO and Reeve attended a meeting with ATCO about the invoices among other things.

“It was a good meeting but we didn’t agree on the fire invoices,” said Simpson.

Council carried a motion to write off both claims and directed administration to explore some kind of municipality protection resolution.

“It’s just hard to give them a free pass and nobody else,” said Deputy Reeve Doreen Blumhagen.

Paintearth grants $1,500 budget expenditure

A doctor’s home in Castor is in need of some work as a new garage door is needed to replace the current one. Council weighed the pros and cons of allocating $1,500 towards this expense.

Upon review of the budget, the doctor recruitment and retention committee passed a motion to create a housing reserve for doctors.

It will be a joint account between the three entities who own the property; County of Paintearth, Town of Castor, and the Castor Hospital.

The purpose of the account is to make sure there are reserve funds for expected and unexpected projects for upkeep of the home.

After consideration, council moved to approve the $1,500 and the Doctor’s House/ Locum Rental House 2019 budget.

Audit answers

Monica Faupel, a partner of Endeavor Chartered Professional Accountants, explained the scope of working with the auditing agency for their audit this coming year.

She also provided an outline of the 2018 annual audit findings for the county which she went over in detail.

“The purpose of me writing this is to ensure that we have this two-way communication between us as role of auditor and yourself with the role of overseeing the actual process,” said Faupel.

In the letter, she addressed responsibilities and provided information about the plan, scope and timing of the audit.

“With respect to the plan, scope and timing of the audit, my objective is to express an opinion on whether the financial statements are compared to in all material respects and standards. In developing the plan, I work with county management and staff to identify and assess the risk of a statement in the information whether due to fraud or error,” said Faupel.

She shared there has never been a time she has seen incorrect statements submitted.

“All adjustments during the course of the audit have been brought forward to management and have been corrected,” she said.

For timing, the annual audit will take place in early 2019 when it becomes convenient for the County.

A review letter will be sent to the County once the audit is complete with any ‘odd findings’ or significant matters.

Faupel asked council if there was any issues or concerns they should be aware of for the 2019 audit.

Council asked if Faupel could be on hand at a luncheon or other form of a casual meeting to talk with ratepayers about the audit come April.

“I would be more than happy to be in attendance,” said Faupel.

 

Terri Huxley

ECA Review

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