It has been a year of challenges and a few successes for the town in 2018 with more ahead.
All of these things were addressed in the annual Bashaw Star year-end interview with Bashaw Mayor Penny Shantz.
On the up side for the community were the arrival of the Bashaw Fire Department’s new rescue truck and the completion of the first phase of upgrades along 54 Avenue.
“Both of those projects are definite successes for our community,” Shantz stated.
“I’m not surprised with how 54 Avenue went. You always hope for the best and prepare for the worst. There were some little glitches, but it basically went smooth and certainly made things easier for our residents and town staff.”
Meanwhile, it was early May when the fire department took delivery of the long-awaited replacement rescue unit.
For Shantz, seeing the four years of fundraising along with work by town staff in conjunction with Camrose County culminate in a great, yet economical, vehicle was the perfect ending.
“Given all that work, it also goes to show what really good partnerships can accomplish,” she added.
Everyone in Bashaw, including Shantz and the rest of council, are already drained from treading on the issue of water pricing. However, the discussion will now be an annual one after the town was hooked up to the regional water line last January.
“No one likes increases, however there was no way around it and, as council, we tried to soften the blow to our residents,” Shantz said.
Two things contributed to creating huge waves on the water issue — Bashaw spent years putting revenue from water sold to the regional water commission back into general revenues that led to artificially low property taxes; and, not charging residents enough to help pay for the system’s operation.
That all led to a tremendously huge price hike — going from 90 cents to $2.64 per cubic metre to start 2017. Council then determined, for 2018, to leave the price the same — despite the commission hike to $2.88 — and use some of the surplus garnered during 2017 to subsidize the cost since the new line wasn’t due to be hooked up until sometime in the spring.
However, that decision has backfired a bit as the commission rate for this year has risen eight cents.
“We realize there are expenses that are getting higher for our residents, so we are trying to keep the line on everything — from management to overall operations — so that it can reflect back in their taxes,” the mayor stated.
A decision on how much residents will be charged in 2019 will be made at council’s Jan. 17 meeting, which will be held at the Bashaw Community Centre and will include time for public input. However, Shantz noted there will come a time when residents will have to begin paying the actual cost of water and it may be sooner rather than later.
With riding out the water price debate and letting all of that flow under the bridge shortly, Shantz feels the biggest topic for council in 2019 will be tackling the new budget.
“There will be several difficult decisions to be made that will really impact taxpayers. With the uncertainly of provincial infrastructure funding past this year, possible changes with provincial and federal elections looming and hopefully finding further efficiencies in town operations, this will all influence council’s decisions,” she explained.
“That said, I’m looking forward to making the best decisions we can keeping our residents in consideration, maintaining the successful partnerships with our municipal neighbours in what are uncertain times and retaining the hope for a more positive economic outlook for the region.”
Shantz added that getting phase two of the 54 Avenue revitalization project, which is scheduled for this summer, will be one priority this year as is getting final approval for the two intermunicipal agreements with Camrose County.