Billings resident looks to revive ratepayers group

KAGAWONG—A Kagawong resident is trying to revive the Billings Ratepayers Group amid concerns with what he says is a lack of planning for 80 acres of land council bid on and purchased through a tax arrears purchase earlier this year.

This comes after the issue was raised at a Billings council meeting last week. Paul Darlaston had forwarded a letter to council concerning the property sale. “Did everyone get the letter?” Billings Mayor Austin Hunt asked council members.

In his letter to council (dated February 22) Mr. Darlaston said, “earlier this month, council outbid a number of other bidders for approximately 80 acres of land above the Kagawong River. The price was $95,000. On the surface, this may appear to be out of blue. He said he suspects the municipality had three years to see this opportunity maturing (tax sales usually take place after arrears have built up over three years) thought it doesn’t seem to be reflected in any waterfront plan, sustainability plan etc. that I have seen.”

“As council prepares an interim budget, will this large extraordinary expenditure be factored into 2017 operating budget, or is there some general purpose reserve in place to cover it? In fact, is the $95,000 a real outflow, or does it go out in one line item and flow back as revenue in another (less of course the actual tax arrears that will never now be collected),” continued Mr. Darlaston.

“In reports in the Recorder, councillors offered up suggestions-we need a new fire hall, library, town offices,” continued Mr. Darlaston. “Do these show in the current sustainability plan-or will they in the update plan due this year?

“Was this surprise acquisition simply going after the latest bright shiny object or does council have some plan to build a civic centre up on top of the bluff? But wait, this land is effectively inaccessible,” wrote Mr. Darlaston. “How much might be budgeted for access roads, provision of services etc. up there?”

“Lots of questions, very little to date in communication from council. Maybe time for an official statement to be issued where council’s thinking is going on this,” added Mr. Darlaston.

“It would be a good idea to have this information included in the input we are requesting from the public about the property we have purchased and what we should do with it, as part of our strategic plan process,” said Councillor Barb Erskine. “It is a priority of council, and we are looking for public input.”

“Are there any dates set for this?” asked Mr. Darlaston.

It was pointed out that the township is working on this now, and the strategic plan will be in place this year.

Mr. Darlaston said in an email to the Recorder after the meeting, “as a result of the lack of response from council on Tuesday, I’m busy trying to revive the Billings Ratepayers group,” which was established in 2009 but has since folded.