Council passed a motion to take title of seven different properties within Hanna including the Professional Building at their regular Tues. Feb. 9 council meeting.
Administration recommended that the town take title to these properties as ‘the owners of the properties have abandoned all responsibility regarding the properties.’
Although the assessed value of the property is higher than the tax arrears and in the case of a sale, the tax arrears will be owed to the town, by taking title to the property the town will be in control of the property.
Once the town takes title to these properties, they will be listed for sale with the intent to have the properties sold.
A tax recovery public auction was held Jan. 12 for these properties that were not removed from the Tax Recovery List through payment of tax arrears.
As the properties were not sold at the auction, the municipality has the option to take title to the properties under tax forfeiture.
The owners of the properties have not responded to any letters, invoices or notices sent to them.
As the owners have abandoned the properties, the town has been contracting yard maintenance and snow removal; however, as the invoices are not paid, the costs have been applied to the tax account.
“It’s a tough situation for council,” said Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Kim Neill, “but at the end of the day if we don’t take title to the properties they will just sit there and nothing will happen to them and they will continue to deteriorate.
“It doesn’t mean that someone is going to miraculously pay their taxes and clear it up,” said Neill.
He added that the town may bring in an appraiser for the professional building.
“It’s a big building, it’s a unique building. I know it does need some work but I know at the end of the day that one has potentially some significant value and we don’t want to short sight it even though we won’t keep the money.
“We want to know what the best value we can and that may require some outside expertise.”
Visitor Information Centre management
Council agreed to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Hanna Learning Centre and Business Hub for a pilot management project.
The Business Hub will now take over the management role for the Visitor Information Centre (VIC) for the 2021 summer season.
“I know their representatives are really excited about the opportunity. They are looking forward to it,” said CAO Neill.
“There might be a few bumps along the way as we move forward but we have a good relationship with that group and we will be able to move forward in a positive direction.”
Council Procedural Bylaw
The review conducted by Municipal Affairs in 2019 under the Municipal Accountability Program, noted that the Town of Hanna Council Procedural Bylaw 998-2017 did not comply with the Municipal Government Act for several reasons.
Rather than amending this bylaw, administration prepared a new one to replace it.
One of the issues with the original bylaw was Section 12 which stated , “nor shall a member resist the rules of council or disobey the mayor or the council…. and in case any member should so resist or disobey, he may be ordered by the council by a majority vote to leave his seat for that meeting”.
According to section 153 (c) of the Municipal Government Act, a member of council has a duty to participate in council meetings.
Bylaw 1002-2019 was adopted by council and sent to Municipal Affairs to confirm that the bylaw complied with the legislation.
Municipal Affairs responded that Section 3.75 allows for the removal of “any person”, which could include members of council.
Municipal Affair’s position is that the expulsion of a member of council contravenes section 153 (c) of the MGA by preventing a member of council from performing their legislated duties.
To comply with the recommendations provided by Municipal Affairs, administration has prepared bylaw with changes saying “the chair may cause to be expelled and excluded from any meeting by any person, other than a member of council, who creates any disturbance during a meeting or who, in the opinion of the chair has been guilty of improper conduct and for that purpose, the chair may direct that such a person be removed from the meeting.”
Bylaw 1002-2019 included a clause that the bylaw be reviewed within its fourth year – being 2023 – or at least once in every council term which was added to the new bylaw as well.
COVID-19 rules adjusted
Following public order on Dec. 8, the Hanna arena closed to the public effective Dec. 13, 2020.
These restrictions were scheduled to be loosened as of Feb. 8 to allow for school curriculum and programs, and one-on-one training only.
Currently, the arena is open to minor hockey and figure skating as well as school-related activities.
Individual families from the same household can rent out the facility.
Since many communities have chosen to pull their ice for the remainder of the year, Hanna is welcoming other communities to use their facility as long as screenings and regulations are followed.
No public skating is permitted at this time.
Schools can use the facility for the hockey academy program and physical education classes and are not restricted to the 10 person limits that minor hockey and figure skating are restricted to.
Administration shared in their report that all the organizations have been very accommodating and understanding of all the changes and regulations prior to the announcement on Feb. 6 which allowed indoor and outdoor children’s sports.
All groups indicated they will continue to use and many expand their use of the outdoor rink and the skating surface at Fox Lake Park.
As for the curling rink, the Public Health Four Step plan does not anticipate adult team sports being permitted again until March 22, 2021 at the earliest.
Because of this decision, administration has received confirmation from the president of the Hanna Curling Club that they are cancelling the rest of the 20/21 season.
As a result, the Hanna Curling Club will not be financially responsible for their share of the facility operating costs after Feb. 2, 2021.
Centennial Place will be leaving the facility doors closed except for use by Kiddies Korner.
Group scheduled sports such as pickleball, volleyball, and basketball will remain suspended.
As discussed at the Jan.12, 2021 council meeting, the Town of Hanna in cooperation with Heartland Generation (Sheerness Coal Mine) has received an exemption from the Chief Medical Officer of Health to allow Heartland to use the community centre for contractor orientation and COVID-19 testing for their upcoming shutdown.