Meadow Lake City Council considers taxing requests

by Phil Ambroziak

“Are we going to pay another man’s bill?”

That’s what Ken Garrett of United Enterprises Inc. wondered when he addressed Meadow Lake City Council Feb. 13 with regard to tax arrears and additional late charges associated with the former Meadow Lake Capri hotel.

United Enterprises, a North Battleford-based company, acquired the property located at 107 1st St. East in December and is working to repair and restore the neglected building in an effort to re-establish a hotel in Meadow Lake’s downtown.

“Pius Pfeifer built the Capri Hotel in 1971 and held the mortgage for several years before selling it to a consortium in Calgary,” Garrett said. “This group started to do something with it, but their plans soon fell apart. No payments were ever made to Pius or to (the City of) Meadow Lake and a lot of contractors were left holding the bag.”

As time passed, the vacant building fell into further disrepair. When United Enterprises took over Dec. 20, Garrett said work began in an effort to halt the damage.

“The entire electrical system has to be dismantled – the damage is astronomical.”

Last year’s assessed valued of the building was $377,700 while the land is valued at $26,200 for a total of $403,900. This translates into a $15,114.21 tax bill in 2011. This is far from the total amount owed to the city, however, as unpaid taxes (and related penalties) date back to 2009.

“I’m a little mad at you guys (council) because throughout ‘09, ‘10 and ‘11, you should have clamped down on these guys (previous owners),” Garrett remarked.

According to a report United Enterprises solicited from Mattila Appraisals Ltd. of North Battleford, the market value of the property in its current state is only $250,000.

“We have a market value and I realize there is a difference between a market value and an assessed value, and we’re past that part,” Garrett continued. “We’re in there, we’re repairing things. We’re going to make this hotel a very nice place. We’re dealing now with Travelodge, which would be a great addition to downtown Meadow Lake. This entire deal was bad for all of us, but what really bothers me is the whole idea of penalties and such added to the tax bill. Those penalties had no bearing on us. We had no knowledge of it and no control over it – it is not fair to us.”

Offering a solution to the matter, Garrett said his group would accept the 2009-2011 levees, which total in excess of $44,000, and “in a showing of good faith to Meadow Lake” offered an additional $15,000 toward the 2012 tax bill.

“And, to show we mean business, I have brought a cheque with me we can fill out tonight,” he said. “We think if the city would have put the clamps on (the previous owners), maybe something could have happened sooner. I feel they got away with it for too long. They did not make one payment on the mortgage.”

Councillor Jeff Fechter asked why an official request of some sort was not made earlier considering the number of issues associated with the property.

“It wasn’t even ours to deal with until recently,” Garrett said.

“Yes, but I don’t know if the people of Meadow Lake would approve of us helping out someone who made a bad business decision,” Fechter added.

Although Garrett was hoping to see the matter settled during the Feb. 13 council meeting, Councillor Toby Esterby explained there was simply too much information to consider, adding it would not be fair to make an uninformed decision.

“There is a wealth of information here and if I am asked to make a decision on this tonight, I would say no,” Esterby said. “I’m not discounting it, I just need more time.”

Councillor Richard Reed moved to defer the matter until the Feb. 27 council meeting. The motion was seconded by Councillor Curtis Paylor and subsequently carried.

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