Natural gas company seeks new payment plan with Starland County

Pine Cliff Energy, an Alberta based oil and gas company who is a large contributor to Starland County’s economy, approached the municipality with hopes of striking a new deal in terms of payment of linear taxes.

Council met with people high up in the company via video conference on Wed. Sept. 23.

Terry McNeill, CEO of the company, stated a few times this configuration was not about getting a ‘hand out’ but rather streamlining money in an easier fashion.

From August until the end of December, Pine Cliff has 13.2 million in gross (12.0 million net) of municipal taxes due to be paid.

They intend to ‘meet all future obligations’ but have proposed to make 12 equal payments to pay their tax balance of $825,505.50 and that Starland waives all penalties for the 2020 year.

McNeill noted that they have never missed any scheduled payments but with shrinking investment in the Canadian oil and gas sector, they lost access to its banking syndicate which means they operate on available cash.

Coun. John Rew asked if next year would be promising in terms of commodity pricing to which McNeill said yes, “It’s going in the right direction. We are encouraged where it is headed.

“Fingers crossed for all of us”.

No decision has been made at this time for this company by council as they will speak to it at a future meeting.

Pine Cliff Energy owns operations in Medicine Hat, Morrin and Viking.

MSP application

As part of CAO Bremer’s report, she noted Starland has officially submitted their Municipal Stimulus Program (MSP) Capital Program application.

This application is for MSP funding for replacement of a portion of the CLV Waterline, specifically approximately 625 meters of 6” steel pipe coming out of the Drumheller Valley to the CLV Regional Water System.

As this portion of waterline has experienced many leaks and breaks over the past several years, if approved, it will most certainly reduce their costs in regards to repairs and the cost of lost water.

Cody Schatz of Cody Schatz Photography completed his contract with the county for producing a video, photographs and aerial photos throughout the county.

The visually appealing video using smooth drone footage of different locations across the county.

His goal with the video was to showcase Starland County, everything that makes the county who they are and what the area has to offer.

“He wanted to capture our farming industry from seeding to harvest and the good work that the farmers do, the amazing landscapes and rustic buildings that we have, the crops in bloom, all of  the tourist hot-spots, and our hamlets to show the great places we have,” said Bremer.

They intend to showcase this video on the Starland County website and facebook page, as well as on a TV screen in the office foyer.

This video was compacted into two to three minutes for that purpose.

MAP Review

Every five years, the province of Alberta selects random municipalities to undergo a Municipality Accountability Program (MAP) Review.

This year, Starland was selected to have this done virtually and given a few items to sort out.

It was highlighted by CAO Bremer that many of their files burned in the 2018 office fire so some things they were naturally unable to complete which Municipal Affairs agreed would be fine as long as they tried to replace the documents as best they could.

One of the items the council dealt with on the list was for determining where the official county building is as they had yet to acknowledge the transfer over to their new facility at 217 Railway Avenue North, Morrin.

Council passed this motion, solidifying the new building as their permanent location for paperwork.

Replacement of the Bylaw Officer Bylaw, Fire Bylaw, Public Participation Policy, and requirements to have a Subdivision Development Appeal Board (SDAB) were pointed out as well.

CAO Bremer has a couple months to respond with an action plan to show how they will make these changes and then will have one year to actually complete them.

Cemetery tree torn down

A letter addressed to the Village of Munson over the ‘unauthorized destruction’ of a family tree called the Rodney Tree at the Munson Cemetery was seen at the Starland County council meeting.

Starland stated this particular cemetery was taken care of solely by Munson, meaning they had no responsibility over the problem that has surfaced.

In a letter from Darci Stanger of Scott Venturo Rudakoff LLP Lawyers, it outlined that around the year 1940, upon the death of Rodney Stanger, his family planted a tree that was taken from the original homestead in Orkney in memory of him.

It is said that Mr. Ronald Stanger spent countless hours and personal funds to water and tend to the tree over the years to ensure survival.

For over 80 years, it was said to be healthy and established.

In 1983, upon the death of Gordon Stanger, Ronald and family again planted another tree, this time in Gordon’s honour, named the Gordon Tree.

This also took several hours and funds to keep the tree supported.

In or around Sept. 9, 2020 the Village of Munson chose to cut down the Rodney Tree without any consultation or notification to the family.

In the process of taking it down, the Gordon Tree sustained ‘severe damage threatening the survival of Mr. Stanger’s second memorial tree. Further, the branches and other remnants of the Rodney Tree remain in the cemetery, never having been properly disposed of.’

The letter stated that the county provides an operating grant to enable continued operation of the cemetery but Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Shirley Bremer noted they do not do this.

“It’s an unfortunate situation,” said Reeve Steve Wannstrom. “I can see on the other side of things. They [the village] cut it down because of the potential to knock over other gravestones which they would be liable for.”

In conclusion, this letter has found this action to be a violation of their statutory duty and contrary to their own policy.

They request that in good faith, the village help Mr. Stanger in finding a suitable replacement and continuing with any future care it may need such as watering to ensure its survival and growth.

They also asked that they hire a certified arborist to look after the Gordon Tree despite its damage and also give an apology to Mr. Stanger for the ‘unnecessary distress caused by the negligence of the village’.

Council accepted the letter as information.

MAP Review

Every five years, the province of Alberta selects random municipalities to undergo a Municipality Accountability Program (MAP) Review.

This year, Starland was selected to have this done virtually and given a few items to sort out.

It was highlighted by CAO Bremer that many of their files burned in the 2018 office fire so some things they were naturally unable to complete which Municipal Affairs agreed would be fine as long as they tried to replace the documents as best they could.

One of the items the council dealt with on the list was for determining where the official county building is as they had yet to acknowledge the transfer over to their new facility at 217 Railway Avenue North, Morrin.

Council passed this motion, solidifying the new building as their permanent location for paperwork.

Replacement of the Bylaw Officer Bylaw, Fire Bylaw, Public Participation Policy, and requirements to have a Subdivision Development Appeal Board (SDAB) were pointed out as well.

CAO Bremer has a couple of months to respond with an action plan to show how they will make these changes and then will have one year to actually complete them.

 

Terri Huxley

ECA Review

About the author

Terri Huxley

Terri Huxley

Terri grew up on a grain farm near Drumheller, Alberta with an eye for the beautiful and uncharted. Living in such a unique and diverse area has helped her become the photographer and reporter she is today.

Coming from the East Central region getting this newspaper on her dinner table growing up, it helped her understand the community she now serves.

In May 2019, Terri was awarded Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association (AWNA) Canada's Energy Citizens Photographic Awards Sports Action – First Place as well as first for the same sports action image nationally with the Canadian Community Newspaper Association (CCNA). Fast forward to 2020, she has won second in the same category for the AWNA.

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