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Council adds to utility bylaw to end long weekend billing issues

Town of Elk Point briefs from the Sept. 13 council meeting.
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ELK POINT – A billing issue brought to the attention of Elk Point town council after the August long weekend has led to council approving an addition to the utility bylaw passed in May, which changed billing from monthly to every two months in an effort to reduce staff time.

Water meters were read on Tuesday, Aug. 3, rather than on the final day of July, which fell on Saturday, and sent some residents’ readings over the basic amount, with charges for an additional cubic meter added to the two month bill.

The bylaw now reads: “To determine consumption for a billing period, the meter shall be read on the last day of the month. If this date falls on a non-business day, the meter shall be read the last business day prior to the end of the month, or as determined by the CAO.”

The change is “a small tweak in an administrative process,” Mayor Lorne Young said, but one Coun. Terri Hampson agreed should move forward and which Coun. Dwayne Yaremkevich felt, “solves the issue of when it’s being read.”

While this issue has now been resolved, the town will not resolve another water billing issue. A resident who applied lawn fertilizer this spring in anticipation of rain found it necessary to water frequently during the unusually dry summer and asked to have the resulting water bill reduced. The town has never waived fees for water usage and council agreed that while this would set a precedent and could not be done, the town has offered payment plans in special circumstances and will do so if necessary.

It was not only households that experienced unexpected costs related to water this month. The bulk water fill station required replacement of a computer that CAO Ken Gwozdz called “the brains of the outfit,” with council authorizing an unbudgeted expenditure of $5,295.39 for the new unit, which allowed the fill station to resume operation.

Lift station upgrade ongoing

Public Works superintendent Jay Duffee did not join last week’s council meeting, but sent an update on ongoing upgrades at the sewer lift station, including photos of work done so far, from replacement of piping and electrical wiring to replacing the building’s leaking roof. At one point, wiring to pump controls was cut and sewage had to be pumped by hand overnight until the wiring and controls could be replaced.

Public Works has also trimmed overgrown trees and completely removed the trees in front of the town office, which were impacting the sewer lines. Plans to replace the trees with large round flower planters are in the works for 2022, Duffee said.

His crew was also kept busy preparing areas on Ravine Drive, 52 Ave. and between the schools for patching by the paving crew that completed their work prior to the council meeting.

Advance poll date added

Another advance poll date has been added for the Oct. 18 municipal election, this time using town council chambers as the location. The advance poll on Saturday, Oct. 16 will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and could help to reduce lineups on election day.

National Day of Truth and Reconciliation

The Government of Canada has declared Sept. 30 a national statutory holiday, the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, and Gwozdz told council that both the Town and County of St. Paul are using this as a paid holiday when staff will receive education on the Indigenous history, treaties and the history and impact of residential schools.

Given the short notice, Mayor Young said, “Municipalities were not given much time to get their heads around this. How do we deal with it this year?” It was agreed to follow the lead of the neighboring municipalities, treating it as a paid day when employees would take the training provided, “like a school’s PD day,” the mayor said.

Remembrance Day

Previous to the pandemic, Elk Point’s Remembrance Day observances were traditionally arranged by the town’s recreation committee, and with that committee not appointed last year, a smaller ceremony was arranged by the Christian Community Church. What to do this year is “a tough situation, with the COVID and the election,” Mayor Young said, with Deputy Mayor Tim Smereka suggesting that a local service group might be interested in making the arrangements, “because I believe we really need a ceremony here.” The matter will be back on the agenda for the Sept. 27 council meeting.

Letter of support

Council agreed to send a letter of support for a Community Facility Enhancement Program grant application by the Friends of Elk Point Library, with the grant to be used for new lighting.

Policy housekeeping

Human Resources policies and housekeeping items regarding other policies were once again on council’s agenda, with amendments to the Performance Improvement Progressive Discipline Policy and Recruitment Selection Policy accepted by council, as was re-numbering of other policies and finalization of a policy sitting in draft form since its approval in 2019. Another policy brought forward is to be reviewed by council in 2023.

Proposal accepted

Council accepted a proposal from Elk Point Realty to list a residential property the town took possession of for unpaid taxes.

Franchise fee

Having received estimates from ATCO Electric regarding the estimated 2022 franchise fees, council moved to direct administration to advise ATCO that the current five per cent franchise fee will remain the same for 2022.

Request for information

A letter from Parrish Tung requested information about council meetings deleted from YouTube and matters dealing with code of conduct and a potential court case was presented to council. The request stated “there is talk all over town about this. I think town and council have a responsibility to let all residents know.”

The town’s legal counsel recommended the item be moved into closed session. Following the closed session, administration was directed to write a letter to Tung, indicating that the matter is with the town’s insurer and legal counsel.

Resignation accepted

Following the closed session, council moved to accept a letter of resignation from the Bylaw Enforcement Officer and to defer further discussions to the next budget meeting.