Big Valley Village council discusses plan for the future

Written by Stu Salkeld

Big Valley village council discussed their plans for the future and how the existing strategic plan would be involved. The issue was discussed at the Nov. 10 regular meeting of council.

Essentially, a strategic plan is a document some councils approve that lays out the future priorities of the municipality.

Coun. Clark German began the conversation by noting he’d looked through the village’s existing strategic plan, including the goal statements, and they looked acceptable.

German voiced interest in looking at what is included in the plan and “…moving things forward.”

Mayor Dan Houle stated that the village is still waiting for an infrastructure study which could play a big part in the village’s future plans.

Village Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Elaine Macdonald noted some items identified as priorities in the strategic plan, such as roads and dealing with unsightly premises, are handled on a regular basis by the village staff.

Mayor Houle noted the village has marked some big achievements but added it would be beneficial to develop a plan for the future and finish it.

During discussion, the subject of discussing the strategic plan, or parts of it, at regular council meetings was discussed. Macdonald stated many parts of a strategic plan are connected to other parts, and other factors, such as public consultation, usually also included in a strategic plan.

Councillors decided to table the discussion on the strategic plan until the entire council was present; Coun. Amber Hoogenberg was absent from the meeting.

Interim budget
Councillors unanimously approved a timeline for the interim 2023 budget as presented by the CAO.

Macdonald noted the provincial government requires municipalities have an interim budget for next year by Dec. 31 of the current year.

Looking ahead to the next budget Macdonald noted it may not be possible to go through the budget process “unscathed” when it comes to a property tax increase.

Macdonald added utilities will likely be a challenge in 2023 as municipalities have been told the federal carbon tax will add another $5 to the price of each gigajoule of natural gas, essentially doubling the price.

It was noted the regional library group was also planning a 20 cent per capita increase as well.

Coun. German stated he hoped the budget would be ready sooner than last year, which was into April. He also acknowledged the difficulty of budgeting in the current economy.

“There’s a lot of external pressures,” said German.

Service line warranty
The Village of Big Valley continues to investigate the possibility of engaging a third party to offer warranty coverage for utility lines on residents’ properties.

The CAO reported the services of a company called Service Line Warranties continues to be examined by the village, with Macdonald noting the village has been doing its own research on the service which offers coverage to property owners in the event of a water or sewer line break.

Macdonald stated that the village has found some “…favourable and not so favourable” reviews about the service and Big Valley staff are trying to get ahold of elected councillors in towns in Ontario which had agreed to this service. Staff have not been able to contact those councillors yet.

Snow removal
Coun. German requested council discuss the village’s snow removal policy. The CAO began by stating the policy had previously been changed by council but the office copy was never actually updated by the village staff.

German provided feedback he’d heard within the community, with people asking the village not “go hog wild” with sand and gravel in intersections. All that grit just requires more cleanup work in the spring, he added.

Mayor Houle responded there may have been more sand placed last year because of the amount of “freeze and thaw” which occurred, with the village wanting to address slippery intersections and the threat of injuries or property damage.

During discussion, Macdonald made the point that if councillors place certain requirements in the policy, staff have no choice but to drop whatever job they’re doing and begin snow removal.

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.