County undergoes Municipal Affairs MAP review

Adalynn Wagner, 10, of Castor, Alta. gets a first-hand fire truck tour from Castor Fire Department firefighter Lonnie Nelner during the County of Paintearth Firefighter luncheon on Tues. Aug. 20. The public was invited to an afternoon to meet their local emergency service crews. ECA Review/T.Huxley

After being randomly selected for a MAP (Municipal Accountability Program) review, the County of Paintearth was visited by representatives from Municipal Affairs.

Kevin Miller and Loucien Cloutier started off the meeting on Tues. Aug. 20 by introducing themselves and what their role in this particular council setting entails

“It was purely luck of the draw,” said Miller when sharing how the County was selected as a random number generator was used.

MAP is a mandatory evaluation for populations under 5,000 and happens once every four years.

It was introduced in May of 2018 to foster effective local governance and build administrative capacity in Alberta’s municipalities.

They review municipal processes and procedures to help develop knowledge of mandatory legislative requirements and support municipalities with their legislative compliance.

There is no cost to the county or any municipality for this review and no verbal interviews with administration and council is required.

Issues with compliance are discovered and brought to the administration’s attention.

They have eight weeks to provide an outline on how they will approach these changes whether it be a quick motion or a bylaw revision.

Once that is provided, the county will have a full year to fix any issues pointed out by Miller and Cloutier.

The pair commended Paintearth’s administrative team for being so diligent in their work.

The results of the MAP will be shared at a regular meeting as nothing is of confidential nature.

Miller and Cloutier concluded their speech and watched the remainder of the meeting as observers.

Budget report average

Lana Roth, director of corporate services, presented a budget report to council finding nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to expenditures and revenues collected from the past seven months.

“Everything is right on track,” said Roth.

Administration is gearing up to send out a second round of tax penalty reminder notices as the deadline is coming Sept. 30.

An abnormality was that only 95 per cent of taxpayers have paid which is a decline from last year.

Phone calls have been made to oil and gas companies as tax installment payment plans have been set up to alleviate problems with collection.

“We have had a few more people sign up for the tax installment payment plan so that helps. We have had some companies send in post-dated cheques so [we are] just slowly working on getting our arrears collected,” said Roth.

The Industrial property tax on shallow gas wells and pipelines will be reduced by 35 per cent for the 2019 tax year.

This short-term relief is meant to help shallow gas producers cut costs, protect jobs and remain competitive while dealing with economic pressures facing the natural gas industry.

To ensure municipalities don’t suffer from lost revenue, the province will reduce the amount of education property tax they pay to the government.

Once a list of eligible companies is released by the province, this program will be applied.

“The funding does not affect our revenues this year,” said CAO Simpson. “The province has given us the position to refund or relieve that money whatever the process is decided on from the education tax requisition that we collect on their behalf. So it’s kind of an in and an out for us.”

Paintearth County RCMP update

Sgt. Jason Smith of the Coronation Detachment attended council to give highlights of his RCMP report on the County of Paintearth within the last six months, from January to June 2019.

A new detachment centre has been noted a priority for the provincial government to address first but Sgt. Smith believes the replacement will take much more time to complete.

Inadequate space has led to the need for a new detachment.

Seventy-eight collisions in 2018 was reduced to 47 in 2019 due to increased traffic enforcement.

Out of 315 traffic offences, 200 tickets were for speeding.

Originally 26 Impared driving fines in 2018 were reduced to just four tickets within the county so far this year.

The sergeant attributes this to “increased enforcement and increased visibility.”

No cannabis-impared driving tickets have been issued.

Two firearm charges were laid in both 2018 and 2019.

The detachment’s clearance rate moved from 43 per cent, which was well below the provincial average, to 66 per cent.

“It’s a much better result but not in line with the province average,” said Smith.

The results he shared did not include Coronation and Castor.

No increase in members at the Coronation detachment is expected as the budget is identical to last year.

Canvas donations

On top of the regular council meeting, administration put together a unique luncheon for the public to attend. The county building parking lot was filled with high-tech fire trucks and other equipment as well as firefighters.

Large canvases with images taken by CAO Simpson were on display in the foyer.

Any of the photos shown are available as donations to charitable organizations and can be used for events like silent auctions to raise funds.

 

Terri Huxley

ECA Review

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