Coaldale community grant initiative
By J.W. Schnarr
For the Sunny South News
Community grant initiative
The Town of Coaldale is closer to figuring out what should be done with future photo radar funds.
During a regular meeting on Sept. 26, council gave administration formal direction on the details and parameters for the Community (Photo Radar) Grant Initiative.
Town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Kalen Hastings asked council to consider how it wishes to distribute the fine revenue generated by photo radar; give input on an application timeline and review process; and have a discussion on who might be eligible for this type of grant in the community.
There are essentially five ways revenue can be distributed, including program cost recovery, safety infrastructure improvement reserve, community grants, departmental cost recovery (the public safety department), and capital reserve.
During discussion, Mayor Kim Craig said he was in favour of splitting the revenue into several areas, but he felt it was important the town does not appear to be using fine revenue to bolster the bottom line.
“I don’t want it to appear as though we’re singing for our supper,” he said.
“This shouldn’t be a means of subsidizing or costing out our payroll,” agreed Coun. Bill Chapman.
In general, council agreed it was important to first pay off the costs associated with the program, including a one-time start-up cost of $143,000. There is also an annual operating cost of about $82,000. Any revenue left over could then be split equally among a safety improvement reserve, a community grant, and capital reserve.
A proposed community grant timeline was also discussed, which could include a call for applications and a deadline for said applications.
There could also be a staff or administrative review process, though Coun. Jacen Abrey raised concerns about town staff having the ability to rank applications. He asked council to instead consider a merit board be formed in order to determine which applications should be approved. “I know, provincially, that’s the way it’s done,” he said. He noted a merit board could include community members who could listen to presentations from the applicants and then make recommendations to council.
Coun. Jack Van Rijn said it might be possible to find similar bias on a merit board — particularly if community members joined the board in the hopes of swaying a particular project.
A board comprised of citizens and members of council could also be used, but there could be bias issues there as well. The development of a decision-making guide could provide a favourable solution to the process.
In terms of project eligibility, Hastings said Coaldale residents have benefitted from Lethbridge County grants in the past, and it would only be fair to make Coaldale community grants available for applicants from the county as well. Projects would also be put forward by not-for-profit or volunteer groups aimed at betterment of public good.
Political groups, for-profit/commercial enterprises, individuals, school boards, and provincial or federal bodies would not be eligible.
Projects could include: capital projects, national or provincial sporting or cultural events that contribute to the well being of the community; capital projects that enhance or improve the quality of existing town infrastructure; new capital projects located on municipal property or school sites; organizations that have not received financial support from the town previously for the same project in that calendar year; and projects that have not received prior funding from the town’s grant program.
Following discussion, council directed administration to move forward with recommendations and return to council with a refined and comprehensive process.
Franchise fees for ATCO Gas will remain unchanged this year.
During a regular meeting on Sept. 26, council agreed to keep the current franchise fee rate at 13 per cent. ATCO Gas pays the Town of Coaldale a franchise fee, which is then passed onto customers in the town based on a per cent of ATCO’s delivery tariff.
In 2015, the delivery tariff revenue in Coaldale was $1,418,080. ATCO’s forecast delivery tariff for 2017 is forecast at $1,434,189. Based on the current franchise fee per cent, 2017 franchise fee revenue could be $186,445.
During discussion, council appeared to be in agreement it would not be in the best interest of local residents to increase the fees.
“I’m not supportive of any increase at this time,” said Mayor Kim Craig, adding he was unsure of how the carbon levy will affect local residents when it comes into effect in January 2017.
In the south, Coaldale ranks on the low end of franchise fees.