Kneehill County council agreed to let a Calgary-based oil and gas company to pay off its years-long debt and also waived almost $100,000 in unpaid property tax penalties for the firm.
The decisions were made at the March 22 regular meeting of council.
Tax Clerk Caroline Siverson presented the results of a years-long effort to get currently operating Long Run Exploration Ltd. to pay its outstanding property tax debt.
“We began our discussions with Long Run after a long time of no returned calls or emails, and after our legal firm had forwarded them a demand letter in late 2021,” stated Siverson’s memo to council.
“At this time, Long Run has agreed to pay their outstanding taxes and depending upon the decision of council, within this next 12 months.”
Siverson noted during debate that this was the last large unpaid property tax file the county had to deal with.
Siverson noted Long Run Exploration submitted two options to council: option #1 was 12 equal payments totalling the amount of $336,307.56 (including 2019 and 2020 penalties); 2021 and 2022 penalties waived while option #2 was a lump sum payment of all levies in the amount of $299,350.25, all penalties waived, to be received 10 days after the agreement is signed.
“For the last few years, council has agreed to several payment plans with our industrial partners to support their cash flow issues during the economic downturn, COVID pandemic and low gas prices,” stated the memo.
“There has been consistency in the agreements…” she added.
Coun. Faye McGhee stated she had a problem with the term “consistency” when applied to the efforts Kneehill County went through to get Long Run Exploration to pay their bill.
“I have a real problem with that statement,” said McGhee, adding county staff had to “chase” the oil and gas company. McGhee asked if legal expenses should be added to the agreement and Siverson noted the county only spent about $200 in this case.
Reeve Jerry Wittstock noted, after recently attending the Rural Municipalities Association (RMA) meeting, it seems the provincial government may do something about oil and gas companies declining to pay their property tax bills.
“They’re going to stop pussyfooting around,” said Wittstock.
Siverson also noted the proposed agreement only includes current debts, and includes nothing about the future.
McGhee added that if this issue ever returns to council she hopes councillors get a reminder of what happened in this instance.
According to their website, Long Run Exploration Ltd., located at 600, 600 Eau Claire Tower 3rd Ave. SW Calgary is “…a private Calgary-based intermediate oil and natural gas company focused on light oil development and exploration in Western Canada. The company is focused on safely and prudently developing and producing properties in an environmentally responsible manner.”
Councillors unanimously approved option #1, allowing Long Run Exploration to pay off their $336,307.56 debt with instalments, and also approved waiving 2021 tax penalties of $68,780.82 on 21 tax rolls and also waiving 2022 penalties of $24,807.82 on the same tax rolls.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter