Wetaskiwin County council has decided to use revenue brought in by safety code permit fees to subsidize an additional staff member approved in the 2016 interim budget.The decision was made during the Jan. 12 meeting.
Late December 2014 council awarded a sole source contract to Superior Safety Codes Inc. to provide building, electrical, gas and plumbing safety code permit services to the county for a term of three years with the opportunity to extend for an additional three years.
“This is our first year of having sole sourcing for safety codes,” said assistant CAO Rod Hawken, referring to 2015.
“Administratively we’re thrilled with the amount of information we’re getting and the communication between Superior Safety Codes and the county department,” he added.
Revenue received in 2015 totalled approximately $69,956, which Hawken says is higher than the estimated $30,000.
“I don’t know if it’s good or bad … My understanding is the people applying for permits aren’t paying a premium. It’s just a portion of that revenue is coming back to the county instead of going directly to Superior Safety Codes,” said Hawken.
In 2015 when council made the decision to go toward sole sourcing it gave administration the direction half of the money collected that year was to go to Planning and Economic Development revenue and the other half to reserves; the money was split 60/40 with Superior Safety Codes, leaving 20 per cent to go into each.
“There was never any concrete direction to what that reserve use was going to be or whether that continues into 2016, 17 and 18,” said Hawken.
Reeve Kathy Rooyakkers says at the beginning of last year the economy was doing better than it is now and the county cannot expect to see that kind of revenue duplicated in 2016. “And I think that was one of the reasons we said let’s go half and half. We don’t know how much we’re going to get from year to year.”
Coun. Larry McKeever expressed concern with the transparency of the action. “To me it’s a kickback and I don’t think we should be involved in kickbacks.”
“We force our ratepayers to use Superior, they make a profit and pay their bills 60 per cent and then we get 40 per cent after the fact. I don’t think that looks good,” he added.
Council was informed by Hawken that in Alberta this is a standard practice.
“I don’t think this should be a standard practice, I really don’t,” said McKeever.
Coun. Garry Dearing says he feels the process is working and does not see it as a kickback. “We’re competitively priced.”