The Village of Alix will open its popular campground on June 12 as part of the provincial re-opening, decided councillors at their regular meeting May 6.
Councillors adjusted their meeting room seats to maintain social distancing guidelines.
Village Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Michelle White gave councillors a report on the municipal campground, a popular recreation spot in central Alberta.
She said the village office is fielding a lot of calls from people wanting to know if Alix’ campground would open for May long weekend.
Coun. Tim Besuijen felt it should. “Personally, I think we should open,” he said.
Mayor Rob Fehr noted even if the campground opens, there are a number of serious social distancing rules to follow which could affect workload for staff.
“To me, you’re opening yourself up to a whole gamut of problems,” said the mayor.
In effect, Fehr stated if the village opens the campground, people are being encouraged to use it.
He also said he fears the provincial government is jumping the gun on reopening the economy.
White stated it didn’t look like the village had a serious liability issue with opening the campground but the beaches were another matter because the provincial government had yet to clarify that area.
She also noted the campground operator would be responsible for monitoring, but not enforcing, compliance with coronavirus measures such as social distancing.
Coun. Ed Cole stated opening the campground would boost the local business community, as it would draw visitors.
Both Coun. Barb Gilliat and Besuijen stated the campground also costs the village money to run.
Cole stated at least opening the campground would create some optimism and the village could monitor for problems.
“If it’s not working out, we can close it,” said Cole.
Soltermann saw two sides to the issue. Opening the campground brings people to town, but attracting people could spread coronavirus.
Councillors voted 3 to 2 in favour of re-opening the municipal campground on June 12.
White was instructed to contact the caretaker to see if he’s prepared to handle it.
No discount after all
Councillors defeated, by a 3 to 2 vote, a bylaw that would have offered a 10 per cent discount to residents paying their property taxes early this summer.
Discussed at a prior meeting, the effort was linked to coronavirus measures such as pushing back the property tax deadline and CAO White brought back a draft bylaw that would have finalized the discount.
Coun. Vicki Soltermann reiterated that she felt the discount would encourage people to pay early and get cash flowing to the village while helping those in distress.
Coun. Gilliat stated she felt the discount rewards people who don’t really need help and doesn’t help people who are in financial difficulty.
Coun. Cole agreed, stating he did a straw poll around town about the discount and the results seemed split down the middle.
Soltermann stated many Alix seniors and those on federal aid programs could find benefits with this discount.
White pointed out the Village of Alix is in a solid financial position and at least one major taxpayer stated they will pay on time so cash flow shouldn’t be an issue this summer.
Mayor Fehr stated the village is in good financial condition, isn’t sure the discount will really help and council already approved a tax deferral for residents in dire straits.
“In all fairness, I think we’ve done a fair bit,” said the mayor.
Coun. Besuijen stated he still wasn’t sure the discount was going to be of substance to those who need help.
Councillors defeated Soltermann’s motion for first reading, with Soltermann and Besuijen voting in favour, Gilliat, Fehr and Cole opposing.
Councillors heard an unusual report about a land sale to recover unpaid taxes.
White reported that the property located at 4705 45th Ave. had been sold to recover unpaid taxes owed to the village, and a mobile home had been disposed of as a hazard.
White reported that after paying expenses the land sale netted the village $17,491.36 which was not enough to cover the debt owed, which is rather unusual.
The village still was owed $1,906.78.
“At this point, there is no legal way to recover the outstanding taxes,” stated White in her report to council. She stated the remaining debt should be written off.
Councillors unanimously agreed to waive $1,906.78 from the applicable tax roll.
Councillors read a report about coronavirus measures affecting various FCSS programs.
Since some of these programs aren’t running, the funding allocated for them has not, and may not, be spent.
White stated she discussed the issue with the FCSS coordinator, who pointed out the funds may be granted to other programs or spent on issues arising from the pandemic.
White also pointed out the funds could be allocated to other groups such as the public library that could fall under the FCSS umbrella.
Mayor Fehr stated the funds should be spent in the best interests of the community.
Coun. Gilliat suggested the town, which is responsible for dispersing funds, hold onto the FCSS funding and have the coordinator explain to council where the funds should go and why.
Councillors approved a motion to withhold the third quarter FCSS funding until a spending plan from the FCSS coordinator is submitted to the village by Sept. 2.
CAO White gave councillors a report on the Central Alberta Regional Assessment Review Board bylaw.
Alix has an agreement with the City of Red Deer and a number of other municipalities for these services.
White stated recent changes to provincial law required the bylaw to be updated.
One of the changes included how certain staff salaries are disclosed to the public.
Councillors passed all readings of the bylaw to bring it into effect.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter