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  |  Posted: Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 06:00 am

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Festival group sees red

Morinville’s festival group hopes the town will pony up about $15,000 more this year to cover their losses after a classic rock concert went bust.

Morinville Festival Society spokesperson Paul Smith spoke to town council last Feb. 11 to ask for some financial support as part of this year’s budget.

The budget, which passed first reading that same meeting, includes about $35,000 of support for the group, which puts on events such as the St. Jean Baptiste Festival in town.

Smith asked council to bump that up to $50,000 to cover the cost of new staff and a deficit.

“2013 is the first year that the St. Jean Baptiste Festival has ever run a deficit,” he explained. “The loss is directly attributed to the classic rock concerts.”

Last year’s festivals included a pair of classic rock concerts, Smith said. In the past, the society had a private company run these concerts. Last year, they decided to run it themselves for more fiscal transparency.

That meant they lost the company’s promotional staff, however, which made the concert much less successful – it ran up an $18,386.67 deficit.

The growing size of the festival also means the society needs to hire professional security and medical staff to protect visitors, Smith said. “We’re more than a county fair now.”

Smith said in an interview that the society had ditched the classic rock festival this year in favour of local bands, which proved to be a hit at last year’s Oktoberfest event.

Coun. Stephen Dafoe noted that back in 2011, Smith had vowed to make the St. Jean Baptiste Festival self-sustaining within three years.

“2014 is three years later. How’s that working for you?”

“We’re definitely not 100 per cent there,” Smith replied. Two of the society’s events (the farmers’ market and Oktoberfest) were now self-sustaining and run without tax dollars from the town, he noted.

Council will consider Smith’s request as part of its budget deliberations.

No change for water rates

Town residents will have to shell out zero more dollars this year compared to last year for water and sewer services, says the town’s chief financial officer – so long as they’re frugal with their faucets.

Town council passed first reading of this year’s water and sewer rates at their Feb. 11 meeting.

The rates, if approved, will be exactly the same as they were last year, said Andy Isbister, the town’s director of financial services.

“If you use the same amount of water as you did a year ago, your water bill and your sewer bill will be exactly the same,” he said.

“It’s good news for all residents.”

However, as the town is expecting overall water consumption to rise, most homeowners will end up paying about $0.58 more a month for water and sewer services ($88.67, compared to $88.09 last year).

Water and sewer rates are set based on a full-cost recovery model, where residents pay more today to ensure they have the cash needed to replace broken pumps and pipes tomorrow. (The alternative is pay-as-you-go, where you borrow cash to replace broken infrastructure as it breaks.)

Isbister said the town currently had about $2.9 million in its water and sewer reserve, and needed about $21.4 million by 2035 to replace the infrastructure that’s expected to go bad by that date.


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