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Council contends with insurance premiums crisis

Mayor and council tackled the tragic issue involving prohibitive insurance premiums for condominium corporations.

Introduced by councillor Krista Balsom, they voted in favour of a motion to ask federal and provincial governments and various committees about the issue.

Mayor Don Scott called it a crisis with national implications.

“Delegate after delegate appeared and said they cannot obtain reasonable condo insurance. We already started lobbying Service Alberta and the provincial government.”

Although not in their jurisdiction, he said the Municipality would ask upper levels of government to act.

Urgent crisis

After the 2016 wildfire, condominiums obtaining or renewing insurance ran into great difficulty.

David Thompson of Winchester Greens told RMWB Council 18 insurance companies declined their renewal application.

A lawyer by trade, Mayor Don Scott explained the ramifications of this crisis.

He said people who can’t get insurance won’t receive mortgage money from the banks.

This discourages buying or selling condos, and therefore people could enter foreclosure.

Mayor Scott said it’s happening for this and other reasons.

“Condominium corporations that decide to go forward with these ridiculous insurance fees are going to experience high condo fees. [They] will explode in this region unless action is taken. That’s why it’s a crisis that need urgent attention.”

In financial terms, Robert Guy of the Cedarwoods Condominium Corporation said they previously held a $142,000 premium for $65-million in coverage.

Now, they pay $975,000 just to get $10-million coverage.

President of Wood Meadow Estates North, Joanne Day, said they obtained a premium from an Edmonton firm 800 per cent higher than previous.

Day added they filed two claims over the past four years.

Councillor Balsom said she would speak with officials at November’s Federal Canadian Municipalities (FCM) conference in Ottawa.

Mayor Don Scott said they already brought the issue before the province and would check again.

If unmonitored, he said foreclosures and evictions would increase and the region would be less attractive.

User fees and rates

Council voted unanimously in support of both motions for user fees and rates changes and the amending bylaws.

According to the administration, fees did not increase for over 10 years with the exception of the 2017 utility rate increase.

Director of Financial Services, Linda Ollivier said the discounted rates the RMWB offered are no longer sustainable.

“The current user rates are far below what our operational costs are and on average 25 per cent lower than other Alberta municipalities. Adjustments are needed to ensure the direct user is paying the appropriate fee for services while reducing the subsidy from the municipal tax base.”

The average increase among services, recreational activities, sewage and others is 17 per cent.

For example, cash fare for public transit in the urban service area increases from $1.25 to $1.50.

Also, the animal control fee for tag replacements increases from five to 10 dollars, while animal impounding jumps from $10 to $25.

Most changes come into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, but increases for current and upcoming fall and winter programs come into effect on July 1, 2020.

On the subject of project accommodations, both the Municipality and industry made significant progress.

Business Development Director for Civeo, Bob Greaves said they approve of the process.

They required the cost analysis, clarification on the projected timeframe for fee payment, and the costing for new and existing beds at work camps.

Similarly, Karim Zariffa of the Oil Sands Community Alliance said they found the new fees reasonable.

They also appreciate the different pay scale for temporary project accommodations, and ongoing discussions about permit applications and renewals.

Zariffa said they’re “proceeding with caution” in light of recent layoffs at Husky Energy.

Other notes

Mayor Don Scott issued a public apology to councillor Keith McGrath following the release of a report by the Integrity Commissioner.

McGrath, however, was not in attendance for the council meeting.

Council appointed William Brook to the 2022 Arctic Winter Games Host Society.

They also approved the updates to the 2018-21 Strategic Plan and voted unanimously on a motion to ban conversion therapy.