Lacombe County has an operating budget surplus from last year of almost $1 million.
At its regular meeting April 14, Lacombe County council voted in favour of allocating $600,000 to the tax rate stabilization reserve and $313,000 to uncollectable property taxes.
Coun. Ken Wigmore told council he would like to see the surplus go towards keeping the 2016 mill rate down.
“At a time like this our ratepayers would appreciate it if we put the surplus towards the 2016 budget,” he said.
Lacombe County Commissioner Terry Hager said, “It’s a valid suggestion.”
Likewise Coun. Brenda Knight agreed.
“Maybe this is a way of showing we are leading by example and that we recognize folks are having a hard time.”
But Coun. Rod McDermand said council should put the surplus into a “rainy day” fund.
Hager told council that Lacombe County’s industry mill rate is comparable across Alberta but added that he has heard from oil companies in the county cautioning them to be careful with the mill rate and don’t over tax.
Hager said some businesses in the county have gone bankrupt and council can’t collect taxes due from them.
This year he said it amounts to about $135,000 and expects the amount to double next year.
Lake resident’s request beach access
A group of Wilson’s Beach property owners wants Lacombe County council to revisit its Off Highway Vehicle bylaw – which was introduced in 2012 – or allow them vehicle access to lake.
Calvin Stock, representing the group, told council that local residents created, and have used, the Wilson’s Beach access road to get to the lake for more than 30 years.
Stock argued that the Wilson’s Beach access is actually a road and not a trail, like New Saratoga and McLaurin Beach/Gull Lake trails, and thus should allow vehicles.
Stock said they want the county to create a designated staging area at the bottom of Wilson’s Beach access road with a natural fence/barrier similar to the ones at the north and south ends of the lakeshore.
“We all share the same concerns, to preserve the natural shoreline and vegetation in this area so that it can be enjoyed for future generations.”
The group wants vehicle access so they can transport kayaks, canoes and boating accessories. They also want to access the community dock and watercrafts to enable boatlift and dock installation/removal and transportation of seniors or others who may have difficulty walking on the road due to mobility issues.
Stock said they have been driving vehicles on the Wilson’s Beach access not knowing about the 2012 bylaw until March of this year and want to drive on the access legally.
Coun. Ken Wigmore said council must come up with a solution for all.
“We have some thinking to do. If we say yes to you then we have to say yes to others.”
Coun. Rod McDermand asked the group if Lacombe County’s bylaw officers have requested they stay off the trail with their vehicles. Stock said no.
“Then I don’t see we have a big issue here and let sleeping dogs lie,” suggested Coun. McDermand.
Stock said mainly community members use the access road and that’s the way they want to keep it.
Lacombe County Reeve Paula Law said that as development occurs “your best kept secret may not be a secret.”
Lacombe County Commissioner Terry Hager said in the past the area was used for parties and there was damage to the environmental reserve area.
There were complaints from a number of residents about damage and a general disregard to the entire area, he told council.
Council sent the item to administration to bring back a recommendation for council.