A new apartment building is in the works for Maple Creek.
Council discussed the project at its regular meeting on April 23.
The 12-unit complex will be built on two lots that have been combined into one at the intersection of Lonsdale Street and Pacific Avenue. The enterprise is being undertaken by Cypress-Medicine Hat Wildrose MLA Drew Barnes, who has years of experience in real estate. The entrepreneur owns a number of businesses in Medicine Hat, including a construction company and property management company. He owns both commercial and residential property all across southern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan.
The Maple Creek project was put on the back burner for several years as Barnes focused on a similar project in Yorkton.
A request was made for a property tax incentive for the new construction, which would see a municipal tax abatement of 100 per cent in the first year after construction, 66 per cent the second year and 33 per cent the third year on the residential property.
Council consented and noted it will be a welcomed addition to the community.
“It’s a great value to the town,” said Mayor Barry Rudd.
In other business, the 2014 mill rate has been set at 26 mills – a one mill increase. The base tax has been set at $1,050, which is a $50 increase from last year.
“The cost of operations has increased, and the money needed to be generated to be sustainable,” said town administrator Michele Schmidt.
Cypress Hills Destination Area (CHDA) executive director Gail Kesslar gave a presentation to council on the work being done by the tourism and destination marketing organization. She hopes the town will continue to support CHDA as it promotes the area to visitors across Canada and around the world.
“We want Maple Creek to become the flagship that shows what collaborative work can do,” she stated.
The Cypress Hills area receives approximately 275,000 visitors every year, but many fail to stop in town to dine or shop. Kesslar outlined ways the CHDA is working to encourage tourists to explore the town, including the Saskatchewan Skies Geo Tour. Launching in May, it’s a geo tour that will be posted on geocaching.com, with eight of the 35 geocaches located in Maple Creek.
“These are ones that will actually make people drive into town and see things,” Kesslar said.
CHDA will be able to track how many times the caches are accessed and the demographic of those tourists.
Kesslar reported nine geocaching sites have been accessed in the area over the Easter weekend alone.
“We’re not in tourist season, so I was very surprised to see that many in April,” she stated.
CHDA is also investigating creating tour packages that would focus on one theme, such as culinary tourism where people could go to a restaurant, cooking class, U-pick farm, Hutterite colony or winery.
Kesslar noted local residents and employees at businesses are also vital in driving tourism.
“I think every business and individual in town has a role to play in ensuring the visitor experience is a good one,” she explained.
She plans to offer newsletters and training to familiarize everyone with the tourist destinations in the area and inform people on the websites to direct tourists to for more information.
A destination marketing fee will be put in place at certain businesses that are a part of CHDA to help with promotions. Kesslar said the fee may be about two per cent of purchases and would be added to purchases made at the businesses. According to the executive director, most consumers rarely notice the fee or see it as a reasonable investment.
The town has received approval from the provincial government through the Transit Assistance for People with Disabilities Program. The province will pay up to 75 per cent of the purchase of a new handibus to a maximum of $55,000. The Elks Club, which operates the town’s handibus service, received a quote from Murray Chevrolet for about $60,000 for a properly-equipped vehicle. Council voted to look into a group tender process SUMA provides, which could potentially result in a better rate.
Councillor Barry Elderkin attended the annual Saskatchewan Assessment Management Agency (SAMA) convention and reported it is getting a new computer system in, but improvements in inspections won’t be seen until 2018. By that year, SAMA hopes to have inspected 100,000 properties.
“We’re getting years behind and we’re losing money because we’re not getting the taxes for the value of the property,” he explained. “We’re assuming everybody’s buying a building permit for making improvements and other methods we have of trying to keep the assessments up to date.”
As a result, SAMA estimates a total of $30 million per year has been lost in the province, Elderkin said.
A request was made by Dallas and Ashley Nash for a property concession for 301 Lonsdale Street, where they are having a new house constructed. Council consented to a municipal tax abatement of 100 per cent the first year, 66 per cent the second year and 33 per cent the third year on the residential property.