Town looks for ways to keep local economy vibrant

Town council has tasked administration with creating improvements to the shop local policy in order to help more Bonnyville tax dollars stay within the community.

The policy was discussed at the Feb. 9 council meeting after a local business owner brought the topic to Mayor Gene Sobolewski’s attention at a Feb. 1 open house.

“In these tighter economic times this is something the people in the business community wish we would start looking at,” said Sobolewski. “I think we need to open up the whole ball of wax and see what we can do.”

As it stands the town has a policy, which allows for a 10 per cent price variance for projects $30,000 or less. If a local businesses bid is 10 per cent higher than a competing bid and the project is under the $30,000 threshold the Town will opt for the local bid.

Councillors traded thoughts and opinions on the matter and offered administration some direction for possible amendments to the policy. The dollar threshold, variance percentage and a variety of other aspects of the policy were touched upon.

“You have to have a maximum amount. You can’t have it be 10 per cent of $1 million,” said Coun. Rene Van Brabant.

Town CAO Mark Power brought up the possibility of implementing a sliding scale, suggesting the ten per cent variance at $30,000 could drop to a 7.5 per cent variance at $40,000, then five per cent at $50,000.

“I like the sliding scale model. I think the higher you go the lower the percentage should be,” said Coun. Ray Prevost. “This is not something that comes to the surface that often. I would prefer administration bring us recommendations through models they have in other communities through a sliding scale.”

While councillors are all in favour of making changes to the policy, they were all aware about the need to responsibly spend local tax dollars. The decision will come down to what council sees as a reasonable variance or buffer to give local businesses bids, so that they still feel they are wisely spending public funds.

Coun. Jim Cheverie also brought up the possibility of including local incentive stipulations into contracts they do sign with out-of-town companies, such as enticing them to stay at local hotels and eat at local restaurants.

“If they are going to stay some place they have to stay in a listed approved accommodation. It is just something we could put in there,” said Cheverie.

In the end, council gave administration a large scope for the policy, hoping that they can dissect it and find possible ways to help keep the town’s money inside the municipality.

“I want to leave it up to administration to cover the whole gamut and come back to us to basically try and encourage our local economy stays vibrant,” said Sobolewski.

No urgency has been put on the project, with council hoping administration can come up with some recommendations in approximately six weeks time.

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