Stettler County grapples with waterline fees

How much to charge rural or Erskine residents to hook up to Stettler County water is proving to be a difficult decision for county councillors.

Councillors debated at length what to charge Erskine residents for connecting to the new reservoir water system while keeping the fee affordable for residents.

Coun. Joe Gendre motioned that $140,123 in the Erskine Sewer Reserve Balance be applied and divided over the number of lots to be serviced in order to reduce the price tag for residents. That leaves $350, or the cost of the water meter, as the price to hook in. He also suggested they be granted a one year period to sign on to the system for that price before the charge increases to $5,696 per hookup.

Also included in the motion was an exemption for community facilities, which will be not be charged a hookup fee.
Council carried the motion.

The debate on rural hookup fees for the Shirley McLellan water line ended without a consensus and was tabled until more information could be provided to council.

Initially, when the line was installed, hookup fees for rural residents were set at $10,000. Some residents have not been able to hookup due to their distance from the mainline (beyond one mile) or because the county can only install a limited number of lines per year due to time and money constraints.

Council is considering increasing the fee to $15,000 but has to decide how to proceed without affecting those that have signed up or expressed interest in connecting under the current fee.

Coun. Les Stuhlberg suggested ‘grandfathering’ those residents in but setting a fixed date for the fee increase.
CAO Tim Fox requested that council table any decision until a list of interested residents could be clarified.

First reading for bylaws
Council gave first reading to Bylaw 1558-16 authorizing the county to borrow slightly over $7.6 million for the $9.6 million cost for the new public works shop. The remaining $2 million will come from reserves.

First reading was carried with Councillors Joe Gendre, Ernie Gendre and Dave Grover opposed.

Bylaw 1557-16 to establish a Code of Conduct for councillors received first reading. The bylaw addresses changes to the Municipal Government Act that require councils to establish a code of conduct.

The county based its draft on the existing code of conduct Kneehill County has developed. Currently, the county does not have its own code in place.

Coun. James Nibourg stated the code affords councillors some protection or a ‘safety net’.

“Right now, we really don’t have a safety net.”

Coun. Ernie Gendre was concerned a code could be used to muzzle a councillor over an issue if they disagreed with the rest of council.

First reading was passed with Councillors Ernie Gendre, Joe Gendre and Dave Grover opposed.

Staycations on the rise
According to the Conference Board of Canada, staycations will continue to trend upwards in 2016 by 2.4 per cent as the loonie trends downwards and the economy falters. This is on top of the 2.8 per cent staycations grew last year.

With more Canadians opting to vacation at home, Canadian Badlands Tourism (CBT) is counting on capitalizing on the trend by developing and promoting more tourism opportunities within the badlands region.

Executive Director for CBT Brad Tucker and President of the Board Barry Morishita presented council with an overview of CBT’s activities over the past year.

“We do represent 63 communities in rural Alberta,” stated Pres. Morishita, “If you’re part of a larger region, you certainly get more attention.”

CBT is a not for profit corporation whose municipal shareholders pay a $.50 per capita levy for membership.

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