County says garbage fees collected for empty lot won’t be refunded

County says garbage fees collected for empty lot won’t be refunded

County of Wetaskiwin says landowner must notify that parcel is empty

A property owner will not be refunded for years of garbage pick-up at a vacant lot in the County of Wetaskiwin, councilors decided at the Feb. 26 Public Works council meeting.

The item was originally discussed at the Jan. 29 meeting, but tabled to Feb. 26.

An agenda memo Jan. 29 from Public Works superintendent Neil Powell stated, “On November 7, 2018 the Utilities Department was contacted by Kathy Goble regarding her properties at Mulhurst Bay. Currently they own two properties which are being charged garbage collection fees; however one of the lots is vacant. Mrs. Goble requested that the fees no longer be levied against the vacant lot; and further requested refund of fees paid since inception of charges in January 2009.

“Section 3 Collection, subsection 3.a of the Waste Management By-law 2008/73 states: Mandatory fees will be charged to every lot eligible to receive the service; with the exception of vacant property. Vacant properties shall be defined as a property with no improvements or structure capable of occupancy (i.e. holiday trailers shall be considered as an improvement). Accounts receivable invoices will be sent out every second month according to the utility billing schedule.

“It is the responsibility of the landowner to report any changes in the use of their land. There is no correspondence on file prior to this request.

“Since the recent changes to the waste management by-law, there have been 37 service disconnects for garbage pickup County wide.”

County CAO Rod Hawken summarized by stating the property owner was getting two garbage bills for nine years.

Councilor Lyle Seely stated that a property owner shouldn’t get charged for a service they don’t get.

Councilor Kathy Rooyakkers noted the rules state landowners must notify the county if they cancel garbage pick-up.

Councilors discussed information suggesting there once was an RV or trailer of some kind on the lot in question, which means there may have been a need for garbage pick-up at one time.

Council agreed at the Jan. 29 meeting to table the item for staff to investigate whether a residence was ever on the parcel in question.

At the Feb. 26 meeting, assistant CAO Jeff Chipley gave council a report on the issue. “Typically, we haven’t provided refunds,” said Chipley. He said investigation suggests an RV was previously on the parcel in question and was receiving garbage pick-up, was then moved and the property owner did not notify the county that the parcel was empty.

Chipley repeated that it’s the property owner’s responsibility to notify the municipality.

Councilor Kathy Rooyakkers said she wanted to clarify that there was a residence of some kind on the parcel in question. Chipley said, yes, an RV around 2009.

Reeve Terry Van de Kraats said if it’s the owner’s responsibility to call the county but the owner didn’t do that, it’s like any other bill the county ahs to collect.

Councilor Lyle Seely agreed, stating if there was something there but the owner didn’t notify the county, the bill has to be paid. However, Seely did ask if there was a system in place where the garbage collectors keep an eye out for lots they’re stopping at which are empty.

Councilors unanimously agreed to turn down the request to refund the money paid for garbage pick-up.

Stu.salkeld@pipestoneflyer.ca