Garreth Thomas, Starland County’s newest community peace officer visited council chambers for introductions.
A number of questions were asked by both council and members of the public who attended.
“I look forward to get going,” said Thomas. “I like this area and I want to handle more in a community-based type of way kind of thing. You know, not heavy handed.”
Patrols will be scattered in terms of scheduling but will have peak times noted.
If there is a serious issue like a theft or break and enter, the community or the village can alert Thomas of it so he can adjust this schedule to visit more often during these peak hours.
He also wants to be visible to people as well.
Thomas will patrol all of Starland County including its three villages typically at 15 minute intervals. At other times, Thomas will be visiting the school on a fairly regular basis
“We are all excited,” said Mayor David Sisley.
Thomas has roughly seven years experience in the rural field with two years with Kneehill County and three years with Rocky View County focusing on traffic.
He assured everyone that both the village and himself will be ‘on the same page’ as often as possible when issues arise.
The community is encouraged to contact the peace officer or the village office with any concerns regarding bylaws or otherwise.
Animal bylaw is coordinated with an animal shelter based out of Ponoka.
Council adopted a three year operating budget and a five year capital budget as per new Municipal Government Act (MGA) standards.
The village is using 2019 residential and non-residential tax rates so residents will most likely not see an increase unless significant upgrades have been made to their home or have recently built due to assessment value.
The official taxes will be set in the spring.
Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Mark Nikota explained the major highlights of the budget, noting the village’s “financial situation is strong, stable and we haven’t encountered any major issues.”
He explained that most of their large scale projects have been covered through equally large grants and a loan they have been paying off for some time will soon be completely paid off.
Delia has yet to receive its 2019 Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) grant funding provided by the provincial government due to the election last year.
This funding once received will bring down their overall total once their MSI is received.
In the meantime, it will be covered through general accounts.
Another highlight was the operating loan for the emergency account will be reduced by $50,000 to $100,000 as it has never been used since it was first set up.
CAO Nikota reported that approximately 30 per cent of households do monthly deposits to pay their taxes.
As the Alberta government is preparing to download policing costs onto small municipalities, Delia is doing the same by adjusting other areas to cover this eventual cost.
The CAO’s annual salary will be decreasing as will his hours.
This has been discussed previously between council and the CAO where they found this to be a good solution to decreasing costs.
For 2020, the village will continue working on sidewalks and budgeting for software upgrades. “It continues to be strong and with controlled expenses. Lowering the tax burden is to encourage ongoing development to spread out the tax burden amongst residents,” said CAO Nikota.
Utility Services Bylaw
At Delia’s last meeting, council passed an updated utility services bylaw but with budget deliberations it had become necessary to review and potentially amend areas within its contents.
CAO Nikota has been aware that the Henry Kroeger Regional Water Services in Hanna will be increasing their water usage rates which should be reflected in the utility bylaw.
Water usage prices for residents will rise from $3.40 to $3.50 as approximately $1,700 extra was needed to cover off the increase from Henry Kroeger.
As part of the recent change in the structure as well, it was necessary to change the flat water rate to continue to cover the cost of maintaining current infrastructure.
A $4 per month increase was recommended for all accounts.
When it comes to the ongoing issue surrounding owners paying for service charges, the council agreed to having all property owners that have a service connection be responsible for all base service charges and fees whether they have asked to temporarily shut off their water or not.
Unless the home is completely physically disconnected from the water system.
Bev and Don Hall of Delia also had some questions about the details of the bylaw.
In the delegation, the CAO and council explained in detail what the new bylaw entails and that no increases will be noticed to the majority of homeowners within Delia.
An estimated 15 people will be affected by this.
People who have recently renovated or have built a new home may see slightly higher prices based on their residential assessments.
“Taxes will not skyrocket, that wasn’t the case,” said the Mayor.
Instead of increasing taxes, administration has changed other things behind the scenes so to speak to compensate for the downturn in revenue from utility bills like reduced hours for the CAO.
“I think the wording is good,” said Coun. Jordan Elliot.
She added, “I think this is the way to go. We have got to cover the maintenance of these pipes.”
Council carried the motion to make these changes.
Street lights program pursued
After ATCO gave a presentation last meeting on converting the village’s current High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) bulbs to LED, council made the decision to authorize the CAO to further investigate potential grants and ATCO’s multiplier program.
“We should go ahead with it and get it over with when the availability could be withdrawn,” said Mayor Dave Sisley.
As to a previous mapping request, CAO Nikota noted it would cost roughly $500 for an ATCO employee to seek dark spots within the municipality.
The electric company will take the old lights for another program once the new LED ones are installed.