Letter to County of VR Council (Aug2016)

 

The County of Vermilion River Tax Payers Association submitted the attached letter to CVR Council on August 15th via registered mail.  The three areas of concerns detailed in the letter were: Council Policies, In-Camera Sessions and Council/Committee Meeting Minutes.    As of today, there has been no formal response back from Council to our membership.

Click on this link  final-letter-to-council-aug-11_201 or the page images to read the Aug2016 letter

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Previous Letters/Attachments:

December 30, 2013

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March 17, 2014

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April 4, 2014

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January 15,2015
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Dewberry Arena

Through proposed Bylaw 12-03, the Council of the Municipality of  County of Vermilion River will be authorized to incur indebtedness by the issuance of a debenture in the amount of $850,000 for the purpose of financing renovations to the Dewberry Arena. This sum is to be borrowed from the Alberta Capital Finance Authority or other authorized financial institution by way of debenture on the credit and security of the Municipality at large, of which amount the full $850,000 is to be paid by the Municipality at large.

The Municipality shall levy and raise in each year municipal taxes sufficient to pay the indebtedness.

The Council of the County of Vermilion River will have given proper intention, pursuant to the provisions of Section 251 of the Municipal Government Act, by notification published by newspaper 4 times (April 2nd, 3rd, 9th, and 10th, 2012) respecting Bylaw No. 12-03. Unless a petition of the electors for a vote on Bylaw No 12-03 is demanded, as provided for by the terms of Section 231 of the Municipal Government Act, the Council of the County of Vermilion River may pass the said borrowing bylaw.

Many ratepayers have expressed the opinion that a community can best identify its  specific needs for facilities whether it be an arena or a hall, and that these needs should be met through the efforts of the community’s residents and anyone intending to use those facilities. Costs for improvements, additions, maintenance, etc. should be  covered through fundraising, volunteerism,  available grants and user fees for the facilities.  Costs should not be covered by the municipality other than through recreation allotments and park trust allotments. The County of Vermilion River has inadvertently begun pitting one community against the other by going from the accepted principal of “community wants, community builds” to floating debentures paid for by taxpayers in a specified recreational area (Marwayne Arena) to now floating debentures payable by taxpayers across the whole County (Dewberry Community Complex).

A perceived flaw in both the Marwayne and the Dewberry business plans is that arena revenues and expenditures are lump-summed and there are no projections as to what increases would have to be for the life span of the project.  Utilities could become an extreme cost of operation – has this ever been factored in?  In a worse-case scenario, costs could become so high that necessary fee increases would make using the facility unaffordable.  Kitscoty has already had to increase its hall rental fees substantially to keep up with costs of operation; it is certain that both Marwayne and Dewberry will face the same issues onward of construction.

It is also noted in the Dewberry Community Complex Business Plan prepared by Paul Conrad & Associates (Genivar) that their role includes providing an estimate of life span for the building and a cost estimate to bring the facility up to a 10-20 year life span.  The County, in its Bylaw No. 12-03, states that the estimated lifetime of the project financed is equal to, or in excess of, 15 years.  We find it shocking that this project, expected to be funded in large part by our tax  dollars (through municipal, provincial and federal levels) is not  expected to have a long shelf life and will likely be in need of further financial support  for repair and maintenance.

The 2011 Federal Census shows a population within the County of Vermilion River equal to 7,905 persons.  10% of that population would be 791 persons.  A poll may be demanded in the County of Vermilion River by petition of electors equal in number to at least 10 % of the population (791 electors).  In the Government of Alberta Municipal Affairs website, under Municipal Elections, Municipal Election Summaries for 2010, the number of eligible voters in the County of Vermilion River equals 5,780 persons.   In order to have a sufficient petition by numbers  it would require 13.69 % of the eligible electors in the County.  IF YOU HAVE THE WILL AND THE MOTIVATION, IT CAN BE DONE!!!  We, as taxpayers, must not allow our municipal tax revenues to be used to fund wants such as arenas  within a short distance of each other as opposed to needs such as  improving infrastructure and services which would benefit the majority of taxpayers in the County through stimulated growth and economic opportunity.  A strong, viable tax base creates an opportunity to contribute at a greater level to our community infrastructure.

HERE’S  A THOUGHT!!!

If any community organization wishes to undertake a project such as the Dewberry Community Complex and is looking for major funding from the County taxpayer, perhaps the onus should be on that organization to approach County with a petition signed by 791 electors of the CVR requesting that they consider the proposal.

Off-Site Levy Bylaws

As far back as 2009 the County began moving forward with  developing an infrastructure plan and the contribution of costsspecific to those plans.  To that end there were public input and  information sessions held regarding the implementation of an Off-Site Levy and the County of Vermilion River Master Transportation Plan.  Through each succeeding session and the resulting presentations various stakeholders and interested parties  made their comments, suggestions and objections known, only to find that in many cases none of those were incorporated into the next presentation as a change or correction.  It was commonly felt that there was never any meaningful consultation taking place between taxpayer and County.

At the last Off-Site Levy presentation given by Corvus Business Advisors at the Blackfoot Hall on August 23, 2011, the public was not even afforded the courtesy of receiving any information prior to the meeting or as a hand-out at the meeting, nor was it made available on the County Website until several days later.  Popular opinion was that this was an offensive attempt to railroad an ill-conceived and inaccurate plan onto the taxpayer.

The CVRTA made the effort to do a comprehensive study of the proposed Off-Site Levy in its final presented form and identified many questionable items included in the infrastructure projects proposed.  A 13-page document, dated October 10, 2011  was presented  the following day by a CVRTA delegation appearing before Council at the Oct. 11 regular Council meeting.  To view the full document presented to Council, go to the CVR Web-site and bring up the Council Meeting Agenda for Jan. 24, 2011, 11 a.m. Appointments, 2nd Attachment.

When we had not received any reply back from Council by almost 6 weeks, a registered letter dated November 22, 2011 was sent to Council requesting written communication as to what specific actions had been taken to address our concerns since our submission.  By  coincidence we received a letter dated the same day back from County CAO Rhonda King (postmarked Nov. 30) acknowledging our concerns and inviting us to address Council at their Dec. 13th meeting.  Due to prior commitments we accepted the further invitation to meet with Council and Administration on Tuesday,  January 24, 2012 to begin the process of addressing the issues within the CVRTA submission.

When the CVRTA delegation appeared before Council on Jan. 24, Reeve Richard Van Ee’s opening remarks were that they had read our submission and that we were mean-spirited and unfair.  In regards to some of the scope and costs of identified transportation projects it was offered to us that there likely were some “type-o’s” that were being looked at.  To her credit, Councilor Glenda Elkow (Division 5) offered to meet with us at a later date for   general discussion on topics of concern to us, which she did on February 13, 2012 with the inclusion of  Councilor Ed Parke (Division 6).  However, if they came away from that meeting with anything of value, it certainly didn’t seem to resonate with Council as there has been no further communication from them.   To make a long story short, at this point in time there has not been an Off-Site Levy Bylaw implemented; however, the total Off-Site Levy rates for transportation charges and stormwater charges for development in the Northwest Basin area remain listed as $16,734 per net hectare (including $628/hectare stormwater charges), while those costs for development in the Blackfoot Basin remain listed at $17,594 per net hectare (including $1,488 stormwater charges). Outside of the Drainage Basin, transportation charges are listed at $16,106 (no stormwater charges applicable).

It has come to our attention that certain developments are now being charged for infrastructure “contributions”, and that these contributions are being attached to Development Permits. (not Development Agreements, which by definition is a lawful agreement entered into by both parties, with mutually-agreed upon terms and conditions, signed and dated). It is also noted that these “contributions” are based on the above-noted charges for transportation  and stormwater.   In effect, County is proceeding to implement the Off-Site Levy even though it does not exist.

Taxpayers! Phone, e-mail or write your Councilors and Administration demanding to know by what lawful authority they have proceeded with these charges in the absence of a Bylaw to that effect, and ask also for the data and determination of costs, through public input, used in these calculations.