Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Clearwater County Council Meeting Notes

by Helge Nome 

All councillors, except Councillor Graham, were present at the regular meeting on September 13. Several delegations made presentations at the meeting including local MLA Jason Nixon; Michelle Swanson and Bob Haagsma from the Clearwater Broadband Foundation and Alice Murray and Ryan d‘Abadie from Shell Canada.

Jason Nixon responded to various issues raised by council and noted that while the upgrading of the Rocky Hospital is on the top of his agenda, it is not even on the priority list of the Provincial Government.

Michelle Swanson and Bob Haagsma said that they represent a group of local people dedicated to the improvement of internet services in the local area and asked for county support in this. They invited someone from the County Council to join the group
which is currently in the process of formulating bylaws and registering itself as a society.
Reeve Alexander responded by saying that Council will conduct an organizational meeting in late October and the request would be considered at that time. He also intimated that there are other folks in the area working to improve internet service at this time.

As a sign of the times, Community Liason Officer Alice Murray from Shell Canada informed Council that the Shell Caroline Gas Plant is scheduled to shut down income producing operations in 2018. During the last 25 years or so Shell has used its privately constructed road (TWP Rd. 35-1A), running west from Highwy 22 through privately owned land for about 1600 meters. The company is now looking to turn this road over to someone for ownership and maintenance. It currently serves as the access road for 8 shareholders in the land it traverses and some of them were present at the meeting.
The question for Council to resolve is: Should this industrial road, which is currently the only access road for several county residents, be taken over and maintained by the County, or can some other resolution be found? Public Works staff will discuss this matter with Shell and residents before Council makes any decisions.

Councillor Laing raised the issue of needing more time to study the agenda package for upcoming council meetings, suggesting that the package be made available on Thursdays, rather than Fridays, prior to the Tuesday meeting the following week. There was a lot of discussion and little support for this idea from the other councillors and CAO Leaf. The matter was tabled untill the September 22 council meeting, at which time the Procedures Bylaw will be examined.

Another item of interest to taxpayers is a request from Wilderness Village to have changes made to their property taxes for 2016. Councillor Laing presented their case but had no luck in reducing the whopping tax increase of some $20,000 (if I heard it right)

Friday, September 9, 2016

Letter to Clearwater County Council

Clearwater County Taxpayers’ Association
c/o Marianne Cole
RR #1 
Rocky Mountain House, AB  T4T 2A1

September 6, 2016

Clearwater County Council
Box 550
Rocky Mountain House, AB  T4T 1A4

Dear _________________________:
At the July 14th meeting of the CCTA, a concern was brought forward regarding the short amount of time before council meetings that agenda packages are made available either to council or on the county’s website.
Discussion focussed on the following rationale for increasing the lead time:
  • Taxpayers need to know the items on the agenda in order to be able to express an opinion to either their individual councillor or council as a whole.
  • Councillors need to have adequate time to peruse the agenda, do research if necessary, and develop an opinion on matters to be discussed.
  • Councillors should have adequate time to confer with constituents.
The suggestion was then made that we contact neighboring jurisdictions as to the timeline upon which they operate regarding agendas and meetings.  After contacting Brazeau, Ponoka, Lacombe, and Red Deer counties we learned that the standard operating procedure for distributing agendas in advance of meetings is approximately one week.  If meetings are on Tuesday, agendas are out the previous Wednesday; if meetings are on Thursday, agendas are out the previous Friday. 
Some notable comments from discussion with the other jurisdictions were:
  • I would be offended if I didn’t get it in enough time; ratepayers and councillors both suffer.
  • After I get the agenda I try to get into the local coffee group to see what they have to say about the issues.
  • If you just go by what administration recommends without doing your own research and thinking, why do you need elected officials?

One of the recent goals noted by Clearwater County council was to improve citizen engagement, and increasing the agenda lead time would assist in addressing that goal.
In conclusion, we ask that council develop a policy which stipulates a greater amount of lead time in which agenda packages are made available prior to council meetings.  We suggest that this lead time be a minimum of one week and that this policy even extend to all committees of council.
We would be happy to discuss this matter with you and look forward to your reply.
Yours truly,

Marianne Cole

Thursday, September 1, 2016

  1. Highlights of July 27 Special Council Priorities Meeting
  • Development North of Rocky
--- More information is needed on the water and waste water servicing costs and funding.
---The Area Structure Plan and Joint Development Plan need to be worked on and mutually agreed upon by town and county before more concrete plans proceed.
---So far Council’s only commitment for 2016 is for the site grading, the salt/sand storage facility, and completing the design plans.
(Note:  Conversations with town residents suggest they are not in favor of spending any money on annexation/services to the north.)

  • Leslieville/Condor Fire Hall
--- Land has been offered, as a donation, for a site along Hwy. 11 between Condor and Leslieville.
---More work needs to be done to identify all potential sites and bring the information back to council and the community.

  • Nordegg
--- Discussion took place on how to proceed with further development in Nordegg.
--- Interest has been expressed by a developer for a commercial venture on Upper Center Street but services would need to be put up there first.  Cost for that may be $3million.

  • Ag. Rec Facility
---The committee working on this proposal hasn’t met lately.
--- Concern was expressed if there is a general “appetite” for this building.
--- The suggestion was made that in other areas this type of facility was “community” driven and the question was posed if this is council’s responsibility.

  • Internet/Telecommunications Development
---There was major discussion on this topic.
--- Pros.--- Provides significant economic development potential/influence;  would attract both new residents and businesses
--- Cons.--- Cost, and concerns with “up-take” by residents who would subscribe to the service.
--- More information is needed on costs and installation options (towers, towers and fibre, just fibre).
--- A pilot project was suggested.

  1. County’s Municipal Inspection
A letter from Municipal Affairs has been received by the County indicating that a preliminary review will take place on October 18.  Following that, Municipal Affairs will determine if a full scale review /inspection is necessary.  This is what took place in the town of Rocky earlier this spring/summer.

Several rainy days provided ideal time to do some research on issues that may be of interest to taxpayers.  The results will be published in succeeding newsletters and focussed on three areas:  net municipal taxes collected per person; municipal operating expenses per person; and CAO salaries.  Information was gathered from the 2015 audited financial statements for rural municipalities with populations over 10,000.  With our tax due date just around the corner, perhaps it is timely for you to see where Clearwater County ranks according to the amount of taxes collected per person.
Net Municipal Taxes Collected Per Person in 2015
  1. MD of Bonnyville         $6066.88
  2. Yellowhead County      $5447.16
  3. Brazeau County            $4076.00
  4. Gr. Prairie County        $3589.64
  5. Clearwater County      $3582.22
  6. Leduc County               $3301.88
  7. Lacombe County         $2563.14
  8. Red Deer County        $2401.12
  9. Mtn. View County      $2355.20
  10. Ponoka County           $2162.62
  11. Sturgeon County        $2038.92
  12. Wetaskiwin County   $1838.68
  13. Rocky View County   $1672.62
  14. Parkland County       $1656.60
  15. Lac St. Anne County $1601.62
  16. MD of Foothills          $1489.98
  17. Lethbridge County    $1462.70
Average amount of taxes collected per person:  $2782.76
(Note:  Brazeau County and Ponoka County have populations less than 10,000 but were included in the research because they are neighboring jurisdictions to us.  Population figures used to calculate the per person amounts for each area came from Wikipedia figures.)
ROSESA special bouquet of roses this month goes out to the County’s road side mowing crew for their great work.  The suggestion was brought forward by a resident in the Prairie Creek area who was particularly impressed by the work done there.  We agree that the rest of the County also looks great and that the whole crew needs to be commended, along with administration and council that makes the program possible.
RANTNo special rant this month---except for frustration with the uncooperative haying weather!!!
Quote of the Month:  Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that 
matter.  Martin Luther King Jr.
COMING EVENTS:  September 8, 2016, Regular Monthly Meeting, 7:30PM, Leslieville Elks’ Hall
      October 13, 2016, Regular Monthly Meeting, 7:30PM, Leslieville Elks’ Hall

    November 10, 2016 Annual Meeting, 7:00PM, Leslieville Elks’ Hall