Council not in forgiving mood

Chris Clegg
South Peace News
High Prairie town council is not waiving almost $8,000 in 2016 outstanding taxes and penalties from Freson Bros.

Council decided unanimously at its Feb. 14 meeting to deny the request, saying the error was not their fault.

Freson Bros. [AltaMart] was assessed a penalty of $6,673.03 after not paying their tax bill by the June 30, 2016 deadline. A further penalty of $1,311.58 kicked in Jan. 1 for a total of $7,942.61.

Shawn Gavigan, AltaMart’s vice president of finance, wrote council Jan., 26 explaining the error. He said the company sent payment on June 16, 2016 to allow ample time for the cheque to arrive.

“We have owned and operated a store in High Prairie since 1966,” he wrote. “In that time we have never remitted a property tax payment late.”

However, this time the letter which included payment was returned to Freson Bros. in August by Canada Post.

“After investigating, we discovered that the postal code that we had for the Town of High Prairie in our payment system was incorrect. We had T0H 1E0 in our system instead of T0G 1E0.”

Gavigan added the incorrect information was in their system for several years, yet previous payments arrived at the town office on time.

In conclusion, he added there was no intention to pay late, and cited the company’s long-standing continued support of the community though its many programs.

The tax payment was received Aug. 22 for the outstanding taxes, but not the penalty. Thus, the second penalty applied Jan. 1.

“There was plenty of opportunity for AltaMart to remit payment of the penalty before year end…” wrote administration in a report to council.

In addition, the mailing address on AltaMart’s envelope was not checked to see if it was correct. No copies are kept of envelopes.

The bottom line, according to administration, was it was not the town’s fault.

“This was AltaMart’s clerical error,” wrote administration.

Council agreed. Councillor Brian Gilroy said the incident was similar to when council denied Martin Deerline’s request.

Councillor Arlen Quartly was sympathetic but still voted against the request.

“I’m on the fence right now,” he said. “I can’t believe they made that type of mistake.”

Councillor Donna Deynaka made the motion to deny the request. Mayor Linda Cox said she agreed with the motion while councillors Brian Panasiuk,
Michael Long and Debbie Rose had no comment during debate.

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