Much like other municipalities across the region, water rates have been known to be the large elephant in the room.
Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Michelle White presented a revised Alix utility bylaw at the regular council meeting on Wed. Jan. 2.
Coun. Vicki Soltermann requested they change to increase the bulk water rate as they currently sell it at five cents per cubic metre although it tends to cost more money to put in the work to provide the service.
White agreed they do not see much revenue from this source as an average year brings in around $3,000.
“We have a major problem with how much water we buy and how much water we sell, like hundreds of thousands of dollars have been gone for a variety of reasons so I’m just trying to figure out where could all the water be going and where can we cut our losses?” said Soltermann.
CAO White jotted down the truck fill and dumping station as noted items for further investigation.
Commercial water rate has been set at $35 plus an additional $2.96 per cubic metre in water usage while sewer rates were set at $26.25 plus $2.25 per cubic metre in water usage.
The bylaw outlines commercial and industrial recycling rates at a flat rate of $5.93 per month for all accounts.
The garbage removers hired by the village have upped their prices so the village has made a decision to do the same by determining a price of $41.50 per month to a maximum of two totes.
Council passed all three motions to adopt the bylaw after lengthy discussion but lowering water rates is still top of mind for councillors.
“It will be something that we can strive for, for next year,” said Coun. Barb Gilliat.
Line of Credit repealed
Council has decided to move forward into 2019 without a line of credit from Servus Credit Union after discussion at the Wed. Jan. 2 meeting.
With over $2 million stashed away in other accounts, CAO White felt comfortable recommending they cancel it.
“The only thing that I would add to that about breaking the glass in case of emergency is that with all the reserves that we have in place that is fully funded – we have the ability to cover a fairly significant amount of emergency expenses just based on those reserves we are holding in check,” said White.
Historically, the Village has held a line of credit with Servus Credit Union for $300,000 but these funds have not been accessed for 10 years, promoting the change to repeal the bylaw.
The Village’s remaining debt limit available is $576,060 and having a line of credit does not affect this amount unless it is used.
In order to have a line of credit should council feel it is necessary to have one again, it requires a borrowing bylaw and full advertising cycle.
The bank also requires a signed agreement and a copy of the Village’s financial statements.
CAO White explained that the process shouldn’t take longer than three weeks to a month which gives them sufficient time to set up the line of credit in case of emergencies when it is needed.
She further explained the process can be cumbersome on an annual basis as it takes away time from staff to complete processing information to auditors and filling out a renewal application.
Disaster Services location
Disasters are prone to happen in east central Alberta. The Pine Lake tornado in 2008 is a perfect example of this.
For the Village of Alix, having a space or two to house residents and to establish an emergency personnel station is important.
At the meeting, Council was asked how they feel about the current primary location at Railway House and if they should move it elsewhere to cut operating budget costs.
The location of the Disaster Services Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) is currently located directly beside the highway and railroad tracks which might become a potential problem as both highway and railway accidents are the most likely causes of major incidents.
“I would like to leave it at Railway House. I’ve been through two disasters and if we had a major one here, if we had something, like if we had to evacuate the village which I have been involved in, you need room for all the people and we don’t have it here [in the office],” said Coun. Ed Cole.
Mayor Rob Fehr gave a little history lesson talking about his involvement as the Disaster Services Director.
He mentioned the EOC in Alix was set up in a couple of locations in the village like the old fire hall and the village office at one point.
One of the largest criteria emphasised by the Lacombe Regional Emergency Management Partnership is to make sure the village office is not the place of the EOC unless the space is well laid out and can hold a large number of residents.
“When we joined the Lacombe regional emergency management partnership and when this all came together and developed that was one of the criteria they really emphasised is don’t have them in your town or village office because there are too many distractions and moving parts,” said Mayor Fehr.
There are sufficient phone and fax lines in Railway House for an EOC already but emergency personnel would need key fobs to access the Village Office building if the location were to change.
The two phone lines and one fax line costs from $3,500 to $3,800 per year.
This topic of discussion came up when the Village asked their recreation department if they could cancel their fax line to cut costs. The recreation department’s fax line costs $833 per year.
They believed this would not happen as it was tied into the Disaster Services EOC.
Moving their location to the Village Office would save the Village around $4,333 per year.
After deliberation, Council agreed to have CAO White investigate further into the matter as to where the new location should be and to consult with professionals about the EOC.
The Asset Management Capacity Building Cohort application has been provided by the City of Lacombe to establish a relationship with the region surrounding the city.
Asset management is a requirement for municipalities receiving federal funding.
“That makes it pretty important and I’m concerned that what may come in the future is the requirement for us to report what we are doing for asset management and if we don’t meet the federal standard we may be facing difficulty in accessing some of those grants,” said CAO White.
Mayor Fehr added, “The feds and the province have been steering it that way for the last six, seven years anyways, so you know where this is going, so you might as well get on board now. Now is the time to do it.”
The Village is compliant as they use the Tangible Capital Asset (TCA) management and multi-year capital budgets.
The new Building Cohort application proves to be ‘an interesting opportunity’ for the Village as this system allows municipalities to obtain more detailed information regarding maintenance records, replacement times and infrastructure standards of their regional partners as well as themselves.
This was a large selling point for councillors.
“I like the part where you get to know other municipalities because it will help you when you’re going to go ask for funding or grants,” said Mayor Fehr.
The regional cohort will also keep Alix more prevalent when applying for grants and there is no risk of control over the Village’s own assets.
Council agreed to apply to the regional cohort and commit financial support if needed.
A resolution followed to set aside costs for staff travel and accommodation to attend meetings.
All meetings are expected to be in the region of Lacombe or done by phone, keeping costs to a minimum.
“Although we are currently meeting the requirements, a more well-rounded approach to asset management could be beneficial,” said CAO White.