By Trevor Busch
The Town of Taber, in conjunction with Community Futures Chinook, will be funding a business beautification loan program for municipal businesses in 2016.
At their Dec. 7 special budget meeting, town council heard from a Community Futures Chinook delegation headed by business analyst Sean Prummel, who pitched the Town of Taber and Municipal District Beautification Plan.
The beautification loans and grants are to be used to enhance the appearance of a business. Businesses may be eligible to receive an interest free loan up to a maximum of $8,000, along with a grant up to a maximum of $2,000.
“It’s a loan for beautification of businesses, up to a maximum of $8,000,” said Prummel. “Last year, we pitched this program to the Town of Milk River. The way it worked there, the town and the business association both chipped into five loans. I was able to do a lot of loans there, it’s been a very successful program.”
A one-year pilot program, it is intended to provide an incentive for local business owners to invest in facade renovations and interior upgrades, and are intended to comply with building upgrades suggested in any area redevelopment plan. Taber’s downtown area is the only part of the community with an area redevelopment plan currently in effect, however grants and interest free loans are open to any town business under the agreement.
“Once the public hears about it, there’s going to be a lot of interest,” said Prummel.
The funding provided by the town would fund a $2,000 grant to eligible applicants as well as pay the interest on a loan in the maximum amount of $8,000 per applicant.
“If we did 10 in the first year, that would basically double that from $15,000 to $30,000,” said Coun. Joe Strojwas.
Any business within the defined boundaries of the Town of Taber and the Municipal District of Taber (Vauxhall, Enchant, Barnwell, Grassy Lake, Hays, Purple Springs) could be eligible for the program. As noted above, the program extends to other Community Futures municipal partners, but those municipalities are required to provide funding within their own areas.
“I appreciate you bringing this information forward,” said Coun. Randy Sparks. “I just wish it would have come sooner in the process that we’ve been going through as far as budget goes, because to me, it seems like an awesome program to give people some opportunity, but there’s still some logistics that need to be worked out. If it was earlier, those logistics would be worked out before this decision would need to be made. It’s obviously going to impact taxes, and if it goes from five to 10, it’s obviously going to impact taxes much greater than we’ve discussed here.”
Strojwas indicated it was time the Town of Taber started to do more for business operators in the community than talk a big game.
“About a year and half ago we had some meetings with downtown businesses, Highway 3 businesses, and with the industrial section. We had all these inputs from these businesses, and we have yet to do anything to help these businesses out. I think this would be a great stepping stone to revitalize businesses, help the downtown, and help any businesses. This gives them a hand up to start some processes and doing some upgrading. I see this as a win-win for the town.”
Coun. Laura Ross-Giroux took issue with Strojwas’ assessment that the town hasn’t done much to placate business operators in Taber.
“I’d like to argue with Councillor Strojwas in regards to doing nothing for our local businesses. First we did listen to them. We’ve also brought in fibre optics for them. We’ve addressed stormwater and drainage problems for quite a few of them. I love the idea of this project, but it’s been going for nine years now, to have it brought to us so late in our budget deliberations, and in a time when we’re really counting our pennies here… if this came back to us next year I’d be very happy to support it. We’ve agreed that we want to try to stick to a 1.5 per cent tax increase, and I just don’t think this is the year to be doing this.”
Administration’s recommendation, which was declined by town council, was to approve an addition to the draft 2016 operating budget of $14,928 to fund a grant to Community Futures Chinook Development Corporation, to be used towards a business beautification program operated by the corporation, and further agrees to an increase in property taxes to 1.68 per cent (over 1.5 per cent) to pay for the grant.
“I’m in favour of this program, with the stipulation that we don’t go over 1.5 per cent tax increase,” said Mayor Henk DeVlieger.
At their Dec. 7 special budget meeting, council voted 4-3 to allocate $30,000 for the Town of Taber and Municipal District Beautification Plan, to be funded from the operating budget. Coun.(s) Randy Sparks, Rick Popadynetz, and Laura Ross-Giroux voted in opposition.
“We’re elected to provide good government,” said Popadynetz. “In tough economic times, we’re to provide a straight line and balance the peaks and valleys of the economy, and not to add to it. This would be a valley, and if we were to provide funding for our businesses this is the time to do it, in economic crisis and recession. So I can support this.”
Interested businesses are asked to contact Community Futures Chinook at 403-388-2923 or 1-888-223-3330 to apply and receive complete program guidelines.