Woodlands County councillors voted unanimously at their Dec. 15 meeting to reject the regional landfill's 2021 budget over concerns that a proposed new scale building and trailer was far too expensive.
The $3.257 million budget will now be brought to a joint meeting between the councils of Woodlands County and the Town of Whitecourt, who are slated to contribute $332,210 and $1.119 million respectively towards the operation of the landfill in 2021.
Director of infrastructure Andre Bachand said the budget had been previously approved by the Landfill Authority board in early November.
Coun. Dave Kusch asked if there was any further breakdown regarding the cost of a new scale building and trailer, which was listed in the budget as a $419,000 expense.
Bachand indicated that two tenders had been received regarding the project and those would be reviewed at the landfill authority’s meeting in January.
He said that he had an initial look at both tenders and they were both priced significantly under the $420,000 price quoted in the budget.
It’s worth noting that capital costs are the highest expenditures in the budget at $1.1295 million, outstripping costs relating to landfill operation ($839,429) and general administration ($753,701).
Coun. Dale Kluin indicated he was still hesitant about approving the budget. “If we accept it, they can bloody well do what they want and we will have no say on it. Or am I wrong here?”
Bachand noted that the funds for the project are coming out of the reserves and are coming forward from the 2020 budget.
He also pointed out that Woodlands County has two representatives on the landfill authority — Coun. Dale McQueen and Mayor John Burrows — and they would be able to state Woodlands’ case on this matter.
Even so, Kluin pointed out that Woodlands County has made many changes over the past year to reduce costs because of the economy and the outstanding taxes owed by oil and gas companies.
“I hate to think that we’re just going to sit here and say, ‘Well, we approved it. We can still afford a $200,000 to $250,000 building just because.’ We’re accountable to all the ratepayers, whether it’s us or the Town of Whitecourt.”
Coun. Ron Govenlock agreed with Kluin’s position, adding that once council has approved the budget, they’ve effectively lost any control over the expenses contained within.
McQueen said he had been the one to raise these concerns a couple of weeks ago, but there have been changes to the proposed project and the estimated cost has been significantly reduced.
Burrows also added that based on the discussions that have taken place and the preliminary numbers that came back, “there is a significant cost savings on the new numbers and that’s obviously a result of Coun. McQueen … asking the right questions.”
While Kluin said he was willing to approve the budget if McQueen and Burrows were comfortable with it, McQueen also suggested they could deny the budget if it would put other councillors’ minds at ease.
“It wouldn’t hurt my feelings … to deny this and have a sitdown with the town,” he added.