Open letter to the residents of Crystal Lake

Recently a letter/post has been widely circulated throughout your community containing a few misleading statements.

To clarify: The Hamlet of Crystal Lake was formed in the late 1980s at the request of the Hamlet. When this change occurred there were a number of financial commitments made by the Hamlet board that coincided with the Municipalities Act that the Hamlet was required to pay a portion of, over and above the tax hold back allotted to the RM.

article continues below

Some these are: SAMA (Saskatchewan Assessment Management Agency) payments, policing, property and liability insurance, and various memberships to name a few.

Since the formation of the Hamlet most of these expenses were never paid or charged to the Hamlet of Crystal Lake. When this was brought to my attention I stated to our administrator that we had to follow the Municipalities Act to the letter. To do otherwise would put an unfair burden on our agricultural and residential ratepayers as their tax dollars were paying for services supplied to Crystal Lake instead of improving infrastructure within the agricultural area.

In 2018 an organization largely created and funded by residents of Crystal Lake called “The Friends of the Aquifer” appealed a zoning bylaw amendment that permitted the Crystal Lake Hutterite Colony to build their homes on a quarter section of land they owned approximately 4.6 km from Crystal Lake. This appeal is ongoing and has cost all the ratepayers of the RM of Keys almost $80,000.

The appeal seeks to prevent the Colony from building their homes anywhere within the boundaries of the RM of Keys.

Even though this could be considered a violation of the Canadian Human Rights Code, the RM is required to defend its bylaw changes.

All of the ratepayers of the RM are required to pay this bill, not just the agricultural and residential ratepayers. In short, the ratepayers of Crystal Lake are not exempt.

Approximately four to five months ago the Hamlet board was given an opportunity to be exempted from this charge. In order for this to happen the Crystal Lake Hamlet board would be required to state it was not affected by this bylaw amendment. To date they have refused.

This increase from 33 per cent to 40 per cent retention of Crystal Lake taxes was passed in the Crystal Lake Procedures Bylaw. The first reading took place December 20, 2018 and copies were given to all the Hamlet board members at that time. The council waited for input from the Hamlet board for seven months. As there was little or no movement or feedback from the Hamlet board with respect to the procedures agreement, in spite of the fact there was at least one member of the Hamlet board at every meeting, the council, after seven months, passed this bylaw unanimously.

The decision to increase the percentage of tax dollars from 33 to 40 per cent was based solely on the amount of time spent on Hamlet related business compared to the agricultural and residential sectors. During the past year I had asked our administrator to keep track of all the time spent on various tasks in the office. The results are as follows:

•           Forty per cent of his time is spent doing shared interest business between the agriculture area and the Hamlet.

•           Twenty per cent of his time was spent directly related to the agriculture sector.

•           The remaining 40 per cent was spent exclusively on Crystal Lake business.

These numbers strongly suggest that the Hamlet of Crystal Lake is consuming an excessive amount of time in relation to the five per cent of the total RM budget.

The council and the Hamlet board have experienced some difficulties working collectively on some issues. To remedy this, council, on the advice of our administrator, has requested the Department of Government Relations come to the RM to assist the council and the Hamlet board to find solutions to solve some of the issues we have experienced. At our July meeting the Hamlet board stated emphatically that it was not interested in a meeting with Government Relations.

As the council of the RM of Keys, we were tasked with ensuring that the ratepayers of the entire RM are treated fairly and equally. We do not cater to any particular group or ratepayer. We have always worked hard to find that middle ground that will allow us to achieve the fairness we believe is the same for all.

I hope this information will add some clarity to the post mentioned earlier.

Garth Bates

Reeve

RM of Keys #303