Village of Morrin denies county’s land acquisition request

Written by Terri Huxley

At the Jan. 12 meeting of Morrin Council, councillors reviewed a letter stating that Starland County was considering a “buy back” of four lots from Morrin business owner Thomas Welch that was originally intended to be the construction of a gas station.

The letter stated the four lots were sold to Welch in 2020.

Due to the downturn in his business plans, Welch proposed a one-year deal with the county to have them buy the property (the old Starland County building site) and then have him re-purchase the property after the one-year hiatus.

Because the property is within village limits, it is required to have the village approval of the deal when it involves another municipality.

At the Wed. Feb. 9 meeting of Starland County council, administration and council were surprised by the sudden rejection of this deal after a letter was received back from the Village of Morrin after it sounded like there was no issues from their side.

“After much consideration, it was unanimously decided by council that the village will keep this property on the village’s active tax roll, therefore Starland County’s request for acquisition of these lots have been denied,” stated village Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Annette Plachner’s letter to the county.

CAO Bremer felt this move was ‘setting our pace right there’ and that it was ‘too bad they don’t want to work with us’.

Prairie Land Regional Division representatives came to Starland County council chambers Wed. Feb. 9 to present the Friends of Education Award (an engraved bell) won in the fall for Starland’s contributions to education, particularly $200,000 to both Delia and Morrin School rebuilds including, from the left, Morrin trustee Ken Macfarlane, Delia Trustee Shandele Battle, Coun. John Rew, Berry Creek Trustee and PLRD Board Chair Holli Smith, Reeve Steve Wannstrom, Coun. Jackie Watts, Coun. Mark Landry and Dep. Reeve Bob Sargeant. ECA Review/T.Huxley

Public works move

A bit of movement is starting to take place for the re-purposing of the old Public Works Office in Rumsey, Alta.

With the facility reaching 60-years-old, the move is a necessity.

Estimates in the range of $30,000 have been given on how much it would cost to move and relocate to another space in the hamlet.

The initial move would be estimated at $10,000 while materials and installation of helical piles will be approximately $6,000; reinstalling the skirting and some minor exterior work at $2,000; connection of utility services including power, gas, water and sewer will be approximately $10,000; renovation work to the interior (depending on what will be required) between $2,000 and $4,000.

Administration is still waiting for an estimate on the costs for relocating the SuperNet service. 

Glen Riep suggested they relocate it either on the lot directly east of the fire hall (closest to the SuperNet source) or to the west of the Drop-In Centre.

He said ideally the post office would move too, but if not, there shouldn’t be too many costs involved in expanding the fire department into the present library area.

Currently, the building is shared amongst the library, post office and fire hall.

During CAO Shirley Bremer’s report to council, it was noted the Village of Morrin is losing yet another business.

Western Financial Group will be closing their doors in Morrin as of Feb. 25, 2022.

This includes the loss of the registry office as well as the insurance services.

“This will definitely be a loss to this community and surrounding area and of course to the village as well. 

“We did briefly look into the possibility of buying the registry portion, but it appears that the municipality would not be eligible to maintain a registry office as well as employ a CPO who can issue violation tickets,” she added.

In regards to the amalgamation of Apogee to Pine Cliff Energy Ltd., the CAO spoke with representatives from both parties where they discussed their intent to pay Apogee’s outstanding taxes from 2021.

We have now received payment from Apogee which covers payments in our agreement up to just after the middle of March or one-third of the total outstanding. 

Pine Cliff then intends to cover the outstanding balance and expedite the repayment to the end of March 2022. The balance owing is $474,230.81.

With this amalgamation, it may also signal the loss of another business in the village as one of the offices sits on Main Street but could be shuffled to the plant near the Red Deer River valley.

Glamping at Morrin Bridge

Meska Outdoors contacted CAO Bremer stating interest in booking two to three campsites at the Tolman East Campground for his “glamping” business.

They started their company last year and offers a luxury camping experience as part of an emerging trend in the camping industry which combines the comforts of RV’ing with the simplicity of tenting by offering large, fully furnished tents for guests to enjoy.

They would set up a large, fully furnished tent in each site and people book online to rent this accommodation.

The company also likes to partner with businesses in the area, from coffee companies to horse ranches, sustainable farm tours to the golf course to offer guests an experience beyond just a place to stay.

As for payment for the campsites, he noted that he prefers to discuss a revenue share agreement, where he gives us a percentage of gross revenue from occupied nights.

“The owner notes that this offers us a higher fee for occupied nights and protects him on the downside for nights that he doesn’t have someone in,” she said.

Administration will find out more information as to making a deal with him in the near future.

Tax repayment agreement proposal 

Two potential repayment agreements for overdue taxes from separate landowners were considered by council.

The first was for a property of six lots in Craigmyle that had over $5,000 outstanding.

The agreement outlines a number of requirements but the main one is to have the landowner pay $518.57 per month until it is paid off by end of the year which they agreed to.

This total includes any penalties including March 1, 2022 tax levy as well.

The second was for an acreage. The property owner has been putting varying amounts down on the outstanding bill but still owes $1,750.

To get caught up, they have agreed to pay  $263.70 per month for the year.

Council passed motions to enter into a tax repayment agreement with tax roll #8918120 and the other property comprised of tax rolls 20105400, 20207800, 20113800, 20114800, 20110700 and 20114700.

Ember Resources reimbursement

A letter was received by administration from Ember Resources.

Within it, a request to council was made to reimburse the company for 2021 property taxes paid on Tax roll 40321015 in the amount of $5,016.58.

The machinery equipment site which was assessed by province changed from Trident to Ember even though the company never actually purchased that specific property and made that known to the province.

Ember paid for the outstanding taxes as it was still in their tax notice.

Now the assessment advisor says that the license still belongs to the former operable company, changing the ownership back to Trident.

Council passed a motion to reimburse the company.

Hamlet sewer utility bylaw

Council took a look at potentially repealing Bylaw 1063 in favour of an updated hamlet sewer utility bylaw.

The former one originated in 2002 when prices were set at $9 per month for connection rates.

These rates have not changed in 20 years. Within that time, administration identified that it was difficult to interpret and was made irrelevant when another new bylaw was implemented that focused on water rates.

Administration recommended they repeal this old bylaw in its entirety and establish a new hamlet sewer utility bylaw strictly to provide regulation, operation and maintenance of a were system in the hamlets and levying of rates and charges thereof for sewer services.

The Craigmyle and Rumsey sewer rate connection fee is $9 per month.

Councillors agreed the rate needs to be increased considering postage coming to approximately $1 to send out the monthly bill,

Council asked administration to bring more information back on pricing structures with increased values to include inflation. They felt the rest of the bylaw updates were sufficient.

Nuisance Abatement Bylaw

In a similar fashion to the sewer rates bylaw, the Nuisance Abatement Bylaw was introduced to replace an older bylaw.

Administration asked Community Peace Officer Gareth Thomas to revise the bylaw and compare it to other municipalities of the same size to make it more effective in terms of bylaw enforcement within Starland’s communities.

Council reviewed the new version and found one area of concern; that being the definition of the loud noises section.

After discussion on what is considered a loud noise and at what times would be appropriate, council chose to ‘keep it simple’ by having a noise ban from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day.

The panel asked administration to bring back the changes for the next meeting to solidify the changes.

Electric Vehicle Charging Program 

Administration received an email on a grant from the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre.

An Expression of Interest was submitted to show the county was interested in using this grant to bring in rapid electric vehicle charging stations to the area.

The grant would help fund an electric vehicle charging program with rebates for up to 100 per cent of costs.

Administration shared in their application the intention of use at two different sites including one at the Morrin Bridge Campground and the village if possible.

Administration found that for a quick charging station it can cost in the range of $150,000 and must have three-phase power to operate.

The purpose of the project would be to draw in travellers to the area and provide a service needed in rural communities to boost tourism.

 

Terri Huxley

ECA Review

About the author

Terri Huxley

Terri grew up on a grain farm near Drumheller, Alberta with an eye for the beautiful and uncharted. Living in such a unique and diverse area has helped her become the photographer and reporter she is today.

Coming from the East Central region getting this newspaper on her dinner table growing up, it helped her understand the community she now serves.

In May 2019, Terri was awarded Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association (AWNA) Canada's Energy Citizens Photographic Awards Sports Action – First Place as well as first for the same sports action image nationally with the Canadian Community Newspaper Association (CCNA). Fast forward to 2020, she has won second in the same category for the AWNA.