By Justin Seward
The County of Forty Mile completed its annual budget process recently and county reeve Steve Wikkerink says in his six years on council this was the hardest one to go through as the municipality heads into a new year.
“Part of it is the reduction in MSI (Municipal Sustainability Initiative) funding. We’re already one of the higher counties when it comes to our actual rate payers and so not to increase them more, we’ve had to put some capital purchases on hold,” said Wikkerink.
“Some other sources of revenue for us (has) depleted. We’ve written off a half million dollars in lost oil and gas revenues. The budget just seems crazy tight this year, so we’re really going to be watching our pennies as we go through the year.”With a budget crunch, Wikkerink thinks the county will have to tap more into the used market in terms of finding a pick up or machinery that is a few years old that works.
“I think this January, we are considering doing a rebuild on I think one grader, rather then buying new,” he said.
“We know it will save us close to $200,000 per grader.”
The county had to make a five- year capital and operational plan as per government guidelines and as a result the municipality has had to shuffle some purchases.
“We had to push a bunch of capital purchases off from 2020 to 2021 and 2022. Some of that is because we don’t have the money and the other thing is 2021, that will be our first year that we see a fairly decent increase on the taxation we get from the wind mills,” he said.
“We’re kind of in this little bit of a lull here to get through the next year until we can see some new taxation money come back in to make up for the oil and gas money we’ve lost.”
A majority of the MSI Funding moving forward will go towards the shop expansion, which is expected to be completed in the fall, while if the blue prints are obtained for the administration building then construction will get underway with that structure as well.
“Right now we have our shop in Foremost spread out between three different facilities and even our managers say we’re wasting too much time driving between buildings when information needs to be passed back and forth,” said Wikkerink.
It is anticipated that if the county receives the bridge funding they applied for this year that some bridges will get maintenance in 2020.
Wikkerink says heading into 2020 the county would like to continue on working with the Winnifred community.
“We are going to start a garbage service out there contracted with Bow Island to start with,” said Wikkerink.
“We’re still trying to put together some source of raw water into the community. The community is asking for water to do gardens and trees. Anytime you can get trees started in a community, to me it looks nice.”
The county plans to work on multiple issues that are plaguing Burdett including the flooding where the community is constantly impacted.
Wikkerink says there a couple of proposals on the table to mitigate some of the flooding that comes into the community.
The community is also facing wastewater issues where the county is upgrading the sewer system underneath the streets on an annual basis.
Burdett is also a potential site for the opening of new residential lots.
“Part of our problem there is where we have land that we already own, we can’t expand too much into there because of having to stay away from the lagoon,” said Wikkerink.
“We’re going to work with the government and see if there is any relaxation on any setback to the lagoon or something else we can do to utilize some of our land that we already own right in the Village of Burdett.”
The $300- million Suncor Energy Forty Mile Wind project will also ramp its construction in 2020.
“We know that we have probably the next two summers, (that) will both be very busy with construction again in the wind field industry,” said Wikkerink.
Capital Power also will be starting on their additional 100 megawatt in the second phase of their Whitla Wind Farm.