Botha residents speak their minds

Around 50 residents gathered at the Botha Community Hall Mar. 31 to join the discussion on whether the village will remain as a municipality or opt for dissolution.

Residents met the Viability Review Team, which consisted of members from Botha council, the County of Stettler, various administrative organizations as well as Team Chair Linda Reynolds and Project Lead Debbi McCaan, both from Municipal Affairs.

Residents had an opportunity to raise concerns about the process and work through questionnaires provided by the team to pin down the ‘need to know’ information before making any decisions.

Botha Council initiated the viability review process back in October 2014. A few key indicators that prompted the review were outstanding taxes at 11.7 per cent, financial statements submitted late to Municipal Affairs in 2014 and 2015 and a high level of debt service of 90 per cent for 2014. The threshold is 80 per cent.

The review team met for the first time in January 2016. The public meeting was the first opportunity for residents to ask questions about the process.

Residents gathered in about seven smaller groups with one or two team members with each group. The groups discussed their main concerns and then presented those to the whole crowd.

Residents were not happy with high taxes, declining property values, lack of services and maintenance, loss of community identity and lack of bylaw enforcement. Attracting businesses to Botha has also proved to be a struggle due to the close proximity to Stettler.

The idea of dissolution brought its own concerns like loss of control to outsiders, loss of independence and community identity and what level of services Stettler  County would provide and at what tax level.

The public input forms part of the investigative side of the review. The team will bring back answers to residents about what to expect for either alternative.

Information gathered from an infrastructure audit will also give residents necessary guidance for making a decision.

Once the team has sifted through the information, a report will go to all residents. Following that, council will vote on the next step to continue as a village or dissolve. Depending on council’s decision, residents may need to vote.

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