Morinville Council Briefs

By Stephen Dafoe

Tawatinaw talks

A tie vote defeated Councillor David Pattison’s motion to provide a letter of support to Community Futures Tawatinaw Region’s (CFTR) to aid them in their request to Western Economic Diversification Canada to include the City of St. Albert within their region. Councillors Sheldon Fingler, Lisa Holmes and Deputy Mayor Nicolle Boutestein voted against the motion.

Council had previously deferred the matter of voting at the last Council meeting to allow the organization’s General Manager, Kelly Harris-Martin, to report to Council on why the move is needed.

CFTR presently serves roughly 66,000 residents throughout Sturgeon County, Thorhild County, Westlock County, portions of Athabasca County, Municipal District (MD) Lesser Slave Lake River and MD Opportunity, as well as the municipalities within, by providing business financing through repayable loans, loan guarantees and equity positions to businesses in the region. They offer term or revolving loans up to $150,000 and recently added a program called Ready Cash, which offers smaller loans up to $10,000.

Harris-Martin said most of her organization’s referrals come from traditional lenders who are unable to lend the entrepreneurs money.

They are one of 27 Community Futures regions in the province providing counselling, consulting, cash flow forecasting, financing, business planning and delivering business related training courses.

CFTR’s Westlock office receives frequent contact from entrepreneurs looking to open a business in St. Albert. Although they have been offering these businesses advice and planning assistance, they cannot lend the capital the businesses need.

Approval to include St. Albert in their region would change that.

At the Feb. Councillor Lisa Holmes had questioned if the addition of St. Albert would diminish the monies available to the existing member municipalities during the Feb. 26 meeting of Council. Holmes was concerned the addition of St. Albert could steer Morinville entrepreneurs to open in St. Albert rather than Morinville.

Councillor Lisa Holmes had questioned if the addition of St. Albert would diminish the monies available to the existing member municipalities during the Feb. 26 meeting of Council. Holmes was concerned the addition of St. Albert could steer Morinville entrepreneurs to open in St. Albert rather than Morinville. Councillors Sheldon Fingler and Nicole Boutestein brought the same concerns forth during the Mar 12 meeting.

Harris-Martin said she did not believe the addition of St. Albert to the area would dilute the monies available for local businesses that are unable to find funds through traditional lending means. “This is not something that is not necessarily open to everyone,” Harris-Martin explained.

In the end the organization was not able to convince a majority of councillors as to the wisdom of the expansion.

Festival Society updates Council

Morinville Festival Society Chair Paul Smith appeared before Council Mar. 12 to recap the success of the Family Day weekend festival held at the end of February, to give an update on other plans for the year, and to let them know the society would be taking over the Famers’ Market from the Friends of the Morinville Public Library (see story here).

Smith said the recent festival was well attended and expressed his appreciation to the Town of Morinville for the role it played in making the event a success.

Looking to the future, Smith said Champion Petfoods were stepping up to be a major sponsor in the October festival, one that would compete in size with the annual St. Jean Baptiste Fesitval.

Councillor Sheldon Fingler questioned Smith’s statement that he wanted the Octoberfest festival to compete with the St. Jean Baptiste Festival. In response, Smith said the society needs to challenge itself.

Deputy Mayor Nicole Boutestein questioned Smith being the head without a real second in command. “My only fear is we are putting everything into one nutshell and if it cracks,” Boutestein said. Smith said he has some people in place to take over when he steps down after his five-year commitment.

With respect to the Farmers’ Market, the festival chair said the weekly event netted the Friends of the Morinville Public Library about $3,000 in revenue against approximately $20,000 in gross 2012 revenues. He went on to say it was too much work for the small organization and that his group would continue to make it grow.

Franchise fee gets first reading

Council voted unanimously in favour of first reading of the Electric Distribution Franchise Agreement. Morinville’s existing agreement was initiated in 2001 for a 10-year period but was extended from 2011 to 2016 to allow the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) to negotiate a new agreement with ATCO and FortisAlberta.

FortisAlberta has requested the Town to create a new franchise agreement to terminate the existing one. Once passed, the document will require approval from the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC).

Chief Financial Officer Andy Isbister said the impetus behind a franchise agreement is to allow the community to gain revenue from the distribution and transmission revenues, allowing Morinville to budget and predict revenue from the fee.

This fee is part of electricity bills and allows the municipalities to generate revenue from properties that do not pay property taxes (schools and churches). The revenues also allow the municipality to build and maintain electrical systems within the community.

Once approved, the agreement would run until 2023.

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