The Town of Bashaw council approved its 2020 budget, which was about $28,800 higher than last year.
The approval was made at the April 23 regular meeting of council which was held electronically over the internet.
Town of Bashaw CAO Theresa Fuller presented councillors with the draft 2020 budget, broken down into departments with a comparison of the 2019 budget and actual expenses and revenues.
Fuller noted the 2020 budget revenue and expenses required a levy of $777,049.33, $28,882 more than 2019.
Council received a letter from the local beautification committee voicing concern that their group would be in the crosshairs for budget cuts.
Mayor Penny Shantz noted the group does a lot of good work for the community.
After discussion, councillors decided to minimize cuts to the beautification committee, trimming money from other parts of the town as well.
“I think that’s a good way to do it, personally,” said Shantz.
The councillors approved the 2020 budget with a 3.72 per cent mill rate increase.
Coun. Rob McDonald stated he felt the increase should be kept under four per cent.
The Town of Bashaw’s audited 2019 financial statement was presented by Scott St. Arnaud of Gitzel & Co. Accountants of Stettler.
St. Arnaud stated when he audited the financial statements he felt the figures were presented fairly, appeared accurate and he could find no issues.
Councillors accepted the audited 2019 financial statements.
Councillors listened to a live presentation over the internet from Craig Bondy, co-owner of Missing Link, an internet service provider from the Rimbey area.
Bondy stated Missing Link provides services to many communities in the central Alberta region.
He notified councillors of a federal government program which could provide some funding to allow for installation of high speed fibre optic internet lines in the Town of Bashaw.
He stated an application would be required with a deadline of April 30 for the current round of grants and Missing Link and Bashaw would partner on the program.
Bondy’s report stated some costs of the project would include a $300 hook-up fee per resident which included a 50m connection and one year contract, the first year offering 50mbps for $100 a month.
Under the heading “Cost to the Community,” Bondy’s presentation noted there would be a cost of $500 to $1,700 per lot depending on the community.
Coun. McDonald and Rosella Peterman both voiced concern about the cost of the project.
“That’s a lot of money,” said McDonald, with Peterman adding, “Can we afford this?”
Coun. Darren Pearson said he would be happy to pay the fees if it meant fibre optic high speed was available.
Mayor Shantz stated she felt, considering the current economic situation, this isn’t the best time to consider something like this.
Coun. Lynn Schultz stated with such a tight 2020 budget, he couldn’t see any room for this idea right now.
Councillors voted to deny the request but noted they may be open to another proposal in the future.
Councillors read the emergency management report submitted by Murray Holroyd, town foreman.
The report noted the provincial government, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, has added water and wastewater operators to the list of essential workers.
As well, more funding has been announced for mental health services.
Councillors accepted the report for information.
Councillors discussed possibly redirecting FCSS funds granted earlier this year to the Bashaw Youth Foundation.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic the youth foundation has temporarily closed and laid off staff.
CAO Fuller asked councillors if $16,000 in funding should be returned to the town and spent on COVID-19 measures.
Mayor Shantz asked what happens if things pick up again and the foundation wants to re-open.
Coun. Peterman noted Bashaw organizations have applied for COVID-19 program funding.
Coun. McDonald suggested waiting to see if local groups get their COVID-19 grants and perhaps also suggest a refund of the FCSS money from the youth foundation.
Coun. Schultz wasn’t sure that was the best idea. “It’s pretty hard to take something back we’ve already given,” said Schultz.
Councillors agreed to erect a “Caution Deaf Child” sign on Main Street Bashaw after a family’s request.
The family sent a letter requesting the sign as they live on Main Street and have a daughter who has severe hearing loss and are worried about traffic on what is one of the busiest streets in Bashaw.
Coun. Schultz requested councillors consider meeting in person again, rather than electronically over the internet to meet social distancing guidelines.
He suggested meeting at the community hall where there is plenty of room to social distance.
Mayor Shantz stated she also prefers in-person council meetings.
Coun. Peterman stated the provincial government is advising to social distance up to the end of June, at least.
“I’m concerned,” said Peterman.
Coun. McDonald saw both sides. “I agree the [internet] meetings are difficult but it’s a way to manage the risk,” said McDonald.
Council chose a combined approach, allowing councillors to gather in the community centre but asking the public to attend only by internet for the next regular council meeting, May 7.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter