Vegreville & District Chamber of Commerce to Host Roundtable Discussion
The Vegreville & District Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a roundtable video conference discussion with elected officials on Friday, April 24.
Chamber General Manager Michelle Henderson said, “We are asking businesses and people to provide any questions that they may have to the Chamber at firstname.lastname@example.org by Thursday, April 23 at noon.
Chamber President Jamieson Brown hopes this forum will alleviate some of the concerns and questions local businesses have. “We wanted to keep it as efficient as possible,” noted Brown. The moderator will ask the government officials questions and their answers will be recorded and posted on the chamber’s Facebook page after the conference for local businesses to read.
Lakeland MP Shannon Stubbs, Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville MLA Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk, Town of Vegreville Mayor Tim MacPhee, and a representative from Minburn County are expected to participate in the discussion.
MP Stubbs said the roundtable she attended on April 15 was by request of the Bonnyville & District Chamber of Commerce. Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul MLA David Hanson, Town of Bonnyville Mayor Gene Sobolewski, and MD of Bonnyville Reeve Greg Sawchuk were on to answer COVID type of questions from people at a municipal, provincial and federal level.
Stubbs said it allowed each level to give a short updated introduction and then questions were sent into the moderator and directed to the appropriate level of government. Most questions were regarding programs like CERB, EI, business announcements, and the oil and gas sector. The people who called in were primarily businesses who wanted to find out how to help employees or their own business.
Mayor Tim MacPhee spoke about the situation local businesses are facing. He said, “I can guarantee being a local businessman, that it’s not good…We have very reduced staff. Other than break-ins and people getting their cars broken into, and businesses and houses. We’ve been building sneeze guards for businesses that are still open. I would imagine the ones that are closed down 100 percent like salons and dentist offices and a lot of the restaurants and hotels have got to be hurting terribly. All we can do as a business owner is try to get through this and try to still be viable at the other end.
So hopefully, everybody is trying to take advantage of the programs the federal government has put out there. I know there are loans for small businesses that you can access now. The wage subsidy doesn’t even open up until April 27. So hopefully, some of these people can get on some of these programs and stay the course with their business.
I’ve talked with the dealerships and my contacts out there and the hotels and stuff, it’s a pretty bleak situation right now.”
As to what relief the town can offer? MacPhee responded, “We’re about to roll out a package here, some information coming up probably just before the end of the month on property taxes. We’re not ready to release yet because we haven’t finalized yet. So the concerns I’m getting personally from other business owners is what’s going to happen with our property taxes? Can you give us a little relief? Can you give us a little extra time? That’s what council and administration are working on right now. We’re trying to figure out the best way to go about property taxes that are due June 30.”
The property tax bylaw, we have to rewrite that this year, and what direction we’re going to go with the late fees is going to be important to a lot of people to a lot of non-residential and businesses so that’s what we’re keying on right now, is how are we are going to be able to help these businesses get through and help them with their cash flow as they get started back up, and the town still needs to collect property taxes, because we still have bills to pay. So it’s a very tight rope that we are going to be walking here, trying to do the best we can for everybody, and that’s what our main focus is and the next week and a half to two weeks there will be some announcements.
Assessment notices go out on the first of May, and we need to have all of this in place. So this is one of the things we’re working on very hard on right now. We’re talking with other municipalities to see what they’re doing. We thought we’d get more direction from Municipal Affairs, but really, they’re just leaving it up to each municipality to make the best decisions moving forward for their own businesses and their own homeowners.