Reeve's Ramblins

M.D. Invests in Infrastructure and Recreation

Brian Brewin 2016 reeves ramblins photo
2016 was a very busy year for your municipal organization. Major projects included in excess of 48 kilometers of road construction and rehabilitation by MD staff along with the construction of lots and an aircraft fueling station at the MD of Taber airport in Taber, completion of the MD of Taber sport shooting complex, completion of the Grassy Lake stormwater drainage project, replacement of waterline in the Hamlet of Hays, 2 major culverts were replaced along dozens of culverts across the MD.

In order to ensure a long term supply of road gravel exploration of municipal lands for gravel sources was undertaken and a number of sources were found. In 2016 a new gravel pit on public land was approved by Alberta Environment for use by the MD following 3 years of studies and review requests by the province.

In 2016 the Council made the decision to proceed with the construction of a new maintenance and operations building on property west of Taber. This facility will replace the shop facilities at their current location. It’s interesting to note that 3 of the structures on the current site were built when Louis St. Laurent was the Prime Minister of Canada – in 1954. The cur-rent buildings have served well for over 60 years. It is hoped that the cast concrete structure now being constructed will be equally robust.

In 2016 the MD completed the 13 year process of renovating the MD administration building by completing the renovation of the administration building annex into a new council chamber. The old chamber is now used as a staff training room, commit-tee room and Emergency Operations Centre in the event of a large scale emergency event.

The Regional Fire Initiative was fully implemented March 1, 2017 however the M.D. of Taber was recently notified by the Village of Barnwell that their community was interested in becoming a partner along with the Town of Vauxhall and the MD in the Regional Fire Service Initiative. As such effective March 31, 2017 fire services including fire protection, participation in the tri-municipal ‘Quality Management Plan’ required for accredited safe-ty code act compliant municipalities and partnership in a tri-municipal emergency management plan along with Vauxhall and the MD has been initiated. An amendment to the 2017 MD of Taber budget to account for the training and equipping of an additional 10 Regional Fire Service volunteer fire fighters has been undertaken to accommodate this new initiative. A complete description of this initiative is described very well within the notice written by the Mayor of the Village to her community and is included in this newsletter for your information.

The 10 additional Barnwell volunteers (who will serve as part of the MD Regional Fire Department in Taber along with the 21 volunteers currently serving with the department) in the MD’s most densely populated division will be a welcome addition to both the Village of Barnwell and the MD of Taber. The Regional Fire Service is based upon service delivered by citizen volunteer firefighters trained to a professional standard and provided modern equipment. It is a model that is sustainable in every definition of the word. The partnership of the MD, Village of Barnwell and Town of Vauxhall demonstrates the fruits of collabo-ration and cooperation between communities.

The M.D. of Taber continues to implement its long term capital infrastructure plan which addresses key infrastructure needs including: bridge replacement, road rehabilitation, residential and commercial lot development, industrial lot development, airport expansion, recreation development as well as many other initiatives that will ensure that our municipal district remains financially and economically sustainable into the future.

In the fall of 2016 the M.D. of Taber Council approved a 2017 work plan that includes;

1. The construction of the civil portion of the new MD of Taber maintenance and operations building including grading, installation of utilities including water and sewer, construction of a water storage lagoon for fire protection purposes as well as road and stormwater drainage. This initiative saves considerably on construction costs that would have had to be contracted out if we did not have an internal staff and equipment capable of undertaking this construction.

2. Rehabilitation or construction of near 20 kilometers of municipal road rehabilitation and improvements.

3. Construction of a new boat launch on the Oldman River near the MD of Taber Park.

4. Grassy Lake fire hall renovation.

5. Gravel pit reclamation and stripping at municipal gravel pits.

6. Clay capping of roads that had pit run placed on them to alleviate overland flooding in recent years.

7. Paving in the Hamlet of Hays

8. Completion of the Alberta Environment approval for the Johnson’s Addition Waste Water project.

9. Ongoing work to replace culverts and improve stormwater drainage within the MD of Taber.

In December 2016 the MD of Taber made application for funding for the rehabilitation or replacement of 5 local bridge projects under the Strategic Transportation Infrastructure Project as well as for airport apron and taxiway paving for the MD air-port in Taber under the ‘local initiatives’ portion of that grant program. The applications are reviewed and awarded based upon merit. The MD of Taber operates approximately 170 bridges valued at over$100 million. No funding has been provided by the province for over 5 years. It is becoming critical that funding be provided by the province to implement a systematic process for bridge replacement.

Other initiatives include participating in a study being initiated by Alberta Transportation to study Highway 3 twinning options through the MD of Taber. In addition the Council continues to advocate for funding to expand broadband internet service in rural areas, lobby against any changes to agricultural assessment or intensive agriculture tax levies, assist the school divisions as we can with their facility improvements as there is no more important a facility to a community than a school or no more busy of recreation center than a school gymnasium.

In the 2016 budget year linear assessment, which accounts for over 70% of our municipal budget, shrank considerably due to depreciation of oil and gas infra-structure, closed-in facilities due to prices or bankruptcy of oil and gas companies and many wells that were subsequently turned over to the orphan well fund.

Despite the loss of near 6% of municipal revenues the 2016 budget proposed only a 2% mill rate increase – which was near the rate of inflation and population growth was successfully implemented. As a municipal organization we tightened belts, found efficiencies and continued to deliver core services in an efficient and effective manner as well as a capital works program that identified and addressed priorities.

In the end the 2016 year ended with a$124,000 surplus – slightly down from the projected $128,000 surplus which was projected. The total surplus in 2016 amounted to $18,167,532 arising from the value of ‘contributed assets’ the MD received from the Province in the form of 133 quarter sections of tax recovery land in 2016. Of particular interest to citizens of the M.D. is that the transfer of tax recovery land from the Province to the MD of Taber will be completed in 2017 concluding a process which started in 1996 and which resulted in the transfer of near 60,000 acres of grassland to the M.D. of Taber. The total land base owned by the MD of Taber exceeds 80,000 acres.

Alberta Municipal Affairs has informed the MD of Taber to expect a $1,000,000 loss of linear assessment in the 2017 budget – which translates to approximately 8% of the 2016 budget. In November the Council approved an interim budget which forecast increased revenues from municipally owned land which offset the loss of assessment and as such the council is proposing a 2% property tax mill rate increase which is well within our goal of maintaining increases in property tax at a rate no more than that represented by the sum of core inflation and population growth.

We continue to identify core services, trim where necessary, conduct projects utilizing internal forces and to focus on identifying priority projects which will keep our community moving forward in a fiscally sustainable manner and which will not unnecessarily burden municipal property owners or businesses.

Municipal planners and development officers have been taking an increased number of calls pertaining to construction and development including wind and solar energy development arising from provincial policy decisions. It is our under-standing that the province intends on approving 400 megawatts of solar or wind energy projects in the Province before the end of 2017 and 400 megawatts in subsequent years. The development authority continues to proceed with caution and has conducted public hearings to solicit input and has applied that input to conditions on approved development permits.

The MD of Taber will continue to publish quarterly newsletters each year which keep municipal citizens apprised on the business of their local government as well as other community organizations which operate within the municipality and upcoming events. You will find that the newsletters provide a transparency not found in most municipal organizations.

As demonstrated by our 2016 financial statement the Municipal District of Taber continues to effectively utilize the financial resources that the citizens and businesses within the municipality contribute by way of property taxes as directed by your elected representatives through an open and transparent decision making and reporting process.


Brian Brewin