About 60 people packed a community hall in Warner Wednesday night to hear the findings of an inspection report looking into the management of the southern Alberta village.
Municipal inspector Shari-Anne Doolaege of Sage Analytics Inc. and representing Strategic Steps told community members she found irregularities and areas of concern in the village’s bylaws, budget approvals, financial reporting to council and tax recovery.
The inspection process was initiated two years ago, after a petition calling for an investigation into alleged wrongdoing by village officials received signatures from 20 per cent of residents. According to the 2016 federal census, the village has about 370 residents.
“It has been a very divided community,” Warner Mayor Tyler Lindsay said. “I hope that we can work out the issues and move forward.”
The 68-page inspection report found that council draft meeting minutes were not available to the public prior to approval. In addition, some original bylaws could not be located and some were unsigned. This included a $750,000 borrowing bylaw.
The village’s fire department was also a point of discussion in Wednesday’s meeting. Doolaege’s report stating that the “village council acted in an improper manner by failing to set an appropriate level of service for the fire department.”
It also cited that increasing the capacity of the department through formal training would improve public safety during emergencies.
“They figured the level of service needed to be a little bit higher there,” Lindsay said. “So that is something we can look at. We have about six new members on the fire department now, so that’s a good place to start.”
READ MORE: New council in Fort Macleod
The inspection also examined Warner’s lot sales initiative — which, according to the Municipal Inspector’s report, “did not appear to meet advertising requirement for selling land below market value.”
While the inspector believes council had good intentions, they also “failed to comply with advertising requirements.”
This part of the report caught Mayor Lindsay off guard.
“That was surprising to me. The fact that you have to advertise it correctly is new to me,” Lindsay said.
“It’s hard to stay on top of everything, but our intention there was to collect taxes, grow the population. We didn’t reach the MGA standard on advertising for selling land below value.”
No directives have been issued by municipal affairs at this time, and council will have until January 7, 2019 to submit a timeline and strategies to address the concerns flagged as a result of the inspection.
“A lot of the improvements have been made already, since we found out the inspectors recommendations,” Lindsay said. “The tax by-law has been properly done. The tax sales we’ve advertised, reserved bids now as requested. So some of that stuff has taken place. It’s a good way to start anyway.”
The municipal inspection took place over the course of six months and Doolaege believes the concerns unearthed, can be fixed.
“I have confidence in the council to be able to work through the deficiencies that were identified,” Doolaege said.
“Overall the process went very well, there was a lot of input from the public and officials provided a lot of information and were very cooperative.”
The Village of Warner is about 60 kilometres south of Lethbridge.