The Village of Big Valley is suspending utility payment penalties for three months in an effort to help residents who’ve been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision was made at the April 2 regular council meeting which was conducted through teleconference in an effort to follow social distancing guidelines.
Village Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Sandra Schell stated councillors discussed unpaid utility fees and the fact those fees are usually transferred to tax bills.
However, council elected not to do that in light of the effect coronavirus is having on the economy.
Instead, councillors passed a resolution for village staff to offer a program as of April 6 for residents to defer their utility payments for three months, April, May and June 2020 with the late penalties being suspended for those months.
Schell pointed out that the utilities are still expected to be paid, they just don’t have to be paid until the three months are over.
Due to coronavirus social distancing guidelines, Schell noted regular council meetings are being conducted by teleconference.
“Right now, we’re doing what we can,” she said by phone April 6.
Information about the meetings will be provided to the public if they wish to attend.
Schell said councillors discussed second reading of Bylaw 37, the Traffic Bylaw that is being updated to conform to modern rules and regulations.
One change being added to the bylaw is an appeal system for the public for certain village decisions.
Councillors passed second reading of the bylaw including amendments and directed the CAO to bring the bylaw back to the next council meeting for consideration of third reading.
Delinquent utility accounts
The CAO stated councillors discussed the handling of delinquent utility accounts.
She stated councillors felt a process should be in place to encourage people to pay their utility accounts as quickly as possible.
By a recorded vote of 2 to 1, councillors approved instructing Schell to change bylaws relating to utility collection and payment to include monthly penalties, including a two per cent penalty for accounts unpaid for over 30 days, a four per cent penalty for utility accounts unpaid for over 60 days, a six per cent penalty for utility accounts unpaid for over 90 days plus transfer of the unpaid account to the tax roll in addition to possible shut-off of service.
The vote was Coun. German and Coun. Art Tizzard in favour, mayor Harry Nibourg opposed.
Truck drivers should note the Village of Big Valley has decided to permanently ban trucks on Railway Ave.
Schell stated the village typically places its spring road bans on when Stettler County applies its road bans.
Temporary train cars
Councillors approved by resolution that village administration negotiate the three-month storage of train cars on tracks within the village.
The train cars belong to Prairie Steam Train.
Schell noted councillors want to be flexible in this troubling time of coronavirus to help locals, but also want to be mindful that train cars sitting for long periods of time can block views.
Village council will meet in April for a budget workshop and talk about financial pressure on the village due to increased policing and recreational costs.
The results of the workshop will be presented at the April 23 regular meeting of council.
Continuing a discussion from a previous council meeting, councillors looked at their snow removal policy while also looking at examples from other municipalities.
Schell stated councillors are interested in examining snow removal to see if the village can improve efficiencies and reduce costs.
They directed Schell to develop a revised snow removal policy which will be presented at the next council meeting scheduled for April 23.
Continuous Improvement Framework
Schell stated Deputy Mayor Clark German has been instrumental in this framework, which is an across-the-board look at increasing efficiencies in village operations and reducing costs.
Councillors passed a resolution directing Schell to develop a template for this framework.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter