Council denies reimbursement for former mayor

Written by Stu Salkeld

Morrin village council denied by resolution to reimburse a former mayor for expenses he claimed to incur while investigating sewer problems affecting his residence.

The decision was made at the Oct. 19 regular meeting of council.

Former Morrin mayor Howard Helton sent several receipts for various utility work he had done at his residence in 2021; as councillors discussed the receipts it appeared he emailed them to all three councillors and the village office.

At the September council meeting, Helton sent a letter to Morrin council requesting reimbursement for about $1,800 in expenses Helton claimed to incur while investigating sewer problems on his property.

Helton also claimed those problems were related to or caused by village infrastructure.

At the September meeting councillors agreed they wouldn’t reimburse Helton based solely on the letter, which was not accompanied by any receipts.
As councillors went through the receipts it was suggested that some or all of the work listed wasn’t approved beforehand by the village.

Mayor Chris Hall said, “He did that on his own initiative,” noting that a receipt stated a plumber was called to remove a clog in the sewer system but that work was never supervised by the village.

Coun. Lorraine MacArthur observed that Helton also sent photos.

However, village Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Annette Plachner noted the photos weren’t helpful. “Can’t even see what’s in there,” said Plachner.

Mayor Hall felt the council should set Helton’s request aside.

“Let’s file it as information and let it go,” said Hall.

MacArthur added that two of the three current council weren’t in office when Helton’s situation occurred.

“It’s hard for us because we weren’t even here when this happened,” said MacArthur, who added that if councillors approved Helton’s request they might have to do it for anyone who sent receipts to the village claiming out-of-pocket expenses.

Councillors unanimously approved a resolution denying Helton’s request for reimbursement.

Afterwards, Plachner stated she was frustrated that the village continues to deal with Helton’s request as once something is decided councillors shouldn’t have to keep rehashing it over and over.

Bide your time
During the financial reports, CAO Plachner noted the village’s property tax recovery sale will be held on Nov. 17.

Coun. MacArthur was concerned the outstanding property taxes hadn’t been paid. “Nobody’s come to (pay?)” asked MacArthur.
Plachner responded coyly, “They will.”

Public Works report
Public Works Foreman Dave Benci provided his regular report to councillors, noting he continues to investigate the north valve on the community hall.

Benci stated he spent time looking for the valve and couldn’t find a thing, so he suspects the valve was already removed sometime in the past.

He has a method for testing whether it’s still there but requires another fully functioning valve which he reported requires repair work amounting to about $5,000 to $7,000.

Benci also suggested the village arrange for a Public Works backup staff member in case Benci is unable to attend work. He noted since he’s the only village Public Works staff if he’s absent the garbage pick up and water quality testing may become an issue.

Councillors approved a resolution that Benci hire a casual worker and train him to cover Public Works duties.

Councillors also discussed Morrin’s homecoming celebration planned next summer, which was pre-empted by COVID.

Various work includes new shale for the ball diamond, new grass also at the diamond, arranging for flower pots around the community among some other jobs.

Back for more
Councillors held their annual organizational meeting before the regular council meeting. Hall was the lone nominee for mayor, which he accepted and which was approved by vote. MacArthur was the lone nominee for deputy mayor, which she accepted and which was also approved by vote.

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.