Concerns raised over funds Irricana withheld from Aqua 7 Commission
Despite collecting from taxpayers for two years, the Town of Irricana doesn’t have enough funds to repay the approximately $93,000 it has been withholding from Aqua 7 Water Commission.
In 2010, the previous council decided to withhold the deficit portion of its water bills in an effort to force the Province to deal with the Commission’s debt.
In January, Alberta Transportation and Municipal Affairs provided Aqua 7 with $1.8 million to restructure its $13-million debt to decrease the cost of water for the seven member municipalities, including the town of Irricana, the villages of Acme, Carbon, Beiseker, Linden and the counties of Rocky View and Kneehill. The Commission also chose to amalgamate two debts and increase its length of maturation by 12 years from 2030 to 2042.
On May 7, Irricana councillors voted to repay the funds to avoid incurring more interest. However, the cheque was never sent.
On May 22, Frank Dusome, Irricana councillor and the Town’s Aqua 7 representative, noticed the missing payment on the cheque registry and questioned CAO Alvin Melton.
That is when Melton advised council that the money went into general revenues and was spent.
“I was shocked,” said Dusome.
“I had no idea when I asked the question, it was going to have such an impact. I thought it was a simple question.”
Dusome added he has residents approaching him on almost an hourly basis with concerns over the news.
The Irricana Ratepayers blog is abuzz with comments such as “this is just more proof that the Town cannot and will not be managed properly” and “the biggest problem is that we seem to have ‘lost’ a very large sum of money…” and “there is absolutely no option of re-taxing us to make up for this misappropriation! And if the Town finds the money by cutting the budget somewhere, I am going to be royally pissed since this will prove that there was room to cut the fat all along.”
In 2010, Irricana’s deficit restructuring payment totalled $45,809.
According to Aqua 7 Manager Kevin Miner, Irricana’s 2011 bill is overdue and the commission is charged 3.75 per cent per annum interest, which it passes on to Irricana residents.
According to Melton, the problem is not paying the bill, it is with the Town’s cash flow.
“There is always issues of not having enough money in the operational account,” he said.
“It has nothing to do with not paying it, it is just making sure we have the cash flow.”
According to Melton, there was never an account set up to keep the funds separate from the general account.
Melton added going forward, accounts would be set up to separate funds from different sources.