County earns clear bill of financial health from auditor

It was good news for the County of Stettler as the auditors from Gitzel Krejci Dand Peterson gave the municipality a clean bill of health.

It was good news for the County of Stettler at its special Tuesday, March 22 council meeting, as the auditors from Gitzel Krejci Dand Peterson gave the municipality a clean bill of health.

The county has recently been under a financial microscope in the community over a borrowing bylaw that would see the county borrow roughly $7 million to finance a new shop facility to replace the six-decade-old current facility.

Despite the concern from members of the community, which culminated in a petition to force the borrowing bylaw question to plebiscite before proceeding, the county is in good shape to borrow, a representative from the firm said.

The county’s healthy reserves and assets give it the ability to borrow much more than the $7 million intended for the shop facility, council heard.

Highlights from the report by the auditors revealed that a paving project by the county came in $781,284 under budget. The money went back into reserves.

The county has also nearly tripled its reserves from 2004. At the time, the county’s reserves sat at around $4 million. Today, that number is closer to $11 million.

“I would like to highlight that this management and this staff are operating on budget and proving very efficient in finding savings and making sensible business decisions for this county,” said Reeve Wayne Nixon in a press release. “The proof is provided in yet another clean management report and clean financial audit for the County of Stettler, plus the significant increase in reserves over the past 10 years. Our administration and our staff should be proud of their work.”

Intrusive study tenders in

Four engineering firms were contacted to provide tenders for the intrusive study, though only two submitted them — Stantec Consulting and WSP Canada Inc.

Stantec Consulting came in with the higher of two bids at $19,440, with WSP Consulting following closely with its lower bid of $18,547.

However, WSP Consulting also offered a secondary bid of $35,878.25, which is what council eventually chose, as it included all of the “extras” the county was looking for.

The study will be an in-depth look at all systems — electrical, mechanical, hvac and airflow/air quality — as well as a search for existing problems like mould or fire hazards.

Two years ago, the second floor of the shop building, where offices and gathering space was located, was moved to portables as health and safety deficiencies were discovered.

According to staff expectations, the cost of the intrusive study will be roughly $45,000, with the estimated work on the shop facility to be about $640,000, assuming that no glaring and unexpected deficiencies are found.

The report from two years ago indicated immediate repairs necessary to the building would include a $31,000 repair to the building envelope, an $8,000 repair to the interior, a $33,300 repair to the mechanical system and a $148,000 building code analysis. Deferred maintenance includes another $8,000 for the building envelope, $62,000 for the building interior and $38,000 for the building structure.

Long-term repairs, between six and 15 years, would add an estimated $81,000 to the mix. There is also another $725,000 in optional repairs that while not necessary, would make the shop facility more feasible for use.

The concern was the less-expensive studies offered by Stantec and WSP Consulting would merely provide information the county already had from the study two years prior, assistant CAO Yvette Cassidy said in an interview after the meeting.

“We found WSP Consulting’s (second) tender very competitive and it included the most options,” she said. “We want to get this done once and for all.”