Weyburn City Council heard from the Weyburn Golf Club Monday evening, as the club officially presented their proposal for the city to assume ownership of the golf course. Council heard from the club, as well as the Reeve of the Rural Municipality of Weyburn, Carmen Sterling, about the issues facing the golf club, and the tax arrears situations.
John Corrigan spoke on behalf of the golf club. The proposal outlined by him would see the course operated by the existing board of directors, with the addition of a voting member from City Council. The proposal also requests the city to either co-sign or lend the golf club money with appropriate terms. The arrears to the R.M. would be paid off by the golf course board, without the use of, or request for, taxpayer dollars, and there would not be a subsidy required from the city in order for the golf course to continue operations.
The golf course owed over $170,000 in property taxes to the R.M. as of August of last year. There had been negotiations between the city, the R.M., and the golf club for the ownership to change hands, however, there were starts and stops over the years. There was almost a deal in place prior to the municipal election, but the election put an end to the negotiations.
Corrigan was then peppered with questions from the councillors. Jeff Richards opened the questions up by requesting an update on the process involving the provincial mediation board. Corrigan said there is a payment schedule proposed by the mediation board to take care of the tax arrears, and the golf course would be able to handle the payments without putting them into financial straits.
The infrastructure of the course itself was also a source of inquiry from the council. Winston Bailey asked about what will be done in terms of the work needed at the facility. Corrigan said the infrastructure, in particular the irrigation, has been a concern for a number of years, but the tax issue has been at the forefront, hampering the ability to look at significant infrastructure improvements.
Bailey followed up by asking what the status was in terms of an agreement with the R.M. Corrigan told council the notice of the proposed payment schedule just came from the mediation board last week, and they haven’t have the chance to talk with the R.M. about it yet. Corrigan was then asked by Bailey about what the golf club was looking for from council at the meeting.
“I wouldn’t expect an answer on a proposal of this magnitude tonight,” Corrigan replied. “We would hope that council would move forward on this matter.”
Bailey voiced his opinion that council has an interest, but the interest is based on the resolution of the situation with the R.M.
“Once we see what that is, then that is the time that we sit and review it,” Bailey added.
Jeff Chessall asked about what the long-term plan was for the golf club, and if they would be able to prepare a plan for the next 3-5 years considering the tax arrears, as well as the needed improvements to the infrastructure at the golf course. Corrigan explained the additional revenue which would go to paying the taxes would go to infrastructure, if the golf course was tax exempt. He clarified that it is a challenge to make solid predictions, though, as the golf club is a weather dependent business, with anywhere from four to six months of operation. They do have a long term plan in place, however, knowing what needs to be done in terms of infrastructure in order to move forward.
Brad Wheeler inquired about the membership base of the club, as well as the pricing. He heard the membership is between three and four hundred, with pricing for the golf course comparable to other courses in the area, if anything a little on the low side.
Sterling was then invited to speak by Weyburn Mayor Marcel Roy. She explained the exemptions granted by the R.M. in the past were five year plans, intended to help the golf club work with the costs and expenses they had. The most recent five-year plan, which didn’t come to fruition, was due to the school boards insisting they would require their portion of the taxes to be paid. Despite the golf club previously stating the school boards were on board with foregoing their portion of the tax bill, Sterling stated the R.M. had the correspondence indicating otherwise.
Sterling explained the situation has been ongoing for a number of years, and the R.M. has been spending a lot of time and effort on the file. They haven’t received the information they have requested for some of the proposed long term solutions, adding the R.M.’s council is looking out for the best interests of all of the rate payers in the R.M.
Sterling then answered some questions. First was Mel Van Betuw, who asked if the R.M. would be willing to help in taking on some of the risks associated with the golf course. Sterling said the R.M. had looked at assuming ownership of the golf course in the past, but some of the inherent risks would have brought on too much of a potential liability. The R.M. will still have services they provide, such as the road leading to the golf course, among many others. Roy asked about what some of the other services are, and Sterling responded services such as fire protections, policing and others are provided by the R.M., in addition to the infrastructure leading to the golf course itself.
Sterling added there are still options to negotiate a resolution with the golf course over the tax situation. There are requirements for the R.M. to apply exemptions, Sterling said, as long as the financial hardship of the course can be presented in a sufficient matter. She closed by saying the R.M. will not challenge the municipal exemption for the city to own the golf course, but future councils in the R.M. may change that.
Corrigan was then asked by Roy if the golf course would ever consider becoming part of the Nickle Lake Regional Park. Corrigan explained there had been discussions along that line in the 70;’s, but there were issues that couldn’t be resolved by the two boards at the time. Some of the drawbacks include the fact a payment gate would need to be set up on the road, and the course would need to charge an entry fee for entering what would be part of the regional park.
Council then decided they will take the information as presented, including the lengthy correspondence, and minutes from meetings between the golf course board, the city and the R.M. of Weyburn, and visit the situation in a few weeks, after a resolution over the tax situation has been reached.
From there, the meeting moved to receiving various reports from the committees and departments of the city. First up was the Environmental Committee, who had some of the preliminary results from their survey on curbside recycling in the city. The survey closes on Wednesday, and a tentative date for a public information night has been set for March 7th. Some details about the Spring Clean-Up were also discussed. Landfill coupons for 2017 will be going out in April or May, and the Mayor’s clean-up day is set for May 13th. Household Hazardous Waste Day will be on June 3rd, in conjunction with the highway entrance clean-up.
The Facilities Committee report highlighted updates on the roof of Crescent Point Place. Engineers have looked at the facility, and there is planning to have the situation fixed in the coming weeks. It was announced SaskTel will be installing Select Wi-Fi in the arenas, and the River Park Spray Park sun share was awarded to Stewart Steel. There were some questions about the report, including one from Chessall concerning the library. There have been major issues with the roof leaking at the library due to the melt.
The facilities manager had reviewed the situation, and snow removed from the roof. The long-term plan includes roof repairs being included in the 2018 budget.
There were further questions about the roof at Crescent Point Place. The next step is tendering out the contracts to get the work done. It was revealed the cause of the failure of the beams was a combination of how the fire suppression lines were anchored into the beams, in combination with the snow load this year.
The minutes from the library board were presented next. Those detailed the activities of the library in the past few months, and talked about upcoming programs for the library.
The Weyburn Fire Department tabled their monthly report. They responded to 19 calls in Weyburn in the month of January, and three rural calls. Of the calls within the city of Weyburn, 16 of them were automatic fire alarm activations. There was one accident, one call to assist EMS, a perceived emergency call, and one fire. The rural calls were all related to motor vehicle accidents.
Amendments to the bylaw for Hillcrest Cemetery were then looked at. The fees for the cemetery are usually increased annually, with the last fee schedule set in 2012. Hillcrest doesn’t operate for profit, and is provided as a service to the residents of Weyburn. It was determined the proposed fee schedule would be sufficient, and was passed unanimously. It will carry through until 2019.
The new three-year contract between the city and Weyburn Regional Economic Development was then voted on. The city pays $129,000 to WRED, and the organization, which is separate from the city itself, works on promoting the economic opportunities of the city, both internally and externally. WRED presented their budget to council, as well as their strategic plan, with the new contract expiring at the end of 2019. The motion to accept the contract was passed unanimously.
A development permit was approved for some new residential space in the city. The building at 202 4th Street NE, which has a mixture of usage zoned for residential and retail space, will be all residential going forward. The main floor can now be converted into residential space. Council approved the permit with some conditions, including a designated parking space being required for the residential unit. It was approved unanimously.
There was discussion concerning the steps needed to build the new water reservoir scheduled for the meeting Monday night, but it was decided to hold over the discussion until the director of Engineering, Sean Abram could be present. One issue concerning engineering and infrastructure was discussed, though.
In 2013, the City of Weyburn, and the R.M. of Weyburn entered discussions for a connection of the R.M. into Weyburn’s septage system. A memorandum of understanding was signed, and the design was completed, and the site selected, along with approval of grants for funding. The R.M. and city met in 2016 to start the discussions for a formal agreement to allow the R.M. to connect to the infrastructure, as well as amending the needed bylaws. The R.M. wrote to the city earlier this year about undertaking a review of the fees included in the city’s bylaws for the use of the septage system. An information report was presented to council looking at what the fees are currently, along with fees in other jurisdictions. Abram had proposed in the report the city charge $9.58 per cubic metre for the septage, which would be in line with the provincial average of $9.22. The matter was put over for further review upon the return of Abram.
The next council meeting for Weyburn City Council is scheduled for February 27th.