Kneehill County officially has a new fire chief and deputy fire chief for the District Fire Department in Torrington, Ab.
Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Al Hoggan recommended Jason Michielsen as Fire Chief and Derek Benedict as Deputy.
Michielsen was in the Deputy Fire Chief role since March 2018 but has been acting in the Fire Chief role since August 20, 2018.
Benedict has been acting in the Deputy Fire Chief role since Sept. 1, 2018.
The appointment will be reviewed every two years but should either person leave the department, their position will be deemed vacant immediately.
Interim Operating and Capital Budgets approved
Only a slight change has been added to the council’s approval of the 2019 Interim Operating and Capital Budgets.
An amendment was made for the funding source for road project Range Road 24-4 come from the operating budget rather than gravel reserve.
In the spring of 2019, final numbers regarding assessment and education requisition will become available and at that time the tax rate bylaws can be considered and the final Operating Budget can be approved.
For now, this interim budget will allow the County to continue to give payroll to staff, sign cheques and other legal matters once Jan. 1 hits.
The Interim Draft Budget was presented at the Kneehill Nov. 13 regular meeting of council and was balanced at that time.
Council considered that draft and then scheduled a Committee of the Whole meeting on Dec. 4 to deliberate further.
Many large changes to cut costs were made but the overall net impact was a budget shortfall of $822,433 which will be generated through taxes when the final 2019 budget is presented in the spring when the tax rate bylaws are also presented.
The largest change was recommended by Coun. Ken King who asked to have Policy #3-19 Council Per Diem/Salary that councillors be paid by a base salary rather than basing wages on time and number of meetings.
Salaries were set with the Reeve receiving the most at $6,000 per month, Deputy Reeve at $4,500, and remaining councillors with $3,500 per month.
The proposed capital being removed and revised means that $545,000 in the transfer of operating funds to fund these capital projects were reduced as a result.
Torrington Ag Society seeks additional help
After crunching numbers, vast donations and numerous fundraisers, the Torrington & District Agricultural Society has found themselves trying to keep the Ron Gorr Memorial Arena running.
Due to rising maintenance and utility costs combined with decreased funding available for recreational facilities and unexpected expenses, they found they are unable to cover the operational costs over the next year.
On top, the Zamboni and ice plant were both in critical condition with much-needed repairs finally fixed. The only problem was the price tag attached.
The ice plant cost an additional $5,007.98 and the Zamboni for $7,257.27.
An overall ice plant upgrade was expected to happen in spring of next year with funds already set aside.
Council reviewed the situation, agreeing to a one-time payment of $12,265.25 to pay for the emergency items.
The Ag Society also applied for the Community Facility Enhancement Grant to leverage money to increase the scope of work to include lighting replacements throughout the building, replaced flooring in the upstairs banquet hall, kitchen and curling lounge as well as new paint throughout the facility.
They will find out if they receive the grant money in March.
Should they succeed in their funding, this transformation is expected to reduce utility costs dramatically by $13,000 per year according to an energy audit completed.
They also expect to increase user fees and become more sustainable with these changes.
Water Rate discussion continues
Council reviewed the Master Rates Bylaw water charges as recommended at their Committee of the Whole meeting held on Dec. 4.
It was recommended they add large volume charges of $9 per cubic metre to only bulk water users if they exceed 50 cubic metres per month.
This change means that risers or hookups to a County water line will only pay $3.50 per cubic metres for whatever volume is consumed or $2 for the Hamlets of Huxley and Wimborne.
Council, in previous conversations, has been leaning towards a uniform rate across the County so this action is the first step towards that goal.
Regular Service Connections/Risers for Huxley and Wimborne will be $2 per cubic metre while all other water service systems will be set at $3.50 per cubic metre.
The $50 bi-monthly flat fee still applies to all current/ future service connections.
After review, Council passed the first two readings of the bylaw as presented.
Third reading will take place at the regular meeting on Jan. 8, making the bylaw official once third reading is passed.