A lease renewal request that amounted to a suggested tax break drew the ire of two councillors.
At council’s June 25 meeting, councillors Lynn Schultz and Rob McDonald were less than pleased with the idea of seemingly cutting Ember Resources a $500 tax break and even less enthusiastic about the suggested reasons given for the proposed drop. A motion rejecting the proposed decrease was approved.
The five-year lease for the well site, located on the town’s former dump site northeast of town, is due to be renewed by the end of the year. Ember sent a proposed renewal that would see the company drop its yearly payment from $3,001 to $2,552 based on a loss of use formula. That includes a downward adjustment that reflects the day-to-day operation of shallow gas production in today’s market.
“(This year) has been tough on our residents too and we didn’t give them a tax break,” said Schultz, adding the downturn has hit everyone, not just oil companies.
“So I see no point in giving Ember a tax break. They are tied to the lease. I’m just making that call — how can we give them one and not our residents?”
He added that council doesn’t have to agree with the proposed amount.
“We can say that we want the money to stay the same. We are not making any money on this and if they don’t like it, let them walk away if they want,” Schultz said.
Coun. Rosella Peterman pointed out though, that the lease asks the town for specific data and justification for not accepting the proposal.
Schultz reiterated, “That is — we didn’t give residents a break, so why should you get one?”
McDonald added that the lease refers to a change in farming operations, so that is another justification for the town.
“We are not a farming operation and things have not changed,” he said.
“In fact, I’d turn it back on them and ask them to justify why that is what the lease is worth. I think we have a really good case — what they pump out of the ground is separate from surface access and that’s all we are talking about.
“What they pump out of the ground is their business, and if it goes through the roof and they make lots of money, the surface rights are still $3,000.”
Council approved a revised five-year capital projects list with a price tag of more than $250,000.
The list includes the recently completed paving of the 54 Avenue Phase II project along with $40,000 for replacing the roof at the Happy Gang Centre, a replacement sanding truck at $60,000, a new sand screen of $15,900 plus water leak detection equipment ($5,100) and a commercial grade pressure washer ($4,000).
One interesting note brought out was about flooding in the early morning hours of June 15.
The public works report stated staff were called out at 2 .m. after alarms went off at one of the lift stations. Staff found that the pumps were not able to keep up with all the rain and the storm drains were backing up.
This left many ditches in town full to overflowing, with flooding noted in many places, including areas where finding stationary water is unusual. One of those was a back alley where the water had risen to levels where it could enter some garages.
However, by about 6 a.m., the rate the rain was coming down had slowed enough for the pumps to keep up.
Despite the large amount of water, there was no damage reported.
Coun. Darren Pearson was absent that meeting.