Stettler town council heard an update to their 2022 budget, an adjustment necessary after the provincial government’s budget announcement earlier this month.
The report was made at the March 15 regular council meeting.
Town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Greg Switenky and Assistant CAO Steven Gerlitz presented an update on the municipality’s 2022 capital budget, the document that lists the construction projects the town is planning for the coming year.
Gerlitz reported that, because of the way the Alberta government is combining certain infrastructure grants, it seems the Town of Stettler has lost $357,120 in funding that has to be made up somewhere else in the budget.
He pointed out one of the major projects for the town this summer is the 53rd Street cast iron water main project, which was approved by council for a $950,000 price tag before the provincial government’s budget was made clear.
Switenky stated the town staff did an excellent job of adapting to the provincial announcement and balanced the local budget, meaning all the projects will be fully funded and move ahead.
However, Gerlitz stated the amount of money from provincial grants to be carried forward to 2023 is zero which he described as a “…big blow to the town.”
Switenky buoyed councillor’s spirits by noting the 2022 problems are solved and town staff will deal with the 2023 budget when the time comes.
Mayor Sean Nolls didn’t seem happy with the situation, stating the town’s funding crunch was a direct result of the provincial budget and, only a few weeks after the provincial budget, Stettler is already pulling from its reserves to finish projects.
The CAO stated a big complication this year for the Town of Stettler is that it has two big construction projects planned this summer, rather than several small ones.
With small projects, some can be cancelled or bumped but that can’t be done with the big jobs noted Switenky.
Mayor Nolls gave a report on a provincial leaders conference he attended with CAO Switenky.
The mayor continued to voice displeasure with provincial decisions regarding infrastructure grants, again noting that funding from a previous program, Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI), used to be about $950 million, which is being replaced by a new program that contains about $700 million.
Nolls noted he feels deep flaws exist in the way the province provides grants to small communities, pointing out that funding a kilometre of gravel road is much cheaper than funding a kilometre of paved Stettler road which has utilities under it.
As councillors discussed the issues it was also noted that of the new program with $700 million, half will go directly to Edmonton and Calgary, the “charter” cities.
In the regular written report from Parks & Leisure Services Foreman Allan King, councillors heard about a break and enter at Stettler Rec Centre (SRC).
“Unfortunately on the last day of February the SRC was broken into and the ATM was stolen,” stated King’s report.
“The damage to the building was minimal but rather expensive. We have secured the building and have cleaned up, but it will look unsightly for the next while until new doors are installed.
“There was no interruption of service to the public and we are still able to operate. It is important to remember that if you come across something like this in progress that your safety comes first.
“Unfortunately people can become desperate and these things can be replaced.”
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter