Big Valley council balances 2022 operating budget with COVID program funds

Written by Stu Salkeld

Big Valley village council balanced their 2022 operating budget with funds from a one-time COVID-19 program.

The decision was made at the April 21 regular meeting of council held one week later than usual due to compassionate reasons.

Village Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Tracy Mindus presented both the 2022 operating and capital budgets, plus the multiyear future budgets required by the provincial government.

As councillors were discussing the budget Mindus pointed out the operating budget cost more than the incoming revenues, and appeared to be in a deficit situation to the tune of $15, 352.

All three councillors seemed surprised the budget didn’t balance.
The ECA Review doesn’t have access to the budget documents as the council agenda was never made available to the public prior to the meeting as far as this writer could determine.

Mindus’ recommendation was to use unspent MOST funds, of which Big Valley still had $18,000 remaining.

Coun. Gail Knudson asked if it was “okay” to use MOST funds to balance the operating budget to which Mindus answered yes.

Municipal Operating Support Transfer (MOST) was a temporary program introduced by the Alberta government to assist municipalities during the pandemic.

Mayor Dan Houle asked for a clarification that the budget had a shortfall and Mindus answered yes.

Coun. Amber Hoogenberg stated she didn’t want to raise taxes.

Knudson stated that legally the village is not permitted to pass a deficit budget and that if the councillors had known the situation there were probably areas in the budget that could have been cut to balance it but that it was too late to cut now.

Knudson stated, for example, the village spends $3,500 to mail out its newsletter, the village office spends money on a janitor and the office admin staff had their work increased to four days a week from three days a week.

Mayor Houle stated the village has three trucks and only one full-time employee, so it probably only needs two at most.

Knudson stated the village was lucky to have the MOST funds. “Well, let’s be thankful it’s there,” she said.

Councillors unanimously approved using $15,352 of MOST funds to top up the 2022 operating budget. A few minutes later they also unanimously approved the 2022 capital budget.

D & A Consulting
Councillors unanimously agreed through resolution to terminate an agreement with D & A Consulting to develop an infrastructure study.

“Council, at the March 10, 2022 council meeting, requested that administration bring the agreement with D & A Consulting for infrastructure study services,” stated Mindus’ report.

As councillors discussed the issue they noted the agreement with D & A Consulting included several reports from the consultant to be filed by dates beginning last year and into 2022. Apparently few or no reports had been received by the village.

Mayor Houle stated that it seems D & A Consulting was not keeping up its end of the bargain.

Mindus continued: “CAO Mindus contacted [D & A Consulting] on Jan. 17, 2022, Feb. 8, 2022 and April 7, 2022. On Jan. 17 the response was something would be submitted by Jan. 31 and on Feb. 8 the response was that the recommendation would be to do sewer upgrades, starting with 4th Ave. between 2nd and 3rd Street.”

At the meeting Mindus reported she told D & A Consulting to sit tight and wait for councillors to decide the issue.

Lagoon upgrades
Councillors heard a report from Rudy Chan of Associated Engineering, who presented the results of a lagoon study. The study was essentially a snapshot of the Big Valley lagoon’s condition.

He began by stating engineers broke the report into short and long term sections.

Chan stated the lagoon has substantial sludge build-up which may be affecting the infrastructure.

“You guys have a lot of sludge,” said Chan. He also identified issues such as access, liner damage and leakage, overgrowth of vegetation, isolation structure not working, significant erosion on the outfall ditch, the discharge ditch being located on the neighbour’s property and some piping not working.

Chan also showed data on the Big Valley lagoon’s water quality, noting the effluent quality in spring, 2021 according to the discharge, exceeded quality noted in TSS and BOD guidelines.

He stated Big Valley discharges twice a year, whereas many communities only discharge once a year.

He also stated there seems to be a deficit in the storage cell and facultative cell.

He estimated short term work, including removal of sludge, could be about an $850,000 project, while long term work, including adding new cells, could be a $2.5 million to $3 million project plus the cost of land.
Councillors accepted the report for information.

Stu Salkeld
Local Journalism Initiative reporter
ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.