County guarantees town $250,000 grant

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Big Lakes County has committed a quarter-million-dollar annual capital grant to the Town of High Prairie for the next eight years.
At its regular meeting Aug. 10, Big Lakes council approved an updated inter-municipal capital grant agreement that was negotiated by both municipalities.
“We want to make sure we could provide a feasible amount long term,” CAO Jordan Panasiuik told council.
“It would provide stability for the Town of High Prairie through this agreement.”
In the past, Big Lakes provided $1 million to High Prairie.
However, that was reduced to $850,000 around 2017 after the county lost several million dollars in revenue when oil and gas companies did not pay their taxes, the CAO says.
“The rationale behind the agreement is that High Prairie will get less funding but will have more favourable and more stable terms within the agreement to provide the ability to accurately plan for its capital maintenance and replacements,” Panasiuk says.
The agreement was also reviewed at the time and changed to base the grant on assessment figures.
“As discussed during the 2022 budget sessions, we are proposing bringing back the capital grant allocations to the Town of High Prairie in the amount of $250,000,” Panasiuk says in a report to council.
“With collection rates returning to normal, Big Lakes County is in a better financial position,” Panasiuk says.
Under the changes, the agreement will:
-Move to a flat $250,000 allocation each year from a floating formula based on linear assessments.
-Incorporate more stability into the funding by eliminating requirements for county approval on specific projects and carryover requests.
Big Lakes agrees to maintain a reserve account for the purpose to carry out its obligations to the proposed agreement.
Funding shall not be used to fund more than 50 per cent of the total cost of an infrastructure project, the agreement states.
High Prairie shall provide a report to Big Lakes County to identify projects planned during that year before March 1.
During discussion, Grouard Councillor Jeff Chalifoux asked if the grant could also be used for projects on recreational facilities.
Panasiuk says the grant is allocated for infrastructure, including upgrades to recreational facilities.
Funds for the applied project will be granted to the town after work is done and documents are submitted.
The original agreement required High Prairie to complete a project that benefited both municipalities.
However, that clause has been removed.
The new agreement expires Dec. 31, 2029 unless otherwise mutually agreed to in writing by both municipalities.

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