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May 19, 2024 May 19, 2024

RE: Alberta Bill 20

Posted on May 9, 2024 by Ryan Dahlman

The recent actions by Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver to rein in and garner proper conduct from recalcitrant or rogue County Councillors with his Bill 20 is a beacon of hope for hapless Winnifred property owners. As the County of Forty Mile continues to push forward with it’s first Local Improvement Levy without including or informing affected property owners it is good to know that our Municipal Affairs Minister recognizes the importance of good-governance at the municipal level.

While it may be admirable for Council to stand in solidarity with County staff as they make their first, faltering attempt to use their recently acquired power to impose a Local Improvement Levy, at some point Council must take responsibility for the actions of County staff on behalf of the County, and decisions taken by Council, as Council’s first loyalty must be with their constituents.

Bill 20 should be a clarion call to Forty Mile County Council that there is a minimum standard of care that will be enforced by the Provincial Government.

Council must recognize that their efforts to utilize the Local Improvement Levy has been a failure because of the errors, omissions and secrecy and has not lived up to the aforementioned minimum standard required.

County Council decided unilaterally to go ahead with Phase II of the Winnifred Raw Water Distribution, without consulting, engaging or informing affected stakeholders, relying rather just on the input from County officials.

Unfortunately the County employees were not up to the task and failed to properly advise the County Council.

The lack of due diligence by officials resulted in wrong information being presented to Council, this, combined with County Council’s decision to reject a request from stakeholders to be included in the process prior to construction has left Winnifred property owners saddled with an excessively expensive albatross, imposed by decree.

The effect of the incorrect information provided by County officials along with the lack of input from Winifred property owners may well have led councillors to believe Phase II was viable when in fact, as the corrected data shows, it is not.

The corrected data from County staff that resulted in the huge increase in the size of the proposed levy clearly shows, Reeve Wikkerink was correct in stating Phase II is unfeasible because of the high cost of water, plus the levy and with the current small size of the Winnifred tax base makes the project much more costly than hauling in water. In short, a bad bargain for Winnifred property owners.

To remedy this Forty Mile County Council should, because of the failings by County officials, treat Phase II in the same way as Phase I, which was also implemented unilaterally without involving stakeholders and recover costs in the same way by rising property values as development ensues.

Development at Winnifred provides benefit to the whole County as well as surrounding areas. It is already a significant repository of labour, skills, entrepreneurship and economic activity and represents the largest single supply of subdivided ready to build commercial and residential property in the Agrifood corridor.

Eric Musekamp, Bow Island

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