An open letter to the mayor and council of Billings

Many questions and few answers in land purchase

To the mayor and council of Billings Township

Re: Need to communicate to taxpayers how recent tax arrears purchase fits into plans

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 the blue. I suspect the clerk/treasurer had three years to see this opportunity maturing (tax sales usually take place after arrears have built up over three years) – though 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)?

In reports in the Recorder, councillors offered up suggestions–we need a new firehall, library, town offices. Do these show in the current Sustainability Plan–or will they in the updated 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. 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.

Yours truly,

Paul Darlaston