Hut 8 Holdings, a cryptocurrency mining company focused on mining bitcoin, has requested Starland County waive the penalties racked up from a year’s worth of unpaid taxes.
One of the company’s mining stations resides at the lip of the Drumheller Valley on Starland County land.
A formal request was made on June 14 from Chief Financial Officer Shane Downey, noting the discovery that these taxes were the responsibility of the company.
Council added that there was a change in hands of the mine in late 2019 from Bitfury Technology Inc. to Hut 8 Holdings where the executive board of the former company was responsible for the property taxes.
Administration shared they had ‘made several attempts’ to contact the company in regards to the taxation and penalties now accumulated for over a year.
In total, Hut 8 now owes the county $272,200.74.
“We’ve had little to no success until recently,” said Financial Administrator Judy Fazekas. “It sounds like they were surprised to owe property tax.”
Council agreed the new company should pay, passing a motion to have them pay the full amount including $43,075.54 in penalties.
Rumsey lots offer
Ted and Clare Sinclair recently responded to some questions the county had towards an inquiry they had over three lots within Rumsey known commonly as the site of the old school.
Council asked if they were interested in submitting an offer for all three lots that make up this space and what it would be used for.
The couple shared they have been maintaining the site for several years and that they would most likely use it to house a tarp shed.
They offered $1250 for two lots but after searching at a county policy on selling land, parcels run for $3,000 each.
Council agreed to stick to their guns by holding at the $3,000 per lot.
They added that it will be interesting to see Craigmyle assessment values as they would be comparable to Rumsey.
Administration stated the lot price has held for approximately 20 years so a policy review will be done to possibly increase the price based on this other assessment in the near future.
In regards to the Morrin Sod House’s proposed campground, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Shirley Bremer shared they received notice on Fri. June 18 their development permit with the Village of Morrin was refused.
The reason noted on the application was “An RV Campground is not an allowed use in the Industrial District as per the Village Land Use Bylaw.
There also have been preliminary objections by local residents to this location. In view of these issues, an alternate location may be your best recourse.”
Starland’s campgrounds have been quite busy so far this season.
Starland Recreation Area and Tolman Bridge campgrounds are in the lead, each already collecting over $14,000 in revenues up to the middle of June.
Michichi Reservoir revenues are over $4,500 for the general camping and almost all of the seasonal sights have been purchased for an additional $20,000.
McLaren Dam’s revenue is up to $3,300 as well “which is very good for only being one month into the camping season,” said Bremer.
Seed Cleaning Plant update
Starland County council officially passed the second and third reading of Borrowing Bylaws 1169 and 1170 which allow the Starland Seed Cleaning Plant the opportunity to borrow up to $2.5 million for the construction of the updated facility to be located in Delia.
The board was originally looking at a $6.3 million facility ‘with all the bells and whistles’ but whittled down the design to cost about $4 million between the borrowing loan and contributions from other stakeholders.
They cut a couple of storage bins and the seed treater.
Space will be made for the treater so they can save up to purchase one after the initial build.
Councillor Jackie Watts has been cautious of this decision to allow the project this $2.5 million because if the project falls through, this amount will fall on the taxpayers.
She noted it makes the county majority stakeholder at 2/3rds of the project value.
Because of this, she asked to have the county become more involved in the operation to ensure it is running smoothly, recommending at least two county representatives sit on the board of potentially seven.
This will be added as a stipulation to the loan once drafted.
“We are risking ratepayers’ dough here,” said Watts. “We don’t want to be outvoted but don’t want to control you either.”
Personal cannabis facility
Council was notified a change was needed to be made to the local land use bylaw in that an addition to Part VI, Land Use Districts needed to add “Medical Marijuana Production Facility” to the “Rural Small Holdings District (RSH) as a Discretionary Use.
Approval has already been given from Health Canada for one acreage in the Rumsey area in particular to house and grow 735 cannabis plants for personal use.
Councillors were concerned there is a ‘disconnect’ between municipalities and the federal government as Starland did not know this was happening until communication was received directing the county to change the bylaw.
“You would need to use three plants a day. We need more information on this to see if there was a screw-up,” said Coun. John Rew.
Administration shared it was not their responsibility to hand out these types of licenses in that it is federal jurisdiction.
Council passed the first reading of the bylaw to get the hearing process in motion but found ‘our hands are tied, it will go through no matter what.’
The public hearing will take place on July 21.