Road gravelling to continue despite budget

Wet weather has been a major factor in eating up the entire gravelling budget before all work has been completed.  At the County of Paintearth meeting on August 13, 2013 unanimous approval was given to complete all the roads planned for 2013 by adding an additional $550,000 to the budget from either year-end operating surpluses or reserves.

With the wet weather, Public Works has been unable to access all their stockpiles resulting in extra hauling costs or the use of better quality gravel (modified) than was planned. To date 245 miles have been gravelled in Divisions 1 and 7.

Bryce Cooke, Assistant Public Works Superintendent, explained that 2-inch gravel has been used in soft spots to tighten up the holes, but complaints have been received from ratepayers as these larger stones eventually surface and are very hard on small cars or vehicles with lighter tires.

“The problem is we’re trying to fix the road from the top down – we need to fix some of these roads from the bottom up,” said Rocky Dahmer.

Council unanimously passed a motion that Public Works use only 1½ inch gravel to fix soft spots, reserving 2-inch gravel for back roads.

Public Works

Concerns and frustration were expressed by the lack of communication from Alberta Transportation on the status of the one-lane section of Highway 861 on the south side of the Battle River hill.   “The highway cuts down to one-lane just after the curve and with school and harvest soon starting, the already busy road will get even busier,” said Tarolyn Peach, CAO.  A unanimous motion was passed to step up communications with the government at all levels and put more pressure to get this dangerous situation resolved quickly.

Work is underway to put in a 4-metre culvert where the Nelson Creek crosses the road five miles straight west of Brownfield.  The natural creek has been diverted until the work is done.

Customer Service

For over four years, a number of ratepayers have been requesting the ability to pay taxes on-line through their financial institutions.  Currently only ratepayers using ATB have that option. A motion to expand on-line payment services by January 2014 was approved.  Extra banking fees for the County are estimated at $3,000 in the implementation year and about $2,000 in the following year.

A request by ratepayers to use Visa and Mastercard for tax payments was denied.  For every $1,000 paid by credit card, the County would lose at a minimum $17.50 in banking fees.  Debit card payments are accepted.

The County does not have a collection’s problem as 98 per cent of taxes are already paid.

Schedule  of Fees

A new fee schedule was adopted to reflect steadily increasing materials and labour costs.

Ratepayers will not see any changes when seeking land assessment records, but new fees have been added for ADC, Farm Credit, banks mortgage companies and tax agents who often seek voluminous tax and assessment information from the County office.  These institutions will now be required to pay $50/hour for staff time, $10 for each detailed assessment sheet and $0.50 per page for computer generated forms.

An administrative fee of $25 has been added for NSF cheques.  Other changes include an increase for county map booklets from $20 to $25 and county maps from $13 to $15 (gst included).

Crowfoot Crossing

A public hearing was held on August 13 at 1:15 p.m. regarding the new Crowfoot Crossing Rural Commercial/Industrial District with no public representation present.  The by-law was unanimously passed and will allow for the development of a mixed variety of commercial or industrial uses.  The County offices are located in the Crowfoot Crossing District.

Other tidbits

Paintearth County has an informal agreement to do the snow plowing at the Coronation Airport.  As well, the County, on behalf of the Town of Coronation, has applied for an airport grant to dig up and replace sections of the runway that are heaving.

Interquest, a now defunct oil and gas company, has been in tax arrears since 2006. After numerous attempts at collection, Council reluctantly approved writing $10,212 off.

The County contributed $40,000 for Coronation’s swimming pool upgrades.

A request by Castor Child Care Society for financial support was referred to more appropriate agencies, PEPS and EDO.  The County is not in the practice of giving direct financial support to childcare operations, but has assisted the Castor Child Care Society through free workshops on communications and governance, said CAO Tarolyn Peach.

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