Trochu Council passes Interim 2021 Budget

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Trochu Town Council held a Zoom Council meeting on December 14th, with all Councilors in virtual attendance as well as Lavinia Henderson of Civic Solutions, and Dave Nelson, Director of Operations, Carl Peterson, CAO, and Toni Nelson, Recording Secretary. Mayor Kletke called the virtual meeting to order at 6pm.

After accepting the agenda, previous minutes, and housekeeping listing, Council moved on to Staff Reports.

The water/wastewater report, and the Grant Writer’s report, were passed with no discussion required.

Director of Operations Dave Nelson presented the Operations report.

Nelson said that at the pool, the new shower installation is completed, they are now just waiting on the shower heads to arrive so they can be installed.

At the arena, HVAC ducts have been measured to prepare for the installation of new furnaces and hot water heaters. Although the arena has now been mandated to close, for a brief time they were booking single household families, which kept the arena busy and had started to gain traction. Council commended Nelson for this idea and for the flexibility of the Operations team.

Nelson noted that a local welder has been helping to repair bins at the garbage collection site.

In Public works, they’ve been busy with the usual winter work of sanding, salting, and clearing streets, sidewalks, and walking trails.

They’ve also regraded the ditch on Elevator road, which has long been a concern as water from the train tracks runs down over the road causing puddles and bumps, a problem for trucks travelling to Sunterra. They found culverts under the road to help redirect water from the tracks.

A local equipment operator from Huxley came and crushed the cinder blocks leftover from Pontmain School, and this will be used as fill for roads or alleys, or in sinkholes or frost boil repairs.

The Water and wastewater team has been busy. They recently tried to help a homeowner with clearing their sewer line, but the homeowner had to call a plumber to finish the job. Crews also inserted a camera on a few trouble spots, including the north end of Poplar, and down Main street; these were both helpful experiences.

The Lagoon project has wrapped up for the year, after a walk through to test valves, review the liner and earthworks, and the engineer and contractor noted deficiencies which will be fixed in the spring. The project has reached substantial completion. Landscaping, fencing, and seeding will be completed in the spring. All in all, Nelson said they are happy with the job. They are waiting for the ICIP grant funding to come in, which they expect sometime before April.

There was a bit of an “oops” when a sewer flow metre, installed to record data from Sunterra to the Lagoon, was accidentally dropped by the Engineer down a manhole. It got stuck in the sewer lines. After nine hours of searching, it was able to be located and removed. Thankfully the data was preserved, and was able to be compared to the sewer flow metre placed upstream of Sunterra.

Mayor Kletke mentioned a survey from Hockey Alberta, who wondered about a later restart for minor hockey, on February 1st, which would require municipalities to keep their ice surfaces for an additional 6-8 weeks. Council was in favour of supporting this initiative, should Hockey Alberta decide that it is possible to get going again on February 1st Kletke noted that in a year where almost everything has been shut down, it would be nice to provide kids, and potentially adults if possible, with a mental health break. Nelson said that it would be possible, from an operations perspective, to keep the ice, and that it is not worth the additional cost to shut down and restart the plant as the ice process is costly.

Council filed the Operations report.

CAO Carl Peterson presented his Administrator’s report.

He mentioned that they are waiting on Kneehill County for a decision about backing a loan which the Town requires in order to build the Senior’s Campus of Care facility. The County likely has more questions before they are able to make a decision.

Peterson noted that Council will need to discuss the Area Structure Plan and Land Use Bylaw, to ensure that they match and so development proceeds the way Council wishes, as Palliser will begin the rezoning and amendments to the Land Use Bylaw in the New Year.

Regarding the Elevator Road Re-alignment, they are now waiting on utility companies to either note that they have no concerns, or ask for easement agreements. Telus has given the go-ahead, and Atco is looking for an easement agreement. They have not heard from other services in the area. Once this is completed they can apply to Alberta Transportation.

The Ministerial Order has been received, which allows the Kneehill Regional Emergency Management Agreement to come into effect, to allow all these municipalities to officially work together as a team in an emergency situation.

He mentioned that the sale of 321 Arena Ave. has been completed and that outstanding arrears will be written-off in the New Year when all costs are determined, but backdated to 2020.

Council carried the Administrator’s report.

Councilor Chris Armstrong was the first to present a Councilor report. He noted that Community Futures Wildrose has $50K extra in the bank than budgeted, due to lack of travel and events from COVID closures. They have been directed to distribute more loans next year, including loans with greater risk, to put them back on track.

The Rural Relief and Recovery Fund is on its way to being distributed, so far with $400K disbursed. The grant disbursement goes to areas of greatest need across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

Councilor Cheryl Lumley noted that things are going well for Kneehill FCSS, especially with Counselling in schools.

She also updated Council on the Arboretum, which now has its lights on each evening from 5pm-9pm, but will host no fires, hot chocolate, or visitor interpretation centre services because of COVID restrictions. Donations have been strong so far, and the lights will stay on until January 10th.

Councilor Bill Cunningham updated Council on the status of the Canadian Badlands group. After collecting feedback, there was a sense that the organization still had potential, so they will enter into further consultations. It was decided that the organization in its current form is unsustainable. Cunningham also noted that the Trochu town-wide Christmas lights contest is in full swing, and will be judged in the next few days. Top businesses and top residences will be chosen by the judges, with a decision to be made next Monday.

Councilor Bonnie Munro noted that the town library, like all libraries in the province, has been mandated to close in-person services. They will remain open for curbside service, and will maintain regular hours, but will be unable to let anyone inside.

Councilor Ed Stephan attended a virtual restorative justice meeting where their director tendered her resignation. With only $2,600 in the bank, the organization will wait to rehire until after COVID settles down.

Mayor Barry Kletke let Council know that he sat in on a conference with Doug Griffiths, who has extensive experience in government at both the provincial and municipal level. Griffiths is seeing a shift, accelerated by COVID, where city dwellers are looking to settle in smaller towns. He also noted the importance of helping small businesses during COVID who don’t have the deep pockets of chain stores. Griffiths noted that now is the time to promote the small town lifestyle. From this seminar, Kletke wondered if Trochu could improve their services by joining a larger rural broadband provider, and perhaps by partnering with a builder who could develop townhouses.

Secondly, Kletke discussed the potential Great Plains MDF facility which would convert wheat straw into MDF board. He noted the importance of getting the word out about this proposed $750M facility, with Great Plains looking for their ideal location. Great Plains needs to have an idea of the amount of straw that would be available to them, and farmers in turn are wondering what the payout would be for providing straw. There is an online survey to complete which would help Great Plains get an idea of the market; if the survey is not completed with adequate detail, the plant would likely be built elsewhere. Great Plains requires 1 million acres of straw within a 100km radius of their plant.

Council carried the Councilor’s reports as presented.

Council moved their Correspondence listing, which included the AUMA Winter Towns East Newsletter, and the Kneehill Regional Partnership Project Ideas letter, with no discussion.

Council had many financial items to work through. They moved the November bank reconciliation, moved to pay the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) membership invoice of $439, as well as the $50 annual membership to Alberta TrailNet which will enable the Town to apply for their grants.

Council carried the Kneehill Housing Corporation’s 2020 Equalized Assessment figures.

Lavinia Henderson and CAO Carl Peterson presented Council with a Request for Decision on the interim budget for 2021, which needs to be in place for the first part of 2021. The interim budget contains $3.336M in revenue, and $3.335M in expenses, with a total surplus of $838. Council accepted these, interim budget numbers as presented. Budget deliberations on a more detailed basis will take place in early spring.

Council voted to move funds from the Fire Department Reserves to put toward the purchase of a new truck. Council then voted to move additional funds from the Fire Department Capital Account to cover the difference for a purchase of a new truck. This is a shared venture with Kneehill County. Councilor Chris Armstrong abstained from voting for these items, citing a conflict of interest.

In New Business, Council voted in support of the Palliser Regional Service Enhancement Project Municipal Services ACP Grant. Palliser was asking municipalities to vote in support of their grant application as more municipalities increase their chances of receiving the grant. Most other Palliser partners were voting in support, and Peterson recommended that Trochu Council do the same.

Secondly, in 2021 nominations for new Councilors will begin to be collected and therefore a Returning Officer as well as a Deputy/Substitute Returning Officer were required to be appointed. Council selected Jaime Collins as the Returning Officer, and Kim Helmer as the Deputy/Substitute Returning Officer. Both women are participating in a 20 hour training course to be qualified for these positions.

Council then took a five minute break, and entered Closed Session at 7:20pm.

Council’s next meeting will take place in 2021.