County discusses need for new Administrative Building

Contained in Kneehill County's Chief Administrative Officer's (CAO) report for Council's Feb. 4 meeting, was announcing the start of the process to complete the annual financial audit, hoping for the second Council meeting in April to present to Council. "After meeting with the Auditors, dates have been set to complete and present the audit findings." He felt the County was in a strong financial position with healthy reserves and good cash flows. "The 2014 budgets have been implemented and all is on track for a strong financial year." The conclusion of a committee of the whole meeting showed Council's desire to initiate some bold changes regarding its grant policies, already taking root with policy changes announced in February. While the medical building project has hit a roadblock (subject property is off the table), which could derail the future of the project and cause a complete revisiting of alternatives, discussion has been renewed for the building of a new County Administration building. The CAO was pleased with the number and quality of candidates applying for the position of 'Communications Officer', and expected to make an announcement shortly.
Revisiting Construction
of New County Office

A few years ago, Council entertained the notion of building a new County office and dollars were set aside for the possibility of construction. Ratepayers were informed of the possibility at ratepayer meetings. Council put those plans on hold and a decision was made to wait and review the needs after the new county shop was more developed (upstairs portion). It seemed feasible there would be enough room for the County to retain the Administration building on Main Street in Three Hills. Councillors liked the idea of staying at the present location. Council then approved a plan to invest $2 million into the current County office for much needed upgrades and renovations. During this process, Administration realized that the current office will not permit any further growth or expansion. An idea to expand the current building into the parking area was entertained, which led to a discussion regarding the longevity of the current building as a County office and what the alternatives were. It is Administration's recommendation that Council entertain, once again, the construction of a new building on the lands owned by the County, next to the County maintenance shop. "The necessary expansion of the current building into the parking lot area would have an approximate cost of $4 million, closer to $5 million, not including the acquisition costs of additional lands nearby for staff and ratepayer parking. Consideration must be given to investing $4 or $5 million on a 40-year-old building, albeit one that is structurally sound." Figures for a new building on County land came out to between $6 and $7.25 million ($4.5 for building construction, $1.5 for site preparation, $500,000 for interior/electronics and $750,000 for an additional bay to the north end of the County shop for Agricultural Services). "What is our best buy going forward; $4.5 million or $6 million? I'd rather have new." Clr. Holsworth was in agreement with a new building. Clr. Calhoun was not in favor of knocking out walls (with expansion into the parking lot area), nor the necessary re-wiring and drainage issues to accommodate it all. Clr. Hoppins needed some extra convincing. "Prove to me we need the space. Today we gave our staff good things and we are giving our municipal partners a great deal, but what are we giving our ratepayers. It's the perception of it, that they want to see better roads and bridges and we're building a new administration building." The justification came down to a reminder of new positions that will be taking up space in the offices, for a communications officer and occupational safety officer. "The reality is that we have four empty offices that will be filled within the next one to two years," stated CAO Hoggan. "What we don't have and need is a meeting space. Council chambers should not be intruded on for operational meetings. The money has already been set aside. We currently have $9 million in the building fund and even after construction, there would be $2 million left in that reserve. If we spend $4 or $5 million here, we are locked in with no growth potential. The $5 million may buy us another eight years at this location, and then we would have to spend another $9 million for a building, but eight years from now, there will not likely be MRI funding possibilities, (specific to a new building). We have the funds available and this would be an investment in the future of the County." Deputy Reeve Wittstock's comment recognized another aspect to the issue, "Well, option 'C', to do nothing is in fact, no longer an option."
Parade float
For the purpose of having a parade float, Council endorsed the purchase of a vinyl wrap for the County vehicle. The price tag is in the vicinity of $1500 and would last for the one season of parade entries. The advantage was convenience of 'ready to go'. Other options given were a large sandwich board, which was half the cost but still required the decorating of the vehicle with streamers and a third option was a cold air inflatable that was between $2000 and $5000. Councillors didn't like the boredom of having the same inflatable for three to five years.
Economic Developers 2014 Conference
Approval was given for Reeve Long to attend the Economic Developers 2014 Conference in Kananaskis April 9-11, the theme being "Promoting Commitment, Community and Collaboration for 40 Years". Council authorized the attendance for the three invitations to Kneehill Area Community Discovery Nights in 2014: Linden for March 6, Carbon for March 4, and Acme, March 11.
Laurie Watt, Assistant CAO, presented Council with an amended Policy 15-3 "Community Grants to Non-Profit Organizations", along with an application and accountability of funds form, as had been discussed in a previous 'committee of the whole' meeting. The amount of $50,000 remains the same for funding, as does the two application times per year (March and October). The grant is basically for the funding of projects of smaller groups. The project would be excluded if there is funding at the provincial level or from a tax base (municipalities). It is for projects that can be completed within one year of funding approval. "I believe this captures the spirit of looking after our smaller organizations," stated CAO Hoggan.
There were no objections heard, either written or in attendance at the Public Hearing for Bylaw 1665, re-designation from Agricultural to Local Rural Commercial for the spot zoning of an approximate 2.5 acre area, for the purpose of a retail/tourist store (immediately west of the Bleriot Ferry). Council gave third reading to the re-designation.