(Photo from elevation.maplogs.com) The Prudden Mercantile Store still stands in Botha. A village since 1911, Botha is expected to become a hamlet in the County of Stettler.

Botha set to become hamlet

Residents overwhelmingly voted in favour of dissolving the village this week

Botha residents will soon no longer be villagers.

In a vote on dissolution held on Tuesday, 91 per cent — 52 out of 57 voters – chose to become a hamlet in the County of Stettler.

Botha Mayor Fl0 Iskiw said in a statement after the vote that she was “excited, relieved and gratified” that residents supported the move.

“Our council believed this was the best option for our village, and now the residents have agreed that we can all move forward together,” said Iskiw.

Dissolution is now in the hands of the Municipal Affairs minister who must recommend it to the lieutenant-governor and cabinet, who will then set a dissolution date.

Village chief administrative officer Shawna Benson said Municipal Affairs and the community hope to see the changeover before the October municipal elections.

Dissolution has been in the air in Botha since at least 2015 when residents presented a petition to council asking for a viability review of the small community of 200.

Alberta Municipal Affairs led a viability review team, which took a detailed look at the community and concluded in its report released in March that the village is “not clearly viable.”

The community has been facing a number of challenges, including finding the money to complete all of the urgent infrastructure projects that need to be done and maintaining services.

Not enough money comes in from utility bills to cover those costs and there has long been difficulty filling key positions in administration and council.

The past two council elections saw no challengers and the village has gone through four top administrators in three years until the County of Stettler took over administration at the beginning of last year.

A survey of residents found 24 of 31 felt their tax and utility bills were not affordable at current service levels.

Benson said since county mill rates are lower many will see lower tax bills as a hamlet.

“Almost every property in Botha, aside from maybe commercial properties, would see a decrease,” she said. “The amount would probably vary based on different factors.”

As well, water bills will likely be based on usage not a flat rate but residents likely little else will change.

“In terms of overall service, I’m not sure they would notice a huge difference.”

The Village of Botha was incorporated in 1911. Its name comes from the local CPR station, which in 1909 was named after General Louis Botha, a prominent South African soldier, statesman and first prime minister of the Union of South Africa.

pcowley@reddeeradvocate.com

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