Business license fees see modest increase
“I think we take a risk when we don’t address fees for years and finally we have to make major increases,” said Mayor Richards when discussing Business license fees at the Town of Stettler’s regular meeting on November 5, 2013. The last amendment to the Business license By-law 1807-99 was 14 years ago when fees were reduced for ‘non-residents’ from $350 to $325 and for ‘residents’ from $150 to $125. A resident is anyone who resides in the Town of Stettler or the County of Stettler.
A motion was unanimously passed to increase the resident Business license fee by $25 to $150 and leave non-resident fees unchanged. These fees support the valuable work of the Board of Trade. As of October 31, 2013 there were 469 active resident licenses (commercial and home occupation) and 57 non-resident licenses.
First reading was given to an application by ENR Distribution to rezone lots located at 4611 – 51A Avenue and 5106 – 46 Street from C2 (Highway Commerical) to I (Industrial). ENR wants to expand its fertilizer distribution operations adjacent to highway 56. ENR and Shell Canada worked in conjunction to remediate this site from previous contamination. The public will now have time to respond to this application prior to second reading.
In a split decision, a motion was passed to give a Business License exemption to the current Alberta Health Services-contracted hairstylist at Heritage House, but any new contractors would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. The rationale for this exemption was this service is only provided to long-term care residents and typically at less than market retail rates. In contrast, Points West Living rent space within their facility for a hairstylist to operate their own business, determine their own rates and have clients from outside the facility. Councillors Bachman and Brown voted against the motion. Mayor Richards declared a conflict of interest and left the meeting during the discussion and vote.
In 2012, the Town of Stettler identified 15 Brownfield and contaminated sites. Since then, four sites have received remediation clearance. Brownfield sites are abandoned, vacant, derelict or underutilized property that are perceived to be or are contaminated; whereas a contaminated site is in use.
“We give business tax incentives and then big oil pack up and leave behind contaminated properties for Stettler residents to deal with,” said a frustrated Councillor Bachman.
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) pass legislation and do awareness programs for industry, but they only do enforcement on sites that have human health issues. Nor does ESRD restrict the sale or development of contaminated property, leaving municipalities to deal with vacant or underutilized properties.
“Alberta Environment doesn’t have any power,” said Councillor Campbell. “Oil companies have taken thousands of dollars out of the community but we’re flogging a dead horse, they’re not bringing it (the money) back.”
Each year the Town of Stettler attempts to address two sites for remediation. This year council passed a motion to focus on one site at the south-west corner of Highway 12 and 61 Street, and the abandoned lot beside Kentucky Fried Chicken at the corner of Highways 12 and 56.
Water prices drop
The County of Stettler is currently flushing and preparing the water distribution line to Big Valley.
“They will use a good amount of water and will significantly help with the per litre water rates next year,” said Switensky.
A water line to Donalda is also underway. Each time a new community signs up to receive water from the Stettler Water Treatment Plan, all users see a per litre cost reduction.
One bid was received to replace the heat recovery air exchange units on the red and blue rinks. The bid came in much higher than anticipated so only the non-functioning red rink unit will be replaced. Keith’s Refrigeration Ltd. quote of $63,150 plus tax was accepted and funds will be taken out of reserves.
CAO, Greg Switensky advised that a 5-year natural gas contract has been entered into with Access Gas. “Markets were cruel to us five years ago,” said Switensky. “Our rate was $8.33 gigajules, but will now be only $3.60 gigajules.”
Fifty per cent of the contract is purchased on the spot market because our consultant, Energy Associates International who negotiates on our behalf, believes gas prices will continue to weaken. Prices can be locked in at any time. It is anticipated the cost savings to the Town will be $80,000 a year. The consultant’s fee is between $7,000 and $8,000 a year.
Water treatment plant
Over the last 18 months the chlorine feed systems at the water treatment plant have had too many issues to list, reported Gates Bilodeau in his monthly report to Council. Due to lack of supplier assistance, Town staff have had to do the repairs. After months of experiencing these issues and trying different things, Bilodeau believes they have found the problematic component.