County votes to refund taxes to victims of grass fire

By Ashley Wiebe
December 6, 2017 - 4:55pm Updated: December 6, 2017 - 6:58pm


DUNMORE, AB — In a unanimous decision on Tuesday, Cypress County councillors voted to refund all 2017 county taxes to land owners whose properties were left destroyed by the grass fire in October.

Members with the Hilda Fire Relief Committee made a presentation to county councillors last month, looking for a possible deferral of municipal tax or interest free loans to help residents who felt the impact.

County Reeve Richard Oster added the item to the agenda, not wanting to have the people of Hilda feel forgotten.

Council agreed to have staff calculate exact refunds for the affected properties which were directly impacted by the fire.

The affected properties include two homes and farmland.

Oster said they’ve looked into the numbers and believe it’ll cost around $10,000 and said if it’s more, that’s okay.

This is the latest move the county has made.

Councillors had previously agreed to help dispose of cattle and have met with ministers in Edmonton over finding possible funding.

Oster said council has made this a priority and doesn’t want to lose momentum moving forwards.

“They’ve gone through a terrible disaster,” he said. “It was not an ordinary grass fire that people deal with on a regular basis. This was an extreme event and council just feels that we should be there for them in a situation like this.”

Andy Kirschenman is on the committee who spoke with council last month.

He saw the flames coming from his property on October 17th.

His parents, who live on the neighbouring property, lost their home.

Kirschenman said he’s happy to hear a decision has been made and said he’s thankful the county has acted so quickly.

The province of Alberta has yet to announce any sort of funding for farmers and ranchers in the area.

Kirschenman said a lot of work has been going on in Edmonton and in Hilda.

Some temporary fences have gone up and he said the snow has been a blessing all on its own.

“November was nice in that [...] we had snow, which was excellent and it allowed us to, maybe, not see some of the burn scars for about three weeks,” he said, over the phone from Edmonton. “You didn’t have to see it, day in and day out and it meant that the soil was covered.”

Oster said the Hilda Fire Relief Committee has talked about going to Edmonton to speak with ministry officials again and he’s offered to go with them.

He said he wants to see the province to make this tragedy a priority, the same way the county has.

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