By Cole Parkinson
Local landowners have approached Vauxhall town council with some concerns that stem back for a past number of years.
During Vauxhall council’s regular meeting on June 18, Vauxhall residents Marlin and Betty Hill were in Vauxhall council chambers as delegations as they brought forward several different issues.
One concern they have has been bothering them for several years and even though they had made an agreement with the town, the problem persists.
“When we purchased our lot many years ago, we made an agreement with the town to relocate the fire hydrant as it was sitting in the middle of our front yard. The town moved the hydrant but didn’t relocate it to town property and is sitting on our property. Cris (Burns, Town of Vauxhall CAO) had stated we signed an easement for the fire hydrant at one point in time, we did not, and he said he would show us a copy of the easement agreement but we haven’t seen it yet because there isn’t one,” said Marlin Hill. “We would like the town to acknowledge the fact the fire hydrant is on our property and make plans to remove it.”
Currently, the fire hydrant is still on Hill’s property but it had just been moved to the side instead of right in the middle of the front yard.
Hill also brought forward his complaint of alley maintenance which is behind his house.
The alley wasn’t originally there but with an agreement with the town, the alley was built but Hill says they receive barely any maintenance on it.
“We also made an agreement with the town to give us access to our backyard, they agreed to build the alley and maintenance would be a low priority, it did not say no maintenance. Over the last 21 years that we’ve lived there, the alley has been gravelled once and graded a couple of times, both were done before Cris was in charge. I mow and spray weeds yearly in the ditch to allow water to run down and occasionally the town has mowed the grass but I had to ask for someone to plough snow after a storm. I’ve always had trouble with the town and Cris has told me many times he doesn’t think the town is responsible for the alley and he does not like having the town employees working on the alley. He also said Volker Stevin wants to remove the alley but we’ve never heard anything from them at all. We’d like the town to be responsible for the alley and administer the appropriate maintenance as we pay taxes to maintain it,” he stated.
On top of the alley and fire hydrant concerns, the Hill’s also came with concerns about higher taxes.
After looking over their recent taxes, they noticed a higher increase than they had expected.
“We were looking at the 2018 tax assessment and the first thing we noticed was the increase. We have $468.50, which is a 16.12 per cent increase overall, which we find to be a lot. Breaking it down, we also found three main items that also had an increase. That was the municipal residence, which increased $332.54 which is a 20.73 increase, the public library increased an additional $62.79 which is a 298.57 per cent increase and the Alberta School Foundation increased an additional $112.85 which is an increase of 18.35 per cent. We find these numbers to be quite alarming and we want to know, especially our municipal residence, where the funds are allocated for that,” said Betty Hill. “I feel we keep contributing more and more, and if the revenue and the surplus of the revenue increases, we shouldn’t be taxed more. I am quite concerned about that.”
They also noticed an off assessment of their property compared to surrounding lots.
With all of the lots in the vicinity being irregular, they had questions why theirs had the highest frontage tax despite being smaller.
“I took three comparison lots, which is 11, 12 and 13 which is ours and they are all irregular lots. I found out that in comparison, ours is the smallest perimeter, the smallest area and it also has the highest frontage and assess at the lowest value. I would like to see that corrected because it doesn’t make any sense,” continued Hill.
Town administration stated they would look into why their property had a higher frontage tax than the other two properties, as they too felt it was off.
Council argued though that taxes for everyone had gone up, not just them.
“I don’t want my taxes to go up anymore. I don’t need to be paying more taxes and we’re all the same,” said Mayor Margaret Plumtree, with others on council stating similar remarks including that they were paying more than the numbers they showed.
Plumtree also highlighted the fact they were doing their best to bring more people in by adding a new sub-development with brand new houses.
“You talk about bringing more people in and I’m only seeing more people leaving. I think the increase of tax is a deterrent,” replied Hill.
The increase in taxes though is required as the town can’t be in the red when it comes to their budget.
“We can’t be a deficit. We need to find a way to bring more people in, we need to find a way to keep or homes full, we need to keep our businesses here, we need people to shop local and we know it doesn’t happen,” said Plumtree.
Administration said they would be looking into the concerns brought forward by the delegation and it was received for information.