Petition falls short of legal requirements

The ink had barely dried on a petition urging Rimbey residents to speak out against the town selling its offices for $1 to the library

The ink had barely dried on a petition urging Rimbey residents to speak out against the town selling its offices for $1 to the library when the town’s lawyer found the document did not meet legal requirements.

CAO Tony Goode said a copy of the petition was sent to Brownlee LLP to ascertain it was a legal document.

“The lawyer said the petition didn’t ask the voters a clear question and the document lacked clarity and certainty on the subject matter,” he said.

“It was considered insufficient,” said Goode.

Of the 437 names on the petition, 394 were valid; 238 names (10 per cent of the population) was required.

Reuben Giebelhaus, who started the petition is not surprised at the results.

“I knew they were going to tear it apart.”

However, Giebelhaus stands by his conviction that moving the town offices to the Provincial Building is a waste of taxpayers’ money.

“It does not make economic sense,” he said. “We will still be paying for upkeep on the building and rent on the other building.”

He said the number of people who signed the petition sends a message that many people are not happy with council’s proposal to sell the town office for $1.

“We did not even cover half the town and look at all the names we got.”

Giebelhaus said council should consider adding another floor to the present building or expanding to the north so they can remain where they are.

Mayor Sheldon Ibbotson seemed somewhat frustrated with the delays caused by the controversy about the proposal. He noted seeking legal advice about the petition cost the town around $2,000 as well as taking up valuable staff time.

Ibbotson sees the town leasing or selling the town offices to the library board so it can move ahead with its much-needed expansion and moving to the Provincial Building in a positive light.

He said costs for the town would be comparable if the offices were moved to the Provincial Building.

He noted the town would pay $30,000 a year as part of a 10-year lease that would include utilities, janitorial costs, grounds maintenance and snow removal.

Operational costs for the town offices runs about the same, said Goode.

The library board would be responsible for the maintenance of the town offices if they bought or leased the building, the mayor added. He said the library’s municipal grant is $86,000 this year.

The cost of moving the town offices and renovating the Provincial Building to include council chambers and offices would be $62,000. Constructing a sidewalk from the hospital to 55th Street would cost about $87,000, which is below the $103,000 budgeted for the project.

Goode noted sidewalk construction would take place regardless of whether the town offices were moved to the Provincial Building.

The mayor noted the Provincial Building is wheelchair accessible. It also has 60 parking stalls.

Goode will report the lawyer’s findings to council at its March 25 meeting.

“This leaves the door open,” he said. “Council can lease or sell the building to the library, or go ahead and hold a non-binding referendum on the expansion issue.”