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Reeve's Reflections

Merrill Harris

March 2023

On behalf of Council, I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas holiday with family and friends and your New Year is off to a prosperous start. 

Each new year brings with it new opportunities and challenges, and we are certainly living in challenging times. We have seen a significant price increase on everyday-essential items such as lettuce, eggs, milk, bread and gasoline as the average cost of living has skyrocketed this past year. 

Health and mental health are growing concerns, and there are many who are looking for help in these areas. There are places to go and many agencies available in times of crisis to help ease the everyday stresses of life. Food banks are located in the Towns of Vauxhall and Taber and Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) are in each community of our Municipality. FCSS services range from counselling for individuals and families to parenting skills, teenage peer support, and services for seniors. If you are in need of confidential help, call FCSS at 403-795-3328. The 211 Alberta helpline and online database provides counselling and support services from highly-trained specialists. Please know that while your Municipality does not offer these types of services, we are aware of the strain people are under and hope if you are struggling, you will seek help from qualified professionals who are always available.

In December 2022, Municipal Council approved the 2023 operating budget and three-year operating budget plan, along with the 2023 capital budget and five-year capital budget plan. The 2023 budget consists of all sources of revenue for the Municipality. This includes property tax revenue ($16,656,000), land lease rental revenue ($1,660,000), oil and gas lease revenue (oil and gas sites located in the MD), campground fees, municipal services revenue ($2,303,000) and capital transfers from Provincial and Federal Governments. Capital revenues include the Municipal Sustainability Initiative ($1,466,387 Provincial Government) and the Canada Community Building Fund ($429,849 Federal Government). The total operating budget for 2023 is $22,211,362. Expenses include salaries, wages, benefits, and cost of services provided: gravel crushing and hauling, road grading, construction and repair, general administration, information technology services, bylaw enforcement services, regional fire services, RCMP, roadside mowing, weed control, recreation and parks. Your tax dollars are used in the above-mentioned areas to provide reliable and consistent quality-of-life-centred services. 

All Alberta Municipalities are obligated to prepare a five-year capital budget plan. Here, the MD of Taber has developed a ten-year capital plan to provide a longer-term perspective for the replacement of capital equipment (road graders, roadside mowers, gravel crushing and hauling equipment), office technology (computers, servers etc.), Hamlet needs such as road maintenance, repairs and upgrades. 

Here is a brief breakdown of the 2023 capital budget. As I have reported in other newsletters, we have many projects on the go. The Horsefly Regional Emergency Spillway project, budgeted at $47.7 Million, is finally underway. Phase 1 construction started last December and is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2024, with Phases 2 and 3 to begin in 2024. This project is made possible in part by the Government of Canada under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program ($8,878,049) and the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund ($9,880,000), also in part by the Government of Alberta under the Alberta Community Resilience Program ($20,388,300), and many regional partners including the Counties of Lethbridge, 40 Mile, Cypress and Warner, the Towns of Bow Island, Taber, Coaldale, and the Village of Barnwell. 

Enchant will see a new 36-lot residential development. Money from municipal reserves will be used against the budgeted cost of $1.6 Million and fully credited once all lots are sold. The north side of Grassy Lake will also see a new 46-lot residential development for phase one of the new residential subdivision. Again, money from municipal reserves will be used against the budgeted cost of $3.4 Million and credited back from all lot sales. Lot prices will be determined when final construction costs are known. 

To keep all buildings owned and operated by the MD in good condition is an ongoing cost. This year we are completing a $100,000 budgeted upgrade to the Hays Fire Hall, and a $38,000 budgeted repair to our Operations and Maintenance Building on Highway 3. 

As usual, equipment purchases for Public Works are the highest capital expenditures for the MD of Taber. The Municipality has a fleet of 12 road graders: 11 for maintenance and 1 for construction. The price of a new construction-sized grader is just short of $1 Million, and a maintenance-sized grader is about $750,000. We operate a gravel crusher and a new loader is required for our gravel program. A 30-year-old loader will be replaced and a new one is budgeted for around $450,000. We run a fleet of 6 highway tractors and belly dump trailers. A new truck and trailer unit will replace an ageing, worn-out unit at an estimated cost of $365,000. 

Agricultural Services will see a couple of new equipment purchases, such as a roadside mower, a bale processor (for fall roadside grass seeding) and a trade-in on a new skid steer. Regional Fire Services will receive a new primary fire engine unit at Station 4 (Taber). The existing Station 4 unit will move to the Barnwell Station. The fire truck now located in Barnwell will be kept and used for training and act as a spare when other regional units undergo their semi-annual CVIP inspections. The new fire engine unit was ordered in 2021 and is expected to be delivered this year. 

Other projects scheduled this year include our annual oiled road rehabilitation program applied to various roads throughout the MD, the Vauxhall Airport Apron paving, and some targeted infrastructure studies. We have submitted grant applications for replacing two bridge structures crossing the BRID main canal in the Vauxhall / Enchant area. Upon application approval, shared costs will be 75% Provincial and 25% Municipal. 

Hopefully, this has given you a quick glimpse of our municipal operations and the associated costs. If you have any questions, call your Councillor or myself. 

On behalf of Council, we hope you have endured the cold weather as we look towards spring with high hopes for another year of bounteous harvests.

Seasonal Equipment Operators
Seasonal Equipment Operators