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Granum residents vote on town’s future

The viability review gathered a wealth of information about the state of the Town of Granum.
Now it’s up to residents to use that information to decide the town’s future.
“As we are here this evening presenting this information, we are not saying on behalf of the government of Alberta that the Town of Granum is either viable or not viable,” said Roy Bedford, a viability adviser with Alberta Municipal Affairs.
“We are presenting the information as we’ve been able to collect it, and the decision will belong to you, the voters, the residents, of this municipality.”
“I want to be up front with that. We’re not making the determination one way or the other.”
Bedford was at Granum school with municipal viability manager Sarah Ranson and intermunicipal relations adviser Jennifer Paton.
They presented information in advance of the vote of electors on dissolution on Wednesday, Nov. 6 and Thursday, Nov. 7.
Bedford offered Granum residents some advice at the outset of the presentation.
“You will come in and vote as neighbours and you will walk out as neighbours,” Bedford said. “Always keep that in mind because the strength of community is all about the people.”
“The strength of our communities isn’t whether they’re corporations or municipalities, it’s the people that are in them.”
The viability review sparked in June by a petition of residents involved the collection of information from a variety of sources connected to Granum.
A study was also conducted to determine what capital investment will be needed to maintain the town’s infrastructure.
Bedford told the more than 100 people at Granum school the viability report was developed with an intended purpose.
“It focuses on two distinct outcomes, two distinct options,” Bedford said. “The options are really clear.”
Option 1 is for Granum to remain a town and implement changes to achieve viability.
Option 2 is for Granum to dissolve as a town to become a hamlet in the MD of Willow Creek.
“Those are the two options that you have the opportunity to vote on,” Bedford said.
The report assesses Granum’s viability by considering seven broad areas:
Sustainable governance
Should Granum remain a town, residents will continue to be represented by a five-member council that must operate in alignment with the Municipal Government Act and its own by-laws.
Recommended actions if residents choose Option 1 include:
• Council participates in a roles and responsibilities workshop.
• Council review and revise its code of conduct to ensure collaboration.
• Council should develop a strategic plan.
• Council should provide information to the public about service delivery and where tax dollars are spent.
• Council should conduct an annual self-evaluation.
Administration and operations
Under Option 1 council would hire a qualified chief administrative officer to manage day-to-day operations and ensure all employment standards and occupational health and safety standards are implemented.
Recommended actions include:
• Council review and revise the CAO by-law.
• The CAO develop a respectful workplace policy.
• Council establish a public engagement policy.
If residents choose Option 2 and Granum becomes a hamlet the MD of Willow Creek takes over all operational and administrative functions.
The Granum town office and public works buildings would be sold, with the fire hall retained and used by the local firefighters.
Finances, assessment and taxation
The viability review indicates Granum is in a “reasonable” financial position with operating surpluses the past two years and net financial assets of $1-million.
The town has $480,377 in unused Municipal Sustainability Initiative funding and $159,587 in unused Federal Gas Tax Funds.
The town has no long-term debt.
Recommend actions if Granum remains a town include:
• Council fund reserves for future major repairs and replacement of infrastructure.
• Council take municipal finance and budget training.
• The 2020 property tax by-law have just one minimum tax.
If Granum becomes a hamlet, residents would pay the same property tax as other MD of Willow Creek residents.
Property taxes for a house with an assessed value of $100,000 would drop from $1,370 to $660.
Service levels and associated costs for the hamlet beyond MD of Willow Creek levels would be the responsibility of Granum residents.
Upon dissolution, the MD of Willow Creek could apply for one-time funding for Granum infrastructure projects.
Granum financial assets would be spent on capital projects in the hamlet.
The viability review indicated Granum needs to spend $14.7-million on infrastructure over the next 10 years.
That included $8.29-million on roads and sidewalks and $5.2-million on waste water.
“There are significant costs for the community of Granum looking ahead,” Bedford said.
If Granum remains a town council must decide the future of the Town Office and create a funding model for capital projects.
Recommended actions for Option 1 include:
• The town develop an implementation plan to address critical projects, with a funding model.
• The town should develop an asset management plan.
If Granum becomes a hamlet the MD of Willow Creek may be eligible for one-time infrastructure funding.
The MD of Willow Creek has indicated Granum capital projects will be funded with grants, improvement taxes and special levies.
Future capital projects in Granum will be evaluated and prioritized alongside other MD of Willow Creek projects.
Granum, if it stays a town, will decide how it provides by-law enforcement and set standards for snow removal.
Garbage removal and emergency services would remain unchanged.
Recommended actions for Option 1 include:
• Council completing a service capacity review to align service levels and expectations with available funding and human resources.
If Granum dissolves its by-laws are repealed and replaced by MD of Willow Creek by-laws.
The MD of Willow Creek would plow snow from main arteries and maintain the present service for snow removal that it provides in Granum.
The MD of Willow Creek would provide garbage removal at a cost to Granum residents.
The fire department would become part of the MD of Willow Creek and remain as long as there is an active roster.
Regional co-operation
If Granum remains a town it will develop an intermunicipal collaboration framework with the MD of Willow Creek.
Community well-being
If Granum remains a town council and residents must develop a shared understanding of their roles as property owners, funders and service providers.
Recommended actions for Option 1 include:
• Council review membership agreements with community service providers.
• Council develop a policy and procedures on funding support to community organizations and events.

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