Hanna town council heard concerns about a proposed solar farm project from a member of the public at their regular meeting Sept. 12.
Elaine Wasdal spoke at the beginning of the meeting during the portion set aside for public presentations.
Wasdal began by noting she was responding to a presentation made at a previous council meeting by a PACE Canada representative.
Wasdal noted that concerns from the public were raised about the solar farm proposed to reside within Town of Hanna corporate limits and decided she would look into the issue herself. Wasdal stated that approving a solar farm for the parcel of land proposed would affect that land for a very long time.
She stated that her research revealed some other countries around the world are balking at solar farm developments.
She pointed out that through her research into a solar farm development in a different municipality, the project was originally paying about $6 million a year in taxes, but within a few years the development was only paying about $200,000 in tax revenue.
Wasdal added that her research revealed that within a few years of a solar farm development being approved the companies that own or operate them request their property tax bills be reduced.
Wasdal also discussed her research into the remediation of land that’s had a solar farm on it, stating she found only two companies in Alberta willing to do this work and that it is very expensive.
At that point she concluded her presentation.
No interest at this time
Town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Kim Neill updated councillors on the town’s recent tax recovery auction: there was no one in attendance. Hence, since the properties to be auctioned for unpaid property tax bills didn’t sell, the CAO stated he’ll bring councillors some options in October and it will be up to them to decide the parcel’s fates.
Neill stated one person collected an information package for the parcels, but didn’t show up at the auction.
Three properties were available in the tax recovery auction with reserve bids of $48,410, $47,560 and $48,080.
When asked if the lack of interest stemmed from the properties’ bad condition the CAO stated that’s likely one factor, another is probably that the lots are auctioned “sight unseen,” as prospective bidders can’t get a look inside the properties.
Late tax payments
The CAO provided councillors with an update on 2023 property tax payments coming into the town office. Neill reported the tax payment deadline was Aug. 31, 2023 and as of that date there was $828,829.29 outstanding, up about $100,000 from the same time last year.
Neil noted property owners on the payment plan are factored into that number, so once they’re removed the outstanding taxes come to an estimated $383,226.85.
Coun. Sandra Murphy mused that delays at Alberta Land Titles may play a role in late taxes. The CAO responded when land sales are final documents state who is now responsible for paying property taxes even if not registered with land titles.
Coun. Warwick stated that the dollar amount sounded high however Neill responded it’s not out of the ordinary.
The CAO noted in his regular report to council test results came back for the Palliser & Pioneer Trail Road rehab project. “The FWD testing results are in and the results are a little surprising in that they show a reasonable remaining strength in most cases, which is good news,” stated Neill’s memo to council.
“The item for validation becomes determination of the actual pavement structure thickness – the testing was factored with the assumed pavement structure.
There is a good opportunity to move forward with this project using a mill and inlay strategy rather than a rebuild strategy, which is nice because it is considerably cheaper.
The concern would be that with a thin structure, when we mill out the top layer, we will be removing such a high percentage of the road strength that we may force a failure between removal and replacement just with the weight of the construction traffic.
“MPE will perform a couple of test holes to gauge the pavement strength risk as a next step. If there is suitable structure thickness, the project would be able to accommodate the improvement without reconstruction.”
Mayor Danny Povaschuk asked if the dry weather has affected the project. The CAO responded he didn’t think so as the engineers used ground-penetrating radar to examine the road’s substructure.
Clean up that yard
During discussion of the accounts payable, Coun. Kyle Olsen asked about a Town of Hanna bill sent to a property owner for cleaning up a yard. Olsen asked if the bill is placed on that tax roll.
The CAO responded it could be eventually, but first the Town of Hanna sends the invoice to that property for payment. If payment isn’t received, eventually the clean-up bill is placed on the tax bill.
Neil updated councillors on the runway light situation at the Hanna airport.
“The contractor has completed all of the civil work required and are awaiting the delivery of the new lights and a piece of electrical equipment (constant current regulator),” stated the CAO. “Unfortunately, there has been a delay in the delivery of the lights and the regulator, and they are not anticipated to arrive until mid-October.”
Neill noted the Town of Hanna issued a notice to airmen (NOTAM) about the missing runway lights. It was noted during discussion the lights are running late due to a supply chain issue.
Rocking the town
Neill noted Hanna is looking into recognizing some of its most famous alumni. “A small committee has been formed of interested community members to look at potential options for recognizing Nickelback and increasing the traffic of fans and visitors into our community,” stated the CAO.
“The committee has met once but some members were unable to attend. Those that were in attendance brainstormed some preliminary ideas which have been shared with the members, but nothing formally approved at this time.”
Nickelback is a Grammy-nominated rock group formed in Hanna in 1995 which has sold about 50 million albums worldwide.
Local Journalism Initiative reporter